CorelWORLD was a great chance for me to connect with friends both old and new. I grew up in Kansas City so I got to see friends from my high school and college days as well as some family. Then there is the CorelWORLD family. Some of the attendees I have known for over ten years now. There were others that I was meeting for the first time. It was great to see everyone!
As always, the training sessions and after hours events were wonderful. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend many sessions as I was teaching so many of my own. In my sessions, I think everyone learned a lot, including me, and there were a lot of good questions asked and answered.
So the big question on most non-attendees mind would be whether there was any big news announcement. My answer would be no, though there were various clarifications on plans. I’ll try to share those to the best of my recollection.
Tony Severenuk, Program Manager for CorelDRAW, led off the conference with the keynote. If any of you have ever met Tony, you know that you are going to get a straight answer without any hype. Tony provided everyone with a history lesson of CorelDRAW and the industries where it is most prevalent. I’ve found that users know mainly about their own industry and don’t realize the many ways that CorelDRAW is used. Tony also showed information on all the different countries using CorelDRAW and the many local language versions available for sale. After he finished, the floor was opened to questions. Tony was asked when the next version of CorelDRAW would be released. His answer was that the beta program had not even started. Reading between the lines you can gather that it is many months away. Then came the inevitable Ventura question. Tony isn’t really involved with Ventura so he deferred to Tuesday’s speaker to discuss that issue. There were also questions about whether Paint Shop Pro would be integrated into PHOTO-PAINT or vice versa. There was never a definitive answer but Corel seems to be making it clear that they plan to develop both products in the near term.
Tuesday’s mornings speaker was Jacqueline Maartense, Executive Vice President for Global Product Marketing along with a brief video message from Amish Mehta, Corel’s CEO. Jacqueline discussed Corel’s overall marketing plan for their core products. The many Ventura users in the crowd made notice that Ventura was not mentioned anywhere. She also shared an overview of a recent survey about how CorelDRAW and Paint Shop Pro are used and how Corel would use this information to improve them. One example of what the survey said is that most CorelDRAW users create text. My impression was that the survey results shared didn’t do much more than state the extremely obvious. Nothing was shared about any specific ways the information gleaned from the survey would be used in future development. The key going forward is to make users of the products so happy that they would become evangelists for the products. Somewhere in talking about Corel’s core product groups she even referred to one of them as “Photoshop”. Oops.
Then it was time for questions to Jacqueline. It was no surprise that the future direction for Ventura was one of the first questions asked. She stated that there are currently no development plans and no active development. While this was pretty well known, it wasn’t really what anyone wanted to hear. More Ventura-related questions followed and the attendees got more restless. Jacqueline suggested that users needed to become evangelists for the product and help Corel sell more copies. Oops again. She said this to a room full of many of the most evangelical Ventura users. Ventura users as a whole are some of the most evangelical users of any software product on the market. These are users who have attended as many as fourteen CorelWORLD Conferences. She was reminded that it is hard to evangelize a product that Corel doesn’t even acknowledge they sell. Suggestions were made to have an upgrade path from the CorelDRAW Suite to Ventura. No answer. We asked about making a trial version of Ventura available for download. Again, no answer. There was a trial version available in the past but it had an internal date after which it would no longer function that passed quite some time ago. My guess is that it would be very easy to modify that date and make it available again. Then the Paint Shop Pro users started asking questions. They felt that her presentation suggested that PSP would be dumbed down to attract entry-level users. There was no definitive answer given. The result was that most people left this keynote very frustrated.
By lunchtime, users had had a chance to discuss the morning keynote and the grumbling continued. A late addition to my lunch table was Tamara Brown, a Product Specialist for Corel who would be delivering the keynote on Wednesday. She actually listened to the concerns of the people at our table and made note of suggestions. Tamara also shared tidbits like the fact that Corel’s outside sales team works to sell licenses of Ventura to large installations. Immediately things became a bit calmer. Later in the day she met with some of the Paint Shop Pro gurus and helped them to feel better about future development.
Tuesday evening was the night when buses would take some of the patrons out on the town. One group was going to Kansas City’s famed Country Club Plaza and the other was going to see the Kansas City Royals host the Baltimore Orioles. An interesting twist was that Rick Altman, our conference host, had found a local school district that rented out their buses to make a little extra money for the schools. He wondered how people would react and my feeling is that it was a huge hit. I went to the baseball game and we had a blast on the bus. Expectations for the game were pretty low. The Royals are one of the worst teams in baseball and the Orioles are one of the best. It was a real shocker that Kansas City led 8-2 after two innings. The Royals also had 8 hits and I told Rick that if the Royals got 12 hits that we would all get a free dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Our whole section was excited about the prospect of bringing 23 dozen doughnuts back to the hotel that night. Reality set in and the Royals blew their big lead. By the bottom of the ninth, Baltimore was leading 12-8 and the Royals were stuck with 11 hits. With two outs and two strikes, the final hit came and the crowd went nuts. Now we just had to find the nearest Krispy Kreme. We asked a stadium attendant and there was a shop just one exit down the freeway. When we got on the bus, we asked. Our driver was very gruff and wouldn’t even think about it. We gathered a tip from everyone and had Tamara (we thought a pretty girl would help convince the driver) asked him again. Still no luck. We made the best of the ride home in spite of our boring driver. Of course we all were yelling to stop at various other places on the way home. Once back at the hotel we asked if the hotel shuttle would take us all to Krispy Kreme. Never mind that the nearest location was at least 20 miles away. Still no luck. Oh well, it made for a fun story. I gave my ticket to my mom and she gladly collected a dozen the next morning. At least someone enjoyed a free doughnut.
Wednesday morning it was Tamara Brown doing the keynote. Her focus was demonstrating some of the cool features in Paint Shop Pro. Most of the conference’s attendees were familiar with Corel PHOTO-PAINT, but few were Paint Shop Pro users. Tamara was a success at turning heads and impressing us all. Best of all, she had made everyone feel more comfortable than they did a day earlier.
By noon on Wednesday the crowd began to thin as people got packed and headed to the airport. Overall, the conference was a lot of fun. There were still some questions unanswered and the future for Ventura isn’t looking great. I invite you all to leave your thoughts for Corel (keep them family friendly) and I’ll make sure that they are seen.