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U.S. Justice Dept. Chooses Corel over Microsoft 390

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-they'll-even-use-open-formats dept.
peg0cjs writes "The Justice Department, which challenged Microsoft Corp. in courtrooms for nearly a decade over antitrust violations, will pay more than $2 million each year to buy business software from Corel Corp, according to this article from CANOE. 'The Justice Department will make WordPerfect software available to more than 20 organizations inside the agency, but not the FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration, which use Microsoft's Office business software exclusively, said Mary Aileen O'Donovan, a program manager in the Justice Management Division.' According to the article, the deal is worth up to $13.2 million over five years for Ontario-based Corel. Has sanity finally set in, or is this just a blip in Microsoft's dominance in controlling government software decisions?"
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U.S. Justice Dept. Chooses Corel over Microsoft

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  • Alt-F3 Tells All (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:14PM (#11871233) Homepage Journal
    Obviously the Department of Justice (not the Justice Department, which sounds like some government agency in charge of people flying around in their underwear) wants to get to the root of problems more quickly and with Alt-F3 they can find the clues much faster!

    A blip? I dunno, seems when the Roman Empire began to crumble it started somewhere, in some little way. Don't discount Corel too quickly and don't underestimate the power of saving a few dollars by a goverment sorely in need of cost cutting. If these tools work well, the next round may embrace FBI and DEA. you have the right to alternative sources of software

    • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:39PM (#11871535) Homepage Journal
      Superuser tip: If you're using Microsoft Office, hit Alt-F4 to improve interface.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015)
      More likely they're still pissed at Microsoft and look at this as a good way to thumb their collective noses at Bill Gates.
      • by ackthpt (218170) *
        More likely they're still pissed at Microsoft and look at this as a good way to thumb their collective noses at Bill Gates.

        Not really a wise decision to state such. As the federal government has to go through an objective bidding process for procurement, Microsoft could appeal, charging these people as being biased and rigging the bidding.

        If you're in a public agency, involved with purchasing, you learn pretty fast to keep your yap shut on your own favoring/disfavoring opinions, because it's embarrass

    • Nice to hear but not really surprising. Law firms have always been the staunch bastions of hope for alternatives to MS Office due to the control that you get with Wordperfect.

      Why wouldn't the DOJ want to do it as well.

      Funny story, I did some IT work for these guys http://www.mbm.com/ who are an IP law firm in Canada and they were the worst for pirating software. I think they had licenses for some COTS workstations that one of the previous IT admins had purchased but they had gone with beige boxes and had
  • Damn Lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aneurysm9 (723000) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:14PM (#11871234)
    It's probably the lawyers' fault. For some reason a lot of them prefer Word Perfect.
    • as I understand, MS Word for years has mis-counted words 'legally recognized'. Corel counts accurately.
    • Re:Damn Lawyers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mlmitton (610008) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:23PM (#11871358)
      This is exactly what I was going to say. IANAL, but I work with them, and we regularly get WP files from our lawyer clients.

      One interesting story. I work for an economic consulting firm, and we were working for Microsoft (don't kill me--I didn't have a choice!) on one of their class-action lawsuits that came about in the wake of the antitrust conviction. We were of course forced to use Word, and as we all know, one thing MS has *never* gotten right is their footnotes. Our deadline was less than 6 hours away for a major report, and all of the footnotes were FUBARed. The head lawyer called the guy at MS who was in charge of Office (I forget his name) and yelled, "Why can't you guys fix the fucking footnotes! Word Perfect has like three developers and they can get it right!" The MS guy hemmed and hawed, said they were working on it. That was 3-4 years ago, and MS still hasn't gotten the footnotes right.

      • Re:Damn Lawyers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Penguinshit (591885) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:21PM (#11871959) Homepage Journal

        I was working for attorneys when they were making the switch from WordStar to WordPerfect, and then to WordPerfect 5. WordPerfect was (for the time) an absolute pleasure to use, although you really needed that little template sheet placed over the top of your function keys.

        WordPerfect was so cool that I used its macro functionality to build a bill-production application for one bankruptcy attorney for whom I once worked. The bills submitted to the judge at the end of the bankruptcy proceeding were forced to conform to a certain style; I created this little "app" so that the secretaries could just do data-entry from the attorneys' hand-written billing notes and automagically out of the HP LaserJet II and III would pop a court-approved billing form. This was part of a whole suite of apps I started doing this way to produce ready-made pleadings and whatnot; great way to save on letterhead for some of the smaller attorneys I knew in the San Jose area.

        5 years later I checked back in with that bankruptcy attorney and his office was still using the app!
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I support the clerical staff here at a federal courthouse. WordPerfect has been established since version 4. When something goes wrong, they hit the keystroke shortcut to Reveal Codes-- the same shortcut they used in the 80's! Some of our staff still use the Fkey template from years ago-- we have to write some macros by hand to make it work. I find it extremely painful, but they love it. Every attempt to change programs has died in committee. At the DOJ they probably touted all the new Corel features
    • ...because they believe it to be less likely to contain traces of (liability causing) deleted text. Word, on the other hand, has been known to leave deleted text still in the binary .doc file.
    • It's true. WordPerfect has been a favourite of lawyers for a long time. I asked my father about it once (him being a lawyer and all) and he said it was because the indentation in WP was easier to get right for legal formats. Reading the other replies to the parent, I see there's a lot of other reasons too.
    • I've known several attorneys, and they all use WordPerfect -- their offices are also networked with Novell Netware. The reason is largely historical. Basically, all the major law firms were early adopters of personal computers. One of the early PC networking solutions was Netware and the most popular early word processor was WordPerfect. Even post-1995, a lot of these firms have stuck with this solution because their techs and staff are just more familiar with their tools. For a while I think Microsoft
  • Hrm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Geekenstein (199041) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:14PM (#11871236)
    Even though I'm not the biggest Microsoft fan, I find something slightly disturbing about my government sending my tax dollars out of country with a software contract award. Why not Open Office?
    • Re:Hrm. (OOo) (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sho222 (834270)
      I have to agree with the parent. I would love to see the gov move to OOo, and open source in general. However, even casual users of OOo repot major show-stopper bugs (espectially wrt interoperability with legacy MS Office docs). Commercial office suites like Corel's and Microsoft's are simply more stable at this point.

      Perhaps when OOo 2.0 becomes stable there can be an argument for moving to open source desktop applications, but until then, I can't blame the gov't for trying to stick to the tried and tr
    • Re:Hrm. (Score:5, Informative)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:23PM (#11871360)
      1. Because when this eval and bid process was started, OOo was not really a viable alternative.
      2. Support contract.
      3. Being able to pay a single source for training materials.
      • Re:Hrm. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Noksagt (69097) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:42PM (#11871572) Homepage
        I'm sure Sun would be willing to address each of these points if the government had bought into Star Office (which uses much of the OO.o codebase). There are also independent support providers which would write out a contract & provide training for OO.o.
      • In addition (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@corUUUnell.edu minus threevowels> on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:03PM (#11871757) Homepage
        As mentioned earlier, lawyers tend to prefer WordPerfect for a number of reasons. The Justice Department has a lot of those. :)

        OpenOffice may actually have proven to be totally unsuitable for the lawyers in the Justice Department, just as MS Office has proven to be wholly unsuitable.

        In addition to historic precedent, Corel has been solidifying their niche market by catering towards lawyers. I think they are the only word processor developer that has actually marketed a version specifically catered towards lawyers, and I believe their general overall development is heavily influenced by the needs of one particular market which Corel is well-established in and wants to stay well-established in.

        Unlike MS, Corel is maintaining a stranglehold on that particular market not by underhanded tactics, but by releasing a product that is clearly superior for that particular niche.

        I would not be surprised if in addition to the fact that OO has only recently become viable in general, OO may be wholly unsuitable for lawyers just as MS Office still is.
        • Re:In addition (Score:3, Insightful)

          by earthforce_1 (454968)
          Actually, it would be helpful for any law clerks or paralegals (Pamela are you there?) or lawyers to give critical feedback to the Oo developers, so any perceived deficiencies or missing features can be added to the next release.
    • Your government does it all the time. Only normally, it's not the underdog company, and the company is based in a tax haven or something like that.

      Compared to some of the contracts I've seen awarded lately, this barely even counts as overseas. Besides, we could use more trade with Canada.
      • by RichMan (8097)
        Corel almost imploded a while back. Bought out by some US company and reverted to private ownership. Probably still do development work here in the third world called Canada. If it wern't for the heating costs we would probably be a real threat.
      • Re:Get used to it. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:30PM (#11871442) Journal
        Compared to some of the contracts I've seen awarded lately, this barely even counts as overseas. Besides, we could use more trade with Canada.

        As a matter of fact, in light of the fact that you can walk from the US to Canada, one might even say that it DOESN'T count as overseas at all! :D
    • I suppose it's the standard thing of needing to pay a Corporation so that there's someone to blame when it all inevitably goes tits up.

      "We paid all this money to these people and it's all gone horribly wrong to the tune of billions of dollars! Who do I sue?"
      "Er, a Free-Thinking Collective of Software Enthusiasts, sir"
      "... Jeff, you're fired"

      We all know about the illusion of culpability (look at Microsoft) but people still need to be able to blame someone else.
      • Re:Hrm. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:37PM (#11871515)
        Well, in the defense of these practices, it really isn't a viable answer to say "Well, I realize your software isn't working, I'll go post the question on Usenet or their Bugzilla system and wait a few days to see if anyone responds with a non-sarcastic response to RTFM." When shit hits the fan badly most companies (and the government) are more than willing to pay to get a warm body on the other end of a phone to take the heat.. even if they are in Banglore.
        • Re:Hrm. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SpooForBrains (771537)
          Yes, absolutely, but what people often don't realise that it's a much better financial decision to take the money and spend it on a knowledgeable consultancy/development team that can actually fix these problems, than spending it on a monkey in a call centre who'll add your ticket to their system, shove it to the bottom of the queue and ignore it for three years.
    • Re:Hrm. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:27PM (#11871403)
      Other countries are spending their tax payer money to pay for the US software and other items. That is similar to importing Oil form the ME, Olive oil from Italy or wine from France. There is nothing wrong with that. If you want the government to save tax payer money, call your senator and ask him/her to support and use an open source alternative. Posting your comments here will not go very far.


    • This is just speculation. But there are so many legalities regarding federal contracts that i'm sure Corel has to jump through some hoops. An example would be their subcontractors must be US based or maybe the boxes have to be fabricated by disadvantaged disabled US veterans or something to that nature.
    • Can we distinguish open source support from nationalism? I'm very much in favour of open source in public administration (in fact my colleagues work on a European project of the same name), but also in favour of free trade. (Incidentally we work in Sheffield so don't appreciate the moves you hint at that your government has already made illegally in the steel industry...)
    • by DrXym (126579)
      I use Open Office every day and while it's pretty usable it's seriously lacking in some areas. It's only when you look for them that you realise how primitive they are in comparison to MS Office (or any other commercial suite). For example the drawing app is just evil, plain and simple. The revision control is also nothing to write home about and buried in a submenu. There's also no outline mode which is a major omission if you write big docs.

      Still, I have OO 2.0 beta and there is hope that its going in t

    • by Kismet (13199)
      When WordPerfect was just WordPerfect, it was a U.S. company based in Orem, Utah. You may recall the days when WordPerfect was pratically the only game in town when it came to word processing.

      When MS got into the office software business, WordPerfect could not keep up. The company was bought by Novell, then by Corel. A languishing Corel soon shut down the old U.S. operations (which were still responible for the Office suite at the time) and moved everything back to Ottawa.

      Anyway, during WordPerfect's best
    • by Zemran (3101)
      Isn't it better to spend in the wisest way rather than the cheapest way which often turns out the most expensive?
  • So (Score:2, Interesting)

    Does this mean they'll spend 0.1% less on Microsoft software each year?
  • is that most of the Homeland Insecurity guys like Country music instead.
  • No Noose (Score:5, Interesting)

    by matt-larose (308335) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:17PM (#11871276) Homepage
    As a former corel employee !2001 they had posters all over HQ talking about how the DOJ and Microsofts Own lawyers in the antitrust thing used WPO, as WP docs are pretty much the standard de jure ;)
    • Poster has this right. It means "by law", it is similar to "de facto", which is "by fact".

      I am also aware of this fact. WordPerfect embraced the legal community very early on, and made it easy to generate pleading papers in WP. Since there is a lot of inertia, it is hard to switch.

      Many courts insist electronic copies are submitted in WordPerfect format.
  • by and by (598383) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:17PM (#11871283)
    Until recently (the last 3 or so years), the legal profession had widely used only WordPerfect, making it a standard within the community. Even now, there's a significantly larger percentage of legal professionals who use WordPerfect than there is in other professions / industries.

    If one department of the federal government were to drop Word for WordPerfect, it would be the Justice Department.
    • Indeed. I know several lawyers, and the only ones that don't use WordPerfect work for a firm that has Microsoft as a client!

      This is just a case of product lockin, the same effect that keeps Microsoft dominant in most offices. Notice that the two big exceptions (FBI and DEA) are primarily police agencies, and thus don't nearly as much legal document preparation as does the main Justice Department.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:18PM (#11871285)
    Wow, so the DOJ chooses to buy one over the other. What's the big deal here? If Corel fit their requirements, why would anybody else care so much?

    This story has nothing to do with "rights". Your rights and mine are not affected by this story.

    Nothing to see here. Please move on.
    • If CO is equivalent to MO, but costs 70% of Microsoft, then that's my tax money saved; that's less taxes I pay. So in so far as my 'rights', that 's one thing.

      The other thing? They put their money where their mouth is. If MS is bad, and Office is bad... don't use it.

      As for rights? Well, it only means this demonstrates (either by success or failure) what the alternatives to Office are.
  • Has sanity set in you ask? No, the Justice Department saw that they couldn't still battle Microsoft in their courts and at the same time drink the Kool-Aid themselves. So it's not sanity, just an amazing absence of hypocrisy.

    -JT
    • More like the Justice Department saw that they couldn't pretend to still battle Microsoft in their courts...

      So they use WordPerfect and say, "see, our settlement was a good thing. No monopoly here."
  • by Red Moose (31712) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:19PM (#11871314)
    So....with the FBI *not* having Corel and say, the CIA *does* have it, is this a reason why interagency cooperation is difficult? E.g., Some agent gets info of a terrorist plot and his comp crashes and all he has is the stupid fucking happy-dog in Office to help him? Does the FBI send stupid Outlook HTML emails to the CIA saying look this crazy fucker is going to Guatemala to buy suitcase bombs so stop him, but the CIA get it and can't read crappy illegible Outlook mail, so they send it to the NSA who with their l33t sk1llz transfer it to .txt but they can't get the information out because it's deep inside loads supid meta bullshit from Outlook.

    How about no-one buys anything for any amount and just uses Open Office.

  • Hahaha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrluisp (724199)

    is this just a blip in Microsoft's dominance in controlling government software decisions?

    Perhaps you've forgotten that Microsoft owns [geek.com] a sizeable amount of Corel and stands to profit from this deal anyways.

    • by Andre060 (99353) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:42PM (#11871562)
      You have not been keeping up with the news. Microsoft sold all their Corel shares a few years ago (which, by the way, were a special non-voting kind so they had no say in how Corel ran their business). Now Corel is 100% private, owned by San Francisco venture capitalists Vector Capital.
    • What is means is that legal documents need to in specific formats to be considered valid. Word Perfect gives you complete control over the format of the document and the elements. Word does not.

      By the way, the format issue is so important it is one of the reasons why faxing legal documents is OK, but sending them electronically is not (the local printer may reformat the document while in electronic format).
  • by claussenvenable (820336) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:24PM (#11871377)
    the standard in legal documents for many years.

    I've worked in legal forums on a few occasions (remember Marylin Hall Patel of the Napster ruling?), and the judges/lawyers I've met are insistent on all documents being created/filed in WordPerfect.
  • Word Perfect used to be the defacto standard word processor for law firms. Glad to see that they are actually sticking with WP and not running to Word just because everyone else is.

    In the long run they might be better off with Open Office. The support for non-Microsoft OSes has been pretty weak. The Mac version has not been updated in years and the Linux version is more of an illusion than a real program.
  • um, no... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RaZ0r (145723) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:26PM (#11871391) Homepage
    Has sanity finally set in, or is this just a blip in Microsoft's dominance in controlling government software decisions?

    No, someone in purchasing just happened to find something cheaper that could get the job done.

    Move along, nothing to see here. (as usual)

  • good drugs (Score:5, Funny)

    by kirkb (158552) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:26PM (#11871397) Homepage
    but not the Drug Enforcement Administration, which use Microsoft's Office business software exclusively

    Hmmm... I wonder what they're smoking...
  • by rasafras (637995)
    I don't care about monopolistic issues or anything (at least, not in this case), but having used both... Word is way better than WordPerfect, IMHO. It's just a matter of preference, but I find WordPerfect to be more clumsy and irritating.
    • Numerous still-unfixed bugs in Word leave it almost wholly unsuitable for legal work. Look above for a link to case law where some legal team got screwed royally because Word fucked up something as simple as a word count.

      WordPerfect has been dominant in legal markets for a long time, even moreso since Corel has in some ways been catering development specifically to the needs of lawyers.

      The result is a program that may not be better for general use, but is superior for lawyers.

      Note that the DOJ has a shl
  • I call... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrackedButter (646746) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:29PM (#11871424) Homepage Journal
    Blip!
  • Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:31PM (#11871451)
    $13.2 million? that's like a penny to Microsoft.

    "What's a quarter?"
    -Bill Gates on Family Guy
  • Now the DoJ can't say MS is a monopoly, because thew DoJ itself doesn't use their products!!

    Even when MS lose, it wins!! They are the devil, I tell you!
    • Well, it means the DoJ can't say that MS is a monopoly in the field of office productivity software. However in terms of the OS market on business PCs... yeah. And they can use their drastically greater marketshare in OS installs to leverage an unfair advantage over their competition in other markets (Browser, Media Player, and of course arguably the most widely used pieces of software in the corporate world... Solitaire and Minesweeper.)
  • As a former corel employee I'm to finally see the governement switching to our WP. Our talks to sell our products to the justice department began over two years ago, but by the time I was layed off I was sure that they were never going to follow through. We were not just in talks about Word Perfect so be sure to watch out for other Corel products being adopted by some government agencies soon.
  • by javaxman (705658) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:46PM (#11871598) Journal
    If you look at TFA, it mentions near the end that not only do they also buy MS Office anyway ( your tax dollars at work! ), but the Justice department is also trying to get people to use IE.

    No sanity there...

  • Does this Corel product open files based on the OASIS standard, which include OpenOffice.org and KOffice? It has been some time since I last heard of this Corel product. In Canada, which I call home and Toronto, where the magic of the Financial might happens, Corel's products are not that well known. It's ironic that Canadians know MS Office as a product for every office than their own Corel.
  • She said Justice also is urging employees to switch to Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, which was the subject of the government's antitrust case.

    The article also says that they were using Netscape up until a month ago, and are now switching to IE? Why? Why not stay off IE, if you're already off? Especially as a government agency of the same government that's deemed IE unsafe for use? What's going on here?
  • 100 years from now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tacokill (531275) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:58PM (#11871709)
    So what happens 100 years from now when my grandchildren want to review some of these documents?

  • by Noxx (74567)
    Face it, this isn't a rare case of sanity in the DOJ *or* a blip. It's somebody high up in the DOJ with authority over purchasing who decided that it would look ridiculous for the DOJ to prosecute a high-profile software company, achieve a questionable resolution, and then turn around to use their software exclusively.

    No difference between this and a software company using their own inferior in-house software rather than purchase something outside...it might make them look bad. Image counts for more than
  • I am a DOJ Attorney (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tax Boy (75507) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:13PM (#11871880)
    This is news??

    DOJ has been using Corel Wordperfect Office exclusively for a decade, and good ol' dos wordperfect 5.1 since there was a wordperfect. I personally have loaded 1980's era wordperfect documents off the network to cut'n'paste into a brief.

    Nothing new here.

  • You Know the Drill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:13PM (#11871887) Homepage Journal
    Announce that you're going with $COMPETING_PRODUCT to get Microsoft to cut you huge discounts. I expect that in a couple of weeks an announcement will come out that Microsoft pulled a bulk discount out of their ass and that the DOJ will be going with Office, after all.

    Though I must admit to being a bit puzzled as to why they didn't say they're going with an all-linux solution. Nothing makes Microsoft crap their pants and shoot that bulk discount out faster than saying you're going with Linux...

  • by guanxi (216397) on Tuesday March 08, 2005 @12:01AM (#11873699)
    From the article:
    U.S. courts require all electronic filings to be submitted as WordPerfect documents

    That's not true: Federal Courts I know of require PDF.

    My wife works for a Federal Appeals court; they use WordPerfect internally but require PDF filings.

    Some clients are law firms; all their court filings are in PDF.

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