Blast Radius buys Corel’s XMetal

Blast Radius Inc., an IT services company focusing mainly on large-scale Web applications, on Monday announced its purchase of the XMetal division of Ottawa-based Corel Corp.

XMetal is an Extensible Markup Language product suite, which Corel acquired from SoftQuad Software Inc. in 2002. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Steven Harmer, executive vice-president, product division of Blast Radius in Vancouver said the company purchased XMetal because it’s a good fit with Blast Radius’s product strategy. Blast Radius’s other products are XML-centric and include product management suite Compel and the soon-to-be-released Critique — a collaboration software tool built around distributed XML.

Harmer said Blast Radius’s customers have been asking for more XML-based products including an XML editor, so when Corel spread the word it was looking for a buyer for XMetal, Blast Radius stepped up to the plate.

“As part of [the development of Critique] we have been working with XMetal for the past year and a half, doing some prototyping and integration of its XML editor — which is essentially what XMetal is. It is like a word processor to the end user, but behind the scenes it is dealing with much more structured documents,” Harmer said.

“So we had been partnering with Corel and utilizing its XML editor, and wrapping all of our collaboration activities around it. You could do collaborative reviewing of documents as well as the collaborative authoring of documents and turning it into a distributed, network-aware application,” he added.

For example, users could collaborate on documents in different geographic locations in real-time, Harmer said.

XMetal’s operations are focused mainly in Vancouver, the former home of SoftQuad. Harmer said Blast Radius will continue to employ the 27 employees in the XMetal division. Sixteen of them are in Vancouver, three are in the U.K. and the rest are in the U.S.

Corel CEO Amish Mehta said in a statement that the company sold off its XMetal division because it is in the process of focusing on its core business including the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite and WordPerfect Office. Corel went private after years of financial woes when it was purchased on Aug. 22 by Vector Capital Corp. in San Francisco, but the company retained its Ottawa headquarters.

XMetal consists of four components — XMetal Author, XMetal for ActiveX, XMetal Developer, and XMetal Central. The XMetal Author is the editing environment, while XMetal for Active X is an editing interface that can be embedded into any ActiveX-compliant Microsoft Corp. Windows application. The XMetal Developer is a plug-in for Microsoft’s .Net platform that allows users to customize and create applications for XMetal in a centralized environment, while XMetal Central is a server-based XML environment that allows administrators to maintain and deploy XML applications across a company.

Mark Walter, senior analyst at Seybold Consulting based in Media, Penn. said he is not surprised that Corel is scaling down its business and expressed regret at the company’s lack of success with XMetal.

“It’s a shame Corel wasn’t able to carry on the business SoftQuad pioneered,” he said. “It acquired a good name, good people and a good product but just wasn’t able to make a business out of it.”

Harmer said Blast Radius will continue to support XMetal and honour the maintenance contracts of XMetal’s current users. However, Walter is not optimistic about Blast Radius’s ownership of XMetal. He said the company has to compete against the number one player in the XML document authoring market — Abortext Inc., in Ann Arbor, Mich. with its Epic product.

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