Derek Burney: Corel CEO gives the rundown on the way ahead and a Microsoft deal

InfoWorld |  Operating Systems

Burney: Yes, clearly the investment puts to rest any notion of the viability of the company. We have a lot of corporate and government customers and they were quite rightly concerned whether we would be able to continue to support them. We now know, and Comdex proves it, that you can't do as much by yourself as you used to be able to -- you need partners. You can see on the show floor here that the small companies are diminishing and the larger companies are getting bigger: That's a reflection of the [IT] industry.

IDGNS: How did news of your relationship with Microsoft go down with your users?

Burney: It surprised a few people. It's really a technology alliance and a wonderful opportunity for us to work together. We both needed each other in some capacity.

IDGNS: Could Microsoft's investment in you, a Linux distributor, be seen as a way for Microsoft to have a Linux test bed??

Burney: It certainly looks that way. If I were Microsoft, I'd have two approaches to Linux: One, I hope it goes away, or two, let's figure out how to work with it, and I'd be opting for the second approach.

IDGNS: What about Microsoft's .NET initiative -- it still seems unclear exactly what the strategy involves. Is that fair?

Burney: It is very nebulous. The good news is that it doesn't have to be a fait accompli before it becomes useful. Look at the Web. Initially only universities used it and nobody at that time had a big plan of what it would be. The beautiful thing with the Internet is that you can react very quickly. Say users are downloading and running applications on a daily or monthly basis. ISVs like us providing the software can get very quick feedback on their products and make changes, unlike shrinkwrapped software when it's a year before you get feedback. .NET is a bit fuzzy, but the relationship we have now with Microsoft reminds me of the one we had with them back in the Windows 95 days when we were very profitable.

IDGNS: What do you plan to do with the money you've received from the Microsoft investment?

Burney: It may be used in making acquisitions. Three weeks from now, we can tell you about that specifically. With our reorganization into three main pieces, there may be acquisitions in each unit. Each one will come up with its own strategy and then we'll have an overall company strategy. We'll complete that all in a number of weeks and roll it out to the public. Our new ventures unit stresses the R in R&D (research and development). We're not pinning hopes for success on their work but are giving them the opportunity to freewheel. However, last year Corel's stock went bananas over Linux and it's possible, based on the new ventures unit's work, that such a rise could happen again.

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