Apple + Corel = A Software Powerhouse?

2000: If you’ve been paying attention to the tech headlines, Corel* has been making a lot of noise lately.

With its big Linux push, its purchase of a number of MetaCreations products, its failed negotiations with Inprise, and its recent announcement that it may go bankrupt, Corel has been making waves (or at least thrashing about wildly).

Mac Scope

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Corel is a basket case. Losses year after year, a pummeling from Microsoft in the Office suite market, and a drubbing in the graphics market from Adobe adds up to a company that lurches from one crisis to the next.

Corel is a company with some pretty great products and very lousy management that could probably be picked up for a song. Should Apple take the bait?

At the very least, Apple would gain control of a company that, while mismanaged, turns out great products. Corel graphics packages and the Corel Office suite (formerly WordPerfect Office) remain excellent products that are worthy alternatives to Microsoft and Adobe offerings. Corel’s stable of products is strong. Apple could easily take advantage of these products to assist Apple’s acceptance in the business market.

A huge stumbling block for Apple is that Corel produces mostly Windows software. Various versions of WordPerfect, CorelDraw, and a few other titles have made it to the Mac, but the majority of Corel’s business remains on the Windows side. To put it bluntly, Corel Mac support sucks. While this changed somewhat with the MetaCreations purchases, the focus remains on Windows.

With the recent verdict in the Microsoft case, Apple has an excellent opportunity to look elsewhere for support in the office suite market. A less powerful (or more closely watched) Microsoft would have less leverage if Apple decided to back another office suite. Less dependency on Microsoft Office would also help Apple shed the chain that Microsoft tugs when Apple gets too far out of line.

There are, of course, a few problems that would make an Apple purchase of Corel less than sensible.

  1. No matter how good Corel office software is, it’s still so far behind Microsoft in terms of market share that owning this software would do little to help push Apple forward.
  2. Apple would be purchasing a very troubled company that would drain its resources.

These problems would be very real. Solutions exist, however. If Apple could revive WordPerfect for the Mac, port the entire Office suite over, and ensure that the products could work seamlessly with Microsoft Office products, users would have a compelling reason to make the switch. There are already many word processors available for Mac users. This clearly indicates that there is a market for competing products. Mac users are also anticipating the port of Star Office, indicating that there is interest in the business community for an alternative professional office suite.

There’s no doubt, however, that pushing Corel Office anywhere would be a huge job. Corel Office sells on the PC side, and Apple would have to gain market share there as well. Now that’s a Herculanean task if I ever saw one! Excellent support of existing Mac products such as the Bryce line may help stem the blood from the Office market in the short run.

While Apple would be purchasing a very troubled company, Mr. Jobs has made it quite clear that turning a company around is something he can do. If all else failed, Apple could sell the software off to the highest bidder to recoup its losses.

The ultimate question is, I suppose, why bother? Apple is now stable, has great potential, and is completely focused on Mac OS X. Why muddy the water with Corel’s troubles?

I guess it’s just how much they want to break their dependency on Microsoft Office.

So what’s your take? Should Apple buy Corel and gain a great company that could help turn it into an even more powerful software vendor?

In any event, check out the free Corel WordPerfect for Macintosh if you’re looking for an alternative to Microsoft Word.

* Corel grew to prominence with its CorelDRAW software in the 1990s. In 1996 it acquired Novell WordPerfect, giving it an office suite to compete with Microsoft Office. (Before Word for Windows, WordPerfect dominated the word processing market.) But when Microsoft began bundling Microsoft Works or even Microsoft Office with new PCs, WordPerfect Office was doomed. Corel even sold its own version of Linux, Corel LinuxOS, from November 1999 until it gave up on it in August 2001. And somehow Corel remains in business in 2018!

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