Corel’s surprise buyout of XML pioneer SoftQuad on Tuesday, combined with last month’s acquisition of imaging specialist Micrografix, indicates another U-turn for the Ottawa company – and a promising one, say industry analysts.
Corel Corp. president and CEO Derek Burney told IT World Canada on Wednesday that the SoftQuad Software Ltd. acquisition underscores the company’s commitment to XML as an important future technology for creating and managing content across different channels.
The move also announces Corel’s intention to become the “de facto leader” in “cross-media publishing” software – a new area that will allow the simultaneous creation of content for both print and the Web, said Burney.
“There are lots of great Web tools, and lots of great print tools, but there aren’t any that really do both. Adobe and Quark are headed toward [cross-media publishing] but they don’t have the breadth of technology that we do. To really be a player in that space you need spreadsheets and databases and graphics tools and word processors and desktop publishing programs, and we’re the only ones that have all of that.”
If Corel wants to keep to compete with Adobe, Dreamweaver and Microsoft, it need needs to have an open file approach – so they had to acquire some new technology, said James Governor, a London, England-based analyst with Illuminata, Inc.
“I think it’s beholden on any company that either doing content or transactions to have a thorough-going XML story. It is becoming increasingly important as a means for either connecting systems or making systems more interoperable,” he said.
Although WordPerfect is already XML enabled, Burney acknowledged that it is “a little behind the times” so Corel’s first project is to serve its existing user base by bringing their current applications up to snuff.
Following these touch-ups, Corel plans tool pool its new resources with those of the recently acquired Micrografx in order to have a whole new cross-media publishing suite ready to sell in 2002.
We’ll be taking that (Micrografx) technology, stuff from SoftQuad like XmetaL, some of our desktop publishing programs, and we’re going to put them all in a blender and then create this one solution out of it.”
Even though Microsoft has paid a lot of attention to XML, “its office products are clueless about it”, said Rita Knox, vice-president and research director with Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm Gartner Inc. This makes Corel’s move toward XML quite sensible, she added
“[Corel] knows well enough that vanilla word processors – like Word, WordPerfect or Lotus – even though they are simple and easy to use, are too dumb to really start capturing and encoding the kind of information that’s going to be critically important on the Web,” she said.
“With (the emerging) cross-media, multi-channel, multi-audience possibilities it’s not just about putting up a page up that someone can read,” Knox said. “It’s important to create stuff that people can consume and that computers can consume.”
SoftQuad’s HoTMetaL and XmetaL will continue to exist as standalone XML development tools, but only after they emerge from a 60-day planning and integration phase during which a few Corel-flavored modifications will be made, Burney said.
“[They] will have added ease-of-use features and functionality that we can bring in from our core technology, such as the menus and the toolbars that we have developed for Draw and WordPerfect. All of the products will be enhanced, but continue to cater to their existing customers – under what name is still to be determined.”
For now, with so many directions to explore, Knox suggested that it is important for Corel to be extremely disciplined (and modest) about what it does with its new capabilities.
If Corel adds smart features to its desktop applications, it can strongly pull in its traditional constituencies and then grow the user base by spinning products off to other industries and enterprises, she said.