If I Were CEO of Corel…

June 15, 2005

It was almost two years ago that Vector Capital purchased Corel and made the company private. Soon after the purchase, Amish Mehta of Vector Capital was made the CEO. Numerous changes have been made at Corel and Mehta’s days of CEO are coming to an end. I’m going to pretend that I was put in charge and list a few of the things I think would make Corel even stronger. Some of you will agree with my ideas, some will disagree. Feel free to leave your comments as long as they are family friendly.

There was a large shift in the software industry this spring when Adobe announced they would be merging with Macromedia. Analysts have said that Microsoft is the target of the Adobe that will emerge from this merger. Given that the products that compete with many of Corel’s offerings are from Adobe, this is something that Corel needs to address.

Adobe started offering their “Creative Suite” a few years ago and it has been able to take Photoshop’s market share and extend it to other Adobe products. Corel began the suite concept for software and they need to fight back. Many expect that Adobe will add Macromedia’s Flash to the suite along with adding Dreamweaver in place of GoLive.

Let’s do a little comparison between the suites and see what Corel needs to provide an alternative to Adobe. Corel has CorelDRAW, Adobe has Illustrator. In this case, Corel seems to be in good shape. Corel has Corel PHOTO-PAINT in their current suite, Adobe has Photoshop. No doubt, Photoshop has the largest market share. If Corel can concentrate development efforts on PHOTO-PAINT, they can make it the superior product. Adobe has Flash, Corel has R.A.V.E. This is definitely a mismatch and R.A.V.E. would require a lot of development to catch up to Flash. In this case, Corel should concentrate on what they know best—making it easy to create cool effects. R.A.V.E. also makes fairly large files. Corel should work hard to eliminate the problems with large files and look hard to acquiring a company like SWiSHzone.com for their great Flash technology. Adobe has Dreamweaver, Corel has no alternative. Since Adobe will most likely try to sell GoLive, Corel should strongly consider getting a Web editor in their arsenal. Maybe they could even look at a company like SJ Namo that could provide both a Web editor and an easy to use tool for Flash animations. In many ways, Namo’s marketing is very similar to Corel’s and may be a better fit for Corel. Adobe has InDesign in their suite, Corel currently doesn’t offer anything in the suite. This is the area where I think Corel’s management has made a huge mistake over the years. You see, they own a very powerful document publishing tool in Corel Ventura and they’ve completely ignored it for several years now. With a few bug fixes and updated engines, it would make a great addition to the Graphics Suite. Many users would give Ventura a look and realize that it is a tool that surpasses any of the page layout tools on the market even with Corel’s unthinkable neglect. Each of the companies supplies various utilities in their respective suites. I think Corel should include Paint Shop Photo Album as an image management tool. If they really wanted to take things further, they could stop licensing Font Navigator and fonts from Bitstream and just buy the company. Then they could bundle the exact fonts they want as well as developing Font Navigator to be even better than it is today.

I definitely threw in some biggies there. Even if Corel does any one of the big changes I suggest, I think it will be a huge upswing for the Graphics Suite. If they did them all, they might really shock the graphics world with all the power in the new Graphics Suite.

Corel has several products geared around image editing. Corel PHOTO-PAINT and Paint Shop Pro are similar in many different yet each has unique features not found in the other. Eventually I think these products should be merged. Instead of the result being just a single product, I still think it makes sense to have two products. One would be geared towards the hobbyist and one to the professional. This merging will be a very delicate operation as the user bases of each product are very loyal to the interface they know. Rather than doing this right away, the products will probably move closer in their next releases with the merger happening another version down the road. Corel also has Corel Painter and it is incredibly unique in what it can do. I think it would be smart to take some of Painter’s brush technology and bring it into PHOTO-PAINT and Paint Shop Pro. They don’t need to take everything as it makes sense to keep Painter as a separate product.

That leaves marketing as the one huge area that I’ve yet to address. In the early days of Corel, there was a huge number of third parties. The number has dropped and I think this is directly related to how Corel has handled third parties. In my case, they have improved since Vector took over. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for future improvement. Corel needs to leverage third parties as an asset and show users all of the things that add-ons can add to the Graphics Suite. Think about why Photoshop and QuarkXpress became industry standards and it was their legion of plug-in and add-on developers. If Corel can promote the add-ons that already exist, they are indirectly promoting their own products. You see, an add-on to CorelDRAW still requires the user purchase CorelDRAW.

Some of you are probably wondering about my lack of mention of the WordPerfect suite. You see, I only care about graphics. I never really understood why Corel wanted to fight a battle against Microsoft for office suites. Maybe Corel can give WordPerfect to Adobe in exchange for some more graphics products. Then Adobe can truly fight against Microsoft and Corel can concentrate on graphics. It was graphics that made the company in the first place and it makes sense that they return to those roots going forward.

I want to give a special thanks to K.N. Pepper for the great cartoon that accompanies my commentary.

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10 Comments

  1. Rikk

    Foster, I agree with everything said except WordPerfect. Don’t get me wrong, I am an Office User by Day and Night but I think that WordPerfect in the Suite with Ventura, Draw, PP, Rave, An Image Managment tool would make it equally as powerful as CS2 but come at it from a business document angle instead of a graphics/web angle.

    Don’t compete against Office with MS, compete against Adobe with WP.

    Just don’t forget Ventura!

    Reply
  2. Tom Karalias

    I agree with everyting, but I would suggest that Corel boost the paging and publishing capabilities of Corel Draw. I already publish a whole Magazine in CorelDraw 11 and 12. The program is already capable of doing a great job, therefore i do not see the need for Corel Ventura but intergranting its feautures in corelDraw would be a great move.
    Corel Photo-Paint on the other hand it used to be a superior program to Photoshop at least in the effects area and with few interface and tool improvements it could compete straight with Adobe’s product. I find the Photo-Paint tools and Interface the only major problem, because most people are acustomed to Adobe’s interface and tools. Also I believe the company needs to raise its promotional and advertising budget overall and now that Macs are going Intel, maybe rethink its Mac OSX politics.
    Corel overall as a suite it is superior to the afterthoughts of CS 1 & 2 but they failed to promote it right. Adobe is copying lately from Corel users Interface and object handling capabilities.Corel is better with font handling than Adobe especially in non unicode foreing language fonts like Greek (my native language), CorelDraw is a much better program than Illustrator in all aspects and it can improve more.
    I believe the only reason corel loses to Adobe its because they did not bother much for the Macs, and those guys are the standard yet in the DTP arena. Myself i moved to PCs from Macs and it took me a long time to realise the abilities of the suite being acustomed to Adobe products and all.
    They need better promotion, period.

    Reply
  3. Stefan Lindblad

    Hi Foster,

    I have put your blog as a link on my own blog. My blog is mostly in Swedish, but will in the future have text in English too. I like what you are writing, and I agree in basically everything you wrote. When it comes to marketing, Corel is still missing a lot. Okey for Sweden being a small country in north of europe, but with great hockey players like Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin coming fom here though… should ne an intersting market to market the Corel suite at. Strange they dont do it more. When marketing in Sweden they get into the market of Norway, Denmark and finland and wy not Island as well. These countries are “brother/sister” countries with a comon history. Swedsih television is reachable in Norway, finland and most parts of Denmark. The market leading graphic magazine Cap&Design is read in those countries in theire respective capitals. I mean I can go on and on. All countries have impacts on each others. Before Denmark and Sweden joined the EU, they where and still are members of the political organisation, like a mini EU if you like, called Nordic Council. There are so many comon grounds over here. So this market should be interesting for Corel. But very little is advertized about Corel products over here.

    Reply
  4. LG MJ

    Hello Foster,

    With respect to your column, (If I Were CEO of Corel…) I agree to mostly all you mentioned. Corel should concentrate on the restructure of their products adding to and removing some. However, I feel the marketing departments at Corel are not targeting all areas. I live in the Nashville, TN area we are a largely growing entertainment city. Everywhere you look a new graphics business has sprung-up. Many talented professionals are coming to our area writing and producing their own columns about the country music industry and the stars associated with it. We have never seen any advertisements on any television channel to do with Corel or Adobe products; occasionally you may see an ad for Acrobat. I feel this would be and excellent opportunity for Corel to promote their product line. Also, with more and more home PC’s capable of running programs like CorelDraw and Photoshop the home user would also be a great target.

    LG MJ
    CEO/BAC Street Graphics

    Reply
  5. Ken

    Many years ago Corel bought SoftQuad, the developers of HotMetalPro, a great HTML editor. I still use it. The SoftQuad team was a pleasure to work with. Is there any hope they still own the code, now that they buried one of the best HTML editors on the market? SoftQuad also had an excellent XHTML editor and Corel buried that too.

    Corel seems to have sidestepped good development. What happened to R.A.V.E.? This never worked well. I tried to use it once and it wouldf not import the audio from a QuickTime file. I was told it was a glitch but Corel never fixed it.

    We need a management team that can search and bring to market good development tools without trying to chase Adobe. If they keep doing that Corel wil chase themselves out of business.

    Reply
  6. indymike

    Foster –

    I second the notion that SquishMax would be a good replacement for RAVE.

    Just a comment on Corel’s direction in general – I hope Corel focuses on productivity in their marketing. Right now both MM and Adobe products require much more pointing, clicking, selecting and changing properties than do either PhotoPaint or Draw. Perhaps adding Real DRAW Pro like features to draw and paint (Real Draw is wierd – it’s a vector based bitmap editor) would further this advantage.

    Likewise, ventura always has been easy to be productive with… but I think Tom Karalias has it right that extending the publishing features in Draw would be wise – I use it for a lot of light duty stuf too

    Reply
  7. Bob

    As a designer who has worked in Corel since v1.1 I find myself migrating to Illustrator for more and more projects – not that I like it better, but I get better support from the graphics industry. Corel Draw is much easier to use but lacks (in my opinion) some of the sophistication of Illustrator. I would like to see Corel make up its mind whether they are going after the professional market or the corporate office market.

    If they are going to go head to head with Illustrator I would like to see improved Text on a Curve. Better color management, better import/export of Illustrator files, better text handling. Doing a magazine in Draw makes no sense to me… text handling is rudimentary at best… I say, keep Draw a draw program and fine-tune instead of attempting to make it a puplishing program.

    As CEO of Corel – get back to marketing basics… who is your target market? Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

    Reply
  8. Jane Bliss

    Dear Foster:

    I agree with all your comments.

    I mostly want some of the painterly attributes of Paint added to PhotoPaint. Especially the oil paint capabilities.

    Money wise, I like the fact that Corel has kept the prices of the suite below Adobe, making it affordable for me to upgrade.

    I have used the suite since V.3, both at home and at work and now do a few things such as brochures, photo retouching, etc. as well as my own artwork.

    Those who have been convinced that the Adobe programs are the ONLY way to go just don’t realize the better pricing and abilities of the Corel suite.

    Jane Bliss

    Reply
  9. Ike

    Well, it’s good to see other people do it, too. That is, take a personal, genuine interest in the well-being and success of Corel Corp. That right there should be enough to inspire confidence in anyone worrying about Corel’s future.

    I see Corel as a “tip-of-the-iceberg” company, a provider of solid, superlative professional tools that’s had to play second fiddle mainly because of the vagaries of marketing and distribution. Adobe got a leg up early and they got their brand out and did a superb job marketing their product. As far as what’s being delivered, though, in the core raster and vector apps, Adobe’s is an inferior product. Photo-Paint doesn’t need to ‘catch up’; it needs to get in the hands of image manipulators, digital artists, designers and hobbyists before they get moulded into doing things Adobe’s way. I initially chose to pursue Corel’s software for its interface; I hated the Mac interfaces at the time with a passion and that is precisely what Photoshop felt like then and feels like today. The UI is getting a little better, but it’s a legacy platform and it’s always going to be more difficult to teach yourself if you can remember more than two WinOS iterations. Beyond that, there is precious little that PS can do that PP can’t, and everything else PP can do better and faster (again I can only speak from PC platform experience). Its native .cpt is years ahead of the current .psd, and the object-handling engine, coming from the bloodlines of Draw, makes even PP9 the more capable application for handling multiple-object, complex designs and compositions. As Corel Graphics Suite evolves I see more and more integration of the raster and vector sides, and I agree that eventually we should have a merged program, but with Draw rather than PSP, and eventually, given numerous forward builds, Painter.

    Look what Microsoft’s playing with in Acrylic. Look at the directions print design and (to a degree) web media are going in. Corel had SVG ready to go first and I’m sure there’s a good deal of development of it or similar vector formats for the web, something that doesn’t pose the implementation or security risks of Flash and could enable more to be done slicker on less bandwidth. And Ventura! If CGS13 were to exclude Rave and incorporate Ventura, even a slightly toned-down version enhanced with an HTML layout/editing component, it could easily be the killer app suite to beat all.

    But it won’t, at least not that way. No matter how tweaked and refined the Graphics Suite programs get, they aren’t going to be the first thing everyone thinks about when they imagine graphics/design software. They’re practically giving it away when you consider how many individual, networked, professional applications you get for the money, I don’t see how a further price drop could really affect market share, but then again I’m not a bean-counter. Corel needs to work on its awareness, presence, whatever they call it these days, and get design schools and high schools and juniour colleges graciously accepting their donations and discounts and offering training and even certification so that when your kid opens a lemonade stand the sign rolls from his fingertips (and the lovely but now horribly pared-down clipart collections) to the corner sign shop that popped up on the evolved Service Bureau Locator, along with every other functioning web press and ink slinger in the galaxy.
    The Corel/Wacom relationship should improve so that the purchase of one guarantees a discount on the other. Corel Corp should take its superior product and beat Adobe over the head with it, snag the remaining government POs from them and pull the rug out from under them with the emerging technology they have always had the capacity to do. Open up a discreet offshoot of their web-authoring and SVG technologies to the drooling open-source junkies, just a little piece that will, if successful, be already an integrated technology in one if its core products, like Microsoft or Sun or Netscape did.

    In short, we need a war. A knock-down, drag-out blitz to let the software speak for itself directly to the end-user. Corel has a lot to be proud of, but not enough room to shout about it, much less brag. Beyond a reputation, to do this it needs a persona, an image, maybe even a little bit of an ego, to take its place at the top.

    Reply
  10. Pradhan Balter

    Corel at one time owned the market. I believe its fate is in the hands of Microsoft who could/should buy Corel…sorry to say. I think this is its only way back into the market place.

    Reply

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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