Queensland-based software publisher, Manaccom, is challenging Microsoft in the Office space by releasing a series of rebadged open office suites and packages to mass merchants.
The company recently signed a distribution deal with US-based Linspire, maker of the controversial Linspire operating system.
As a way to better market and sell open source alternatives for Macintosh and Microsoft Windows computers, Linspire managing director, Michael Robertson, started a software company called CompareSoft.
In a recent Robertson Web posting, he said Linspire spent money to build versions of several open source products with more mainstream titles and terminology.
Consequently, CompareOffice competes directly with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. It also includes a drawing title. CompareWeb includes a browser, email client and page builder. The other two titles, ComparePublish and ComparePhoto, go up against the Adobe range.
"Some may criticise CompareSoft for charging for software that can be downloaded for free online, but this is necessary if open source is going to grow beyond 1 per cent geek market share," Robertson said.
"If something is free, then there is no profit and therefore no incentive for retailers or distributors to merchandise the products. By charging a reasonable amount for CompareSoft products, we are able to build a profit motive for retailers and distributors so they are encouraged to stock open source solutions and not just expensive proprietary ones."
Manaccom director of publishing, James Mackay, said the CompareOffice product and its sister titles, CompareWeb and CompareDraw, are already available at retail stores around the country.
"At the moment, Harvey Norman has taken a fair stock holding and we're approaching retailers every day." he said. "We're also keen for the broad network of independent resellers and retailers to consider adopting the program as a great value alternative to Microsoft.
"The product was released in early November so it's still not achieved total market coverage."
However, he was confident sales would increase.
"Using Mozilla as an example, we can see that alternative titles are slowly becoming accepted by computer users. I imagine a 10 per cent market share would be possible for alternative office suites and CompareOffice is well placed to capitalise on that. Importantly, CompareOffice is only a fraction of the price of the Microsoft product."
While Manaccom won't work with system builders for OEM software, it will provide the OEM version to the reseller and it is then sold for whatever they think is reasonable.
"The condition [to make it OEM and receive the special price] is to ensure the software is sold with hardware over $100," he said.
"So I guess it's not traditional OEM, but the system has been working well for us for a while now."