Macworld UK met with Corel President and CEO Derek Burney this week to discuss the company, its creative applications, and its relationship with Apple, Microsoft and .Net.

Burney joined the company eight years ago as an engineer on CorelDraw 4. Rising to chief technology officer, he was asked to head the company on the departure of previous boss Michael Cowpland in 2000. He has since been recognized as one of Canada’s top 40 business leaders for 2001, in recognition of his work in turning around the beleaguered company.

Crucial to the turnaround has been Corel’s renewed concentration on its “core strengths” as a content-delivery company – “content that connects,” said Burney. Corel was in the vanguard of releasing applications for Mac OS X, introducing Painter, Bryce, KnockOut and the Corel Graphics Suite.

The company’s graphics applications have been collected together under the Procreate brand. “We created Procreate to show our dedication to graphics applications, and Mac OS X in particular.”

Commitment to X Corel’s commitment to Mac OS X is growing. “The next version of CorelDraw will be released simultaneously for Mac and Windows. It’s no wonder the Mac community didn’t look favourably at Corel, because we made them wait six months for the Mac versions of products. Now we’re saying “No. Macintosh users are very important” – that’s why we’re arranging simultaneous releases for all the products we do for Mac and Windows. We’re excited about that.”

Though Mac WordPerfect development has ceased (because the user-base didn’t justify the investment), the company has other products planned for Procreate. Burney explained: “I strongly suspect that the Procreate brand within Corel will grow enormously – to the point where it becomes the flagship of the product line.

“We’re looking at expanding the line so it doesn’t just cover creative products, but creative graphics products as well. CorelDraw may end up in the Procreate family,” Burney explained.

Active art Looking at emerging trends, Burney said: “Remember Clip Art? I think the next evolution of this will be smart Clip Art – XML-based graphics with built-in code programmed to deliver certain behaviours. You might have a traffic light with built-in characteristics to use in your own work, for example.”

Burney is a cross-platform CEO. “I use both a new iMac and a PC in the office. The new iMac impressed me when I saw it in San Francisco.”

Corel’s relationship with Apple has improved: “We have a fairly good relationship with Apple now. A couple of years ago, neither company was speaking with each other – but recently, Steve Jobs sent me a congratulatory email when I made the Canadian top 40 list.”

He explained: “The point is, we have a great relationship with Apple and Microsoft now that, as a company, we have given up trying to beat all comers.”

Microsoft money Part of Corel’s salvation was Microsoft’s decision to invest $135 million in the company. Has Corel become a vassal state to Microsoft?

Burney: “Absolutely not! What happened is that Microsoft gave us much-needed investment when we needed it, but in the form of an investment in the company with non-voting shares. Microsoft has no control over Corel; it has absolutely zero to do with our strategy.”

The Corel CEO explained the ideological change in Corel when he took over: “The cultural shift was really one in which we no longer looked at Microsoft as the enemy, but as the environment. With that attitude-change, Microsoft became a strong partner of ours. Which is why we are looking at getting our products to .Net.”

Adobe’s recently announced Photoshop 7.0 offers a suite of upgraded painting tools – what did Burney think of the move?

“Two out of three Procreate products are companion products for Photoshop,” explained Burney. “For example, KnockOut was a standalone application. Now, it’s a Photoshop plug-in. We need Photoshop as a base. In a way, Adobe is the environment, just like Windows. Their success is our success.”

Looking forward to Macworld Expo, New York in July, Burney said: “I usually attend all the keynotes. Apple always comes out with something interesting.”