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Cowpland sees share price upside for Corel

And with Borland now under the belt, the big push beckons

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CeBIT 2000 Will Corel now be able to mount a serious challenge to Microsoft's entrenched dominance, now that it has merged with tools vendor Inprise/Borland? CEO Michael Cowpland thinks so, as he told The Register in an interview at CeBIT. Corel has made remarkable if rocky progress from the days when it was best known as a graphics package vendor to its present position with the WordPerfect office suite, which it acquired from Novell in a fire sale, and now Inprise/Borland and its tools. However, Corel's most successful move, and one that cost very little, has been to Linux - at least Corel shareholders think so, since it was this that made the Borland deal possible by driving up the share price. The Linux version of Corel's Office suite is in its second beta and should start being distributed in April - and it will include Paradox for Linux. The big announcement is that Delphi for Linux - a product much requested by developers and codenamed Kylix - is expected to be ready in September: at the moment it is approaching the first beta, Cowpland said. J-Builder for Linux will also be produced. The Borland merger will present some cultural problems between the Canadians and the Californians, but Cowpland said there was no expectation of moving everyone to Ottawa, as eventually happened with WordPerfect. Not every Corel move has worked - the attempt to produce a Java version of WordPerfect was tried too soon and foundered, but this did not lead to the disbandment of the team, Cowpland says the've been busy looking at possibilities with Enterprise Java Beans, to match or exceed ActiveX within a year. Cowpland was optimistic that a good component model for e-commerce on the server will emerge. Ventura Publisher - the grandpa of desktop publishing packages - was acquired by Corel in 1993 and has languished somewhat, although it still has its devotees and particular strength for handling large documents. It has not been a great money spinner in its own right, and was first tucked away as a module in Corel Draw, although a stand-alone version was subsequently produced. Cowpland said it has now been decided to release a Linux version, which could bring it to greater prominence. Corel is also currently looking into Web authoring tools, but there is unlikely to be any return to hardware development as this would be done through affiliates or partners. Worrying about the governments Corel has been having some success convincing governments to follow competitive tendering rules for office suite software. The first victory was in Canada, with Corel winning substantial damages when a contract was awarded to Microsoft without a tender possibility. A similar case is pending in the US against the US Department of Labor. Cowpland said that as a result of these actions, people were being "more careful" now about competitive tendering. He also noted that the French department of culture has decided to go to open source software. Cowpland pointed out that in the last quarter of 1999, Red Hat made $5.4 million and had a market capitalisation of around $11 billion, whereas Corel's $3.2 million of Linux sales (in six weeks) was achieved with a market cap nearer $1 billion: whether this points to considerable upside potential for the Corel share price will need to await further results this quarter. Corel will be scrutinised very closely in the weeks ahead to see if its muscles develop as might be reasonably expected. On the competitive front, Cowpland said that Star Division seemed to be only "80 percent there", while the Lotus suite had a very low profile. As to the marketing of the WP suite, Cowpland noted that when Corel scores some modest success against Microsoft Office, Microsoft tends to use a giant hammer to squash the recalcitrant OEM, but Corel will use "guerilla marketing under the radar" to attack Microsoft's market. He said he expected to be able to announce some additional OEM deals for the WordPerfect suite soon: the only major one so far has been for 20 million motherboards made by PC Chips. ®

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