Microsoft makes clean sweep at Corel New Zealand

Microsoft Corp. might have bought just 25 per cent of competitor Corel Corp. this month, but in New Zealand the takeover has been total.

Corel’s last New Zealand employee, Warwick Grey, resigned from the struggling software developer days before Microsoft’s investment was revealed to take a job at the rival company. After more than a decade’s association with Corel, Grey has been put in charge of Microsoft’s marketing to small to medium-sized businesses. Grey professes to have “admired Microsoft from a distance” while competing with it and “never in his wildest imaginings” considered Microsoft would invest in Corel.

He said he quit Corel knowing a mystery investor had put money into it but he thought Sun was the more likely benefactor.

His reason for leaving was “lack of guidance” from Corel about future plans, following the restructuring it embarked on three months ago. The company required Grey to work from home, which he didn’t want to do. Then New Zealand manager Patrina Gaskin left first, joining Microsoft-Telecom-EDS joint venture esolutions as channel manager. “We were both putting our reputations on the line without really knowing what was going on in the company,” Grey said.

Grey said he “can’t comment” on the suggestion that Microsoft has bought a chunk of Corel to make sure the company stays alive, rather than for the stated reason that it wants Corel developers to work on its .NET platform.

“I believe it’s the strength of Corel’s developers” that inspired the Microsoft move, Grey said

Meanwhile, Microsoft last week launched Mac Office 2001, a version of the application suite Microsoft committed to developing when it invested in Apple in 1997. That investment, of $US150 million, was made on the basis that Microsoft would hold the stake for at least three years. Apple’s share price has halved in the past month, but Microsoft NZ marketing manager Ross Peat said that doesn’t shake his confidence in the platform.