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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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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