Linux News Questions Corel's Support of OpenDocument

Posted by tadelste on Jan 29, 2006 2:59 PM
LXer; By DC Parris, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

  LXer Feature: 16-Jan-06

With OASIS ODF member Corel chanting a Microsoft mantra on OpenDocument - that is, they'll support it if they see customer demand - Linux News wonders aloud if a "family" connection between Corel and Microsoft exists.

Corel, one of the companies that participated in the development of the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, came out after OpenDocument approval saying they didn't have any plans to support it anytime soon. In the wake of an apparent backlash, they seemingly clarified their position, saying that they do support OpenDocument, and will implement the format in their office suite at some point. Now, they tell Tom's Guide that they are happy to follow Microsoft's lead. So, do they, or don't they support OpenDocument?



Their response to an inquiry from Linux News was to the effect that they support support OpenDocument, but will implement it only if they see customer demand for it. Gee Whiz, Wally, that sounds an awful lot like Microsoft's stance on OpenDocument! Do you think there's a connection? Well, if you want to use a popular film theme , Corel would be one of the families of Microsoft organization. To understand the connection, we need to remember that a long-standing relationship exists between Corel and Microsoft.



When Corel bought WordPerfect from Novell, the former was primarily a graphics software vendor seeking to expand their horizons a bit. They got Borland's Quattro Pro and Paradox database and sold them together with WordPerfect as WordPerfect Office. Unfortunately for Corel, Microsoft came knocking on their door with a patent infringement suit at a time when Corel was struggling financially. So, in 2000, Microsoft made Corel an offer they couldn't refuse. Microsoft gave Corel a break on the patent infringement and invested $135 million for a roughly 25% stake in Corel. Welcome to the family!



The offer might appear rather gracious on the surface. However, had Corel blamed Microsoft for their impending bankruptcy, the Department of Justice, among other agencies, would have more fuel to throw on the anti-trust fire. What Corel and Microsoft did not disclose to the press (although the press found out anyway) was that Microsoft wanted Corel, who was distributing their own version of GNU/Linux, to help them port the Dot Net framework to Linux. Corel was to provide twenty developers and ten testers for the porting effort. Paul Thurrott, of Windows IT Pro Magazine, was one of several commentators who thought it was a pretty heavy price to pay for staying in business.



Corel plugged along, watching sales increase dramatically in 2002, thanks to OEM deals with Hewlitt-Packard and other major vendors choosing to replace Microsoft Works with Corel WordPerfect Office. They also benefited from Microsoft's licensing gaffes, winning over customers who felt Microsoft was putting the squeeze on them unfairly. And why should Microsoft be mad at Corel? After all, even though they lost customers to Corel, they owned a quarter of the company. It was a bold move that would make Don Corleone proud.



It is also interesting that former Microsoft employees keep showing up in and around Corel. Were not talking about Microsoft developers taking development positions in Corel's development team. These are executives cross-decking at a time when Microsoft held their shares in Corel. In 2002 Corel hired David Roberts, former General Manager of Global Markets at Microsoft, along with John Deegan. Vector Capital bought Corel, including Microsoft's shares, in 2003. At least two former Microsoft employees are members of Vector Capital's team, even if they are not directly involved with managing Corel. Jacqueline Maartense, Corel's Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing previously worked for Microsoft as well.



The fact that a few former Microsoft employees went to work for Corel is not, in and of itself, won't give conspiracy theorists much to work with. Former Microsoft executives also work for Google. If closer connections between Corel/Vector and Microsoft can be proven, that would be one thing. Suffice it to say that by holding off on their implementation of OpenDocument, Corel is really expressing their sincerest respect and gratitude for the Microsoft family. The know that Don Steve is a very gracious man. That, and the fact that Microsoft could run roughshod over the Corel business in a heartbeat, is enough to garner anyone's respect.



Corel participated in the development of OpenDocument, and continues to be involved. Microsoft had an observer present. Corel says it supports OpenDocument, but is waiting for customer demand. Here's a question for you to mull over. Given that many computer users - even in the corporate marketplace - still have no idea what OpenDocument is (or even Microsoft's XML format), how can Corel expect customer demand to rise if Corel doesn't help explain what OpenDocument is? In other words, Corel pays lip service to "supporting" OpenDocument, yet does absolutely nothing to promote its use or to implement it in their own software. Imagine what the world would be like if America had given England and France the same kind of support in World War II.



Whether there is an undue influence by Microsoft remains questionable. Microsoft no longer has any financial interest in Corel. The fact is that Corel is run by cowards afraid to cross the Microsoft family. The folks at Corel claim they don't want to impose things on their users. Meanwhile, they plan to impose MSXML and PDF on their customers, without offering them the choice of OpenDocument. So if their claims of support for OpenDocument sound a little hollow to you, it's because cowards have hollow hearts.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
digg it fergy 0 1,064 Jan 30, 2006 5:31 AM
Corel's stance is irrelevant r_a_trip 2 2,619 Jan 29, 2006 6:46 PM

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