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Thursday, January 26, 2006, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

iWork has no game against Office or WordPerfect

All the fuss over Apple's iWork productivity suite sales numbers may be much ado about nothing, contacts tell AppleInsider.

While Apple's iWork retail-based sales in the US may have accelerated throughout 2005, recently published data has inaccurately been used to suggest the fledgling software suite is quickly emerging as a competitor to Microsoft's Office.

A recent report used iWork retail sales numbers from research firm NPD to suggest that the software was on its way to sidestepping Word Perfect as the primary rival to Office.

However, when compared to Corel's WordPerfect, overall data from NPD (which excludes OEM and direct sales) indicates that iWork lags far behind in sales — especially when other sales channels are factored into the mix.

"NPD shows that iWork sold around 50,000 units at retail last year. Corel sold that many [copies of WordPerfect] to one account in the Department of Justice," Richard Carriere, general manager of office productivity for Corel, told AppleInsider. "Looking at brick and mortar retail as a metric or indicator of a trend is incomplete and misleading."

Corel maintains that it offers the leading alternative to Office, outselling iWork ten to fifteen times over. "If you were to take into account OEM and direct, millions have chosen WordPerfect Office in the last year," said Carriere. "We stand very strongly behind our claim as provider of the leading alternative to Microsoft Office."

Corel isn't the only party to rally to its own defense. Analyst also agree that comparing iWork sales to those of WordPerfect (or Office) based on data from single sales channel is unfair. To form a more solid comparison, they suggest that all sales channels be analyzed, including e-stores, commercial resellers, value added resellers and OEM.

"iWork isn't an Office suite," Joe Wilcox, an analyst for JupiterResearch, told AppleInsider. The analyst says it's even a stretch to say the software, which contains only two programs, is on par with products like Microsoft Works. "Any iWork comparison to Microsoft Office or WordPerfect is an apples-to-oranges comparison, at best," he said.

Wilcox says that, according to JupiterResearch usage surveys, WordPerfect remains the No. 2 office suite behind Microsoft Office in the consumer, SMB and enterprise markets with roughly a 15 percent share in each market. "There's an obvious logic problem with the contention that iWork, which is only available for Macs, could somehow rival Microsoft Office," the analyst added.

The rising popularity of iWork is undoubtedly a good thing for Apple and the Mac OS X platform, but it will be a quite a while before the productivity suite can pit itself against offerings from industry heavyweights Corel and Microsoft.