The new software, which goes into beta today, takes a hybrid approach to the desktop and the Web. Where Google Apps is a strictly online affair and Microsoft Office is bound to the desktop, Lightning offers some capabilities on the desktop and others on the Web.
The approach's importance cannot be understated. Corel faces the same kind of problems as Microsoft with respect to the burgeoning Web platform—only its risk is greater, because Corel doesn't have the deep product portfolio of Microsoft or the benefit of two desktop monopolies.
Corel also takes great risk, by offering a free product that—if it satisfies enough users—could backfire and actually hurt WordPerfect sales. Corel's challenge is giving away enough, without taking too much utility away from its paid, flagship WordPerfect Office product. Corel will mitigate some of the risk and fine-tune feature balance during the initial beta period, which is expected to last about three months.