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Corel Linux sale ‘best thing’ for OS, claims exec

Company Linux chief talks to Reg

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Corel's recently announced spin-off of its Linux distribution is the "best thing for Linux", according to Rene Schmidt, Executive VP for Corel's Linux Product Group. Of course, it could also be said to be a very good thing for the company as well, writes Bruce Tober.

"With our spin-off, Corel is unleashing the power of Linux," he said. "The year 2000 was the year of the Linux desktop, and Corel played an important role in that development."

If that's the case, why is Corel stepping away?

"In the process of reaching early adopters, we received a lot of customer feedback indicating that, for a company to be successful in the Linux mainstream, it needs to provide a complete end-to-end solution," said Schmidt.

"Corel believes that a spin-off will provide better focus for our resources and this focus will better position our Linux offerings as key components of an end-to-end solution."

That sounds to us like the company finally realised that what Linux-on-the-desktop needs are more, better apps, not just another distro. Hence the decision to drop the latter to focus on the former.

Of course, some observers still see the hidden hand of Bill Gates in all this. However, Schmidt damned as "nonsense" conspiracy theories which say that Microsoft's purchase of a large chunk of Corel last year played a part in the decision to get shot of its Linux distribution. "Microsoft's shares in the company are strictly non-voting shares," he told The Register. "They have absolutely no say in anything we do, absolutely none."

And, of course, the fact that the company will continue, he said, to port its product range to Linux could be said to be proof of that.

The company is geared at this point, he explained, to "concentrating more extensively on customer needs and wants and the strength of our software products". Less diversification and more concentration on its core product line, Schmidt said would result in those products, such as WordPerfect and CorelDraw, regaining their erstwhile reputation as the best software in their class.

A major concern is to get Corel's user base to upgrade to the newest versions, rather than focusing on converting users of other brands. Large numbers of WordPerfect owners, for example, are still using version 5.1 for DOS. "We want to show them that as incredibly good as that is, our new version 10 is at least as good and more suited to their needs today," Schmidt said.

Once upon a time, WordPerfect was renowned for its technical support. It was free, even to the point of being accessed via toll-free phone numbers, of unlimited duration, and engineers didn't ask for callers' name, registration information or any other details except what the problem was. Asked whether the company would re-implement such service, Schmidt said it would be considered. ®

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