Corel on the comeback trail

The last time Corel made significant news was in 2003 when private equity firm Vector Capital acquired the one-time biggest software company in Canada for just over a buck a share. Then the company, who made CorelDraw one of the must have products in graphics, voluntarily delisted itself form Nasdaq and the TSX.

From that point in time the company went into a kind of business hibernation. It shuffled CEOs before former Symantec senior executive Kris Hagerman took over in 2008. It tried to get back on the stock market only to be taken private again.

Product wise Corel, who once battled Microsoft in the office productivity market, hasn’t made too many splashes.

Recently the company broke out of its shell and presented its full line-up of digital media and graphics software products at one of the must attend trade shows in the high tech calendar year; Computex in Taipei. Corel’s senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas, Kevin Thornton told CDN that the company will also have a huge presence at the Comic-Con International show in San Diego starting tomorrow. Why would a technology vendor take part in a comic book convention, you might ask?

Well according to Thornton all these trade shows are important events and are very strategic to Corel. “This is the audience we are trying to reach. For example, Corel Painter (formerly Fractal Painter) is a strong product in the comic book industry,” he said.

Corel will also take part in VidCon, ISTE, and a number of bar association and government events.

All these events will be featured on the company’s new channel partner portal. “We have links to let partners know which shows we are attending and then they will be able to talk with our product specialists to create that strong relationship,” Thornton added.

Called Corel Partners, this new online portal will offer the channel around the clock access to current company product information, marketing collateral, sales tools, campaign information, box shots, promotions, and training services. Powered by RelayWare, Corel Partners portal is fully secure and will also have not for resale order forms, video tutorials, and sales webinars.

One thing the portal will not have is a lead generation engine. Thornton said that might come in the future if channel partners want it as most of Corel Partners portal was built by channel feedback.

“It’s important for partners to have choices and they should represent products they believe in. Corel has long established channel relationships and we engage directly with partners. We have sales reps meeting constantly with larger partners and with that we created a strong base of value added resellers to Mom & Pop integrators who put bundles together for customers,” Thornton said.

The new portal utilizes a one-to-many approach with the intent to help channel partners with tools and services they need when working on deals in the education space or for a video studio solution. Thornton said the portal also gives the channel an opportunity to engage with account managers. “We want this portal to be nimble, relevant and responsive so they have the tools and ammo to be successful in reselling our products,” he said.

The company also made a significant step in increasing its channel presence by partnering with a specialty distributor in the virtualization market Lifeboat Distribution. All of Corel’s products are still available at Ingram Micro Canada and Synnex Canada, but will now be on Lifeboat’s line card. Lifeboat sports a channel network of about 5,500 solution providers.

“Lifeboat is a great partner for us. We already had a good relationship with them because of WinZip (WinZip was acquired by Corel in 2006). Channel partners wanted something that was complimentary and we saw some synergies with Lifeboat and its parent company Wayside and decided to expand the partnership for Paint Shop Pro, Video Studio and other products,” he said.

Besides Lifeboat, Corel also has a relationship with pure-play retail distributor Navarre of Minneapolis, Minn. Thornton added that Corel’s Large Account Resellers will get a better licensing offer from Lifeboat.

Corel has also expanded its product portfolio into the computer aided design market in an attempt to compete with AutoDesk, the makers of AutoCAD. Thornton said that Corel CAD is available in multiple languages and will have a hybrid sku for PCs and Macs.

The product is priced at $500 and will be positioned as an alternative to AutoCAD. Thornton’s strategy with Corel CAD is that it has better value proposition than AutoCAD as AutoCAD LT is more than $1,000 and only available on the PC. “The Mac is an important platform in design and with our hybrid sku we believe it will be a growing market for us and we shall be working with industry partners that specialize in the CAD space,” he said.

Thornton found that about 25 percent of CorelDraw customers also bought AutoCAD so the company thought it would be a good adjacent market to go into.

During the interview for this story, Thornton told CDN that Corel is a far different company than when Michael Cowpland, the iconic CEO of Corel, was running things. He also wanted to tell solution providers that the business is growing and profitable even though Corel is a privately-held company and are not allowed to report financials. Ironic given that Cowpland, who is the CEO of ZIM, reported his company’s financials today.

ZIM increased sales by almost 26 per cent and grew net income by 20 per cent, in case you were wondering.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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