Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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December 2003, Week 1 -- The Mystery of Pricing



  WordPerfect 11

   The pricing of software remains shrouded in mystery. Does it bear any relation to reality? Let's look at the current version of WordPerfect 11, for example, a program we reviewed just a few weeks ago.

   The regular price from the Corel web site is $300. The discount price from several sellers is $250. The "academic" price, which is the price if you're a student or teacher, is $99. To top it all off, we spotted WordPerfect 11 on offer for only $30 from companies selling it as "OEM" software.


   "OEM" means original equipment manufacturer, and it is a common practice in the industry to sell copies of software at deeply discounted prices to manufacturers who will then bundle the programs with their equipment. The price difference is huge. Programs that normally sell for $100 or more at retail, will often be sold to OEMs for less than $5, sometimes as little as $2. The trick is that the contract for those sales normally requires the software to be sold with some piece of hardware. So some sellers bundle the program with something cheap, like a mouse, and sell it for a rock bottom price. Unless the software is identified with some limiting designation, such as "se," for "special edition," it is, as they say, the real thing.


   We discovered the road to low-ball pricing by doing a search on Froogle Simply type OEM followed by the name of the program and you'll come up with several sellers. Earlier versions are the cheapest. "OEM Quicken," for example turned up earlier versions at prices ranging from 99 cents to $10. Microsoft Money and Microsoft Works 2002, bundled together, were available for $12; Money 2002 by itself for $10. Microsoft Word 2000 was $39. The latest version of Microsoft Office was $150 at, less than half list price.


   Academic pricing is also tricky, and often available to just about anyone. If you say your child is a student and you're buying the program for them, does that qualify you for academic pricing? With most sellers it does. The reality is they want to move the product. But the cautionary note with academic pricing is the same as OEM discounting: some academic versions are not full versions of the product, though they are always pretty close.




--  A guide to endangered species of seafood and contaminents, like mercury. Swordfish, for example, has a high mercury content, but the web site points out that the smaller the fish the lower the concentration.


--  A U.S. Government site that provides links to sites for kids, both government and private. For example, clicking on geography as a subject leads to links from the National Geographic, the CIA's "geography trivia game," the NASA observatorium (pictures of Earth, planets, stars, etc.), and the U.S. Air Force. Though the site is labeled "kids," most of the links would be good for adults as well.

--  The main page is for booking trips on the famous Paris to Istanbul express train. There is some history and a gift shop with items from the train. There is now a link to London, so prices are in Sterling.

--  Lets you know the loading time for any web site. It informed us ours  loads in two seconds on a high-speed line and 15 seconds with a 56k modem. President Bush's site,, was faster by seven seconds than Democratic challenger Howard Dean's site,, on a 56k modem.


Play disk jockey




   "DJ Console" is a portable mixer and multi-channel audio box from the French electronics firm, Guillemot, under their Hercules label It connects to a Windows 98 or higher computer and lets you mix input from a midi keyboard, microphone, hard drive, tape drive, mini-disk and CD and do it all in real time. Whew!

   Professional disk jockeys who have looked at the box dismiss it as not worth their time. But of course it wasn't designed for them, and at $250 it isn't selling for the high prices they pay either.

   This looks like a really nice tool for the amateur disk jockey who not only can't afford the professional level equipment but doesn't want to lug around a hundred pounds of stuff and a hundred yards of cabling. DJ Console weighs a little over three pounds and needs no external power supply; it connects to the computer though the USB port and draws its power from there.


Games people play



 Absolute Beginner's Guide to WP

   "Halo: Combat Evolved;" $30 for Win 98 and up, and Xbox, .

   This is the latest incarnation of one of the most famous action games of the last several years. It's basically a shoot-em-up: Earthmen against alien invaders, with lots of speed, armor and amazing weapons. Halo is already the best selling game for Xbox and is just now out for Windows. The Windows version is multi-player.


   The "Absolute Beginner's Guide to WordPerfect 11," by Laura Acklen, $19 from Tips and tricks for a great word processor. The new version is a pleasure to run.

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: You can also e-mail Bob or Joy Schwabach at or