Corel pins its hopes on Deepwhite

With the announcement of Deepwhite, a line of enterprise software tools and services for creating “smart” content that can be tied to back-end servers and modified over the Web, Corel Corp. has taken the plunge into Web services waters.

Based on industry-standard technologies including XML and Web services technology developed by Microsoft Corp., the new initiative will allow users to design graphics and text documents that can be published for a variety of media and viewed on a variety of computing devices.

“Our intention is to take XML technologies and give customers the ability to create content and not worry about how to format it for different devices,” Derek Burney, Corel’s chief executive officer, said. “If you look around, there’s oceans and oceans of content.”

Deepwhite is one of a series of business divisions Corel has formed as part of its ongoing restructuring effort. Its enterprise efforts will be based on a framework that will allow customers to create applications and documents in which text and graphics on a document are tied to data accessed via the Internet. Those documents could then display data that is current and personalized.

“Customers could create a piece of text in Word Perfect or a graphic in Corel Draw, and you can put the business logic and rules behind it,” Burney said.

The company will release a set of XML-based content creation tools that enable software vendors and corporate IT departments to build custom enterprise applications with graphics and other design elements that access data on the fly.

Additionally, the tools would allow the Web application to adjust itself automatically depending on what kind of device it is being displayed on, such as a PC or a handheld computer, the company said.

Despite the potential pitfalls that exist with open standards, Burney sees this as good for the marketplace. Multiple vendors developing applications that support XML, for example, encourage competition to create best-of-breed applications. Customers benefit because they no longer need to worry that the content they produce with one package today will be inaccessible if they change content creation or management tools tomorrow.

David Marshak, senior vice-president and analyst at Boston’s Patricia Seybold Group agrees with Burney.

“Corel’s got a lot of positioning to do, but it’s doing the exact right things,” Marshak said. “If they can do what they say they’re going to be doing, it’s very good.”

Corel plans to offer individual versions of the content authoring tools geared toward specific markets, such as catalogue retailers or financial institutions.

In addition to offering new content authoring tools, the company plans to roll out a professional services team and an enterprise sales force focused on the Deepwhite initiative, Burney said. Corel will fill those teams with employees brought on as part of Corel’s recent acquisitions of Micrografx Inc. and SoftQuad Software Ltd.

After suffering a significant loss in the final quarter of 2001, Corel is pinning high hopes on Deepwhite, which will launch later this year with its first products.

– With files from IDG News Service