When Corel brought its graphics and design programs to the Mac in the mid-1990s, it was hard for Mac creative professionals to take the longtime Windows developer’s products seriously, especially when compared to Adobe and Macromedia applications. But Corel’s reputation among Mac users has steadily improved since then, thanks to the company’s purchase of popular Mac graphics applications, the creation of its separate Procreate product line aimed at graphics pros, and Corel’s early efforts to develop OS X-native software. Ian LeGrow, Corel’s executive vice president for new ventures, and vice president of product marketing Annette McCleave recently spoke to Macworld about what their company is doing to strengthen its Mac presence.
LeGrow: I was hired into Corel as a Mac developer and was responsible for some elements of the early Mac products. Our first Mac product was the Corel Gallery 2, which I worked on. I was the project leader for CorelDraw 6 for the Macintosh. I was responsible for development of the graphics side of things, both Windows and Macintosh up until version 11, which [came out in summer 2002]. So I have a long history with the Mac side, and I’ve been a vocal champion for the Mac inside Corel and our Mac efforts, such as the other acquisitions of the MetaCreations products: Painter, Bryce, KPT.
McCleave: At the end of the day, it’s always a struggle making sure we can identify and focus on our key customers. Internally, we determined that we wanted to create that in a very forceful manner for the organization and show that support outside the organization as well. We understand the customers we’re trying to attract, and we have great products. So we’re going to show the level of focus we have for the market through a branding effort.
McCleave: There’s a very close relationship. Corel is a graphics company, and has been a graphics company for a very long time. Obviously, our earliest product, CorelDraw, is testimony to that. While we have certainly been a graphics company primarily for the PC in the early days, we have been making efforts throughout our history to enter into and address the Mac market as well, as Ian alluded. Obviously the Procreate line is as much about what graphics professionals are as it is about the Mac. As you know, there are a lot of graphics professionals on the Mac. The whole Procreate line is about addressing the specific needs of the creative professional, in addition to the fact that they happen to be very Mac-focused.
McCleave: We’ve definitely very well focused on making sure that we’re developing campaigns specifically for the Procreate brand. It’s a part of the bigger picture of Corel, so it has a level of independence, but it’s actually a part of our overall marketing strategy. So it fits in on the PC fronts and other product fronts as well. What this really represents is a focus on a specific market for us.
McCleave: We have people who work with CorelDraw who are also graphics professionals. We also have a large contingent of Corel users who are in other fields and who use the product other than for their living. So we have a large number of people who are in various levels of businesses who are working on their own as graphic design layout specialists, etc. So the Procreate brand is very focused on the graphics element of it. CorelDraw actually addresses a much broader market.
McCleave: Absolutely. Ultimately, because we have a product that is applicable for both the PC and the Mac, it allows people to use whatever they choose as the platform. With Apple being very aggressive with their Switcher campaign, when people do make the switch we’re happy that we can make a product that can meet their needs.
LeGrow: If you look at those products, they’re all complementary. Painter is a great complement to other products from Adobe. And obviously the plug-ins, KPT and Knockout, are dependent on other technology, mainly Photoshop. We saw that as an opportunity of entering the market with a different method than saying “Please switch [to our products].” We can say, “We understand your current workflow is made up of different tools, different from CorelDraw, and Photo-Paint. But if you’re using those tools on the Mac, then great — our tools work with you. At the same time, if you’re using Illustrator or Photoshop or InDesign or Quark or FreeHand, these tools also work with you.” So it’s a different approach for us, enabling us to get some interest form the Mac users.
McCleave: We did look at that, and obviously we also released the standalone version of our CorelDraw product, with the understanding that professionals will sometimes just go get the specific tool of their choice. So we offered two options. One, you can have it all in the CorelDraw Graphics Suite, or you can have our premiere illustration package through CorelDraw.
McCleave: CorelTrace actually comes with CorelDraw.
LeGrow: I think that speaks to the different markets, and the different approach we’re taking. Part of what makes the CorelDraw Graphics Suite different, and part of what distinguishes us from Adobe and Macromedia is you get it all in one suite.
LeGrow: We’ve enhanced PDF output a lot in each of our subsequent versions.
LeGrow: Yes, we support PDF quite strongly. We also support PDF X1.
LeGrow: Moving to a new operating system is always going to be challenging. The change from OS 9 to X is a completely new operating system, and we were also one of the first developers on the platform. We released Bryce, Painter, KPT and Draw 10 at the time. So we worked closely with Apple, with beta versions of software and we were able to help shape the way some of the OS was developed because we were one of the pioneers.
LeGrow: The biggest challenge was with the interface, making it Mac-like. So there hasn’t been a lot of crossover in that respect.
LeGrow: We took on Aqua for the Mac side for Draw as well as for Painter and that’s a big change, but that doesn’t have any effect on the PC side.
LeGrow: Even with XP. There were several PC technologies that we were able to leverage on the Mac side for the first time with OS X. The new multi-threading model that is part of the OS X kernel — in previous versions it was a cooperative threading model, but now it’s true multi-tasking. It can now take advantage of things like protected memory and multi-threading. Protected memory is a good thing. And a lot of the filters in Photo-Paint take advantage of multiple threads, and multiple processors, so you’ll see speed improvements on those dual-processor OS X machines.
LeGrow: Continuing support…for instance, [in January], there will have been a release of a service pack for Draw 11. We’ve actually been extremely happy with the response we’ve received from the release of these products. There’s been very little reports back to us in terms of defects in the software, so we haven’t been in a rush to get out a new service pack. But we will be adding some new enhancements. For instance, we will be adding more PDF support in our service pack, to adopt the latest prepress standards for PDF. I think we’ll see a lot of support coming from the customers as more people use the products.
LeGrow: Draw has technical illustration capabilities. But when I think of CAD, I think of more 3-D modeling, or very precise layout, creation of engineering drawings. Draw is a downstream consumer abode, so if you’re using something like AutoCAD, and your technical illustration group within the company needs to produce some manuals, then Draw is an awesome tool for that. It will take in many of the different CAD formats like DXF, lay them out, and help you create technical illustrations from that. It allows you to output to print or to the Web. It lets you make that very important step of taking engineering drawings and make them technical illustrations.
LeGrow: Even Bryce Lightning, which is the client allowing you to distribute the Bryce rendering over OS X. So you can have a bank of OS X machines with Bryce Lightning on them, and…
LeGrow: We’ve actually had a number of companies who’ve installed Bryce Lightning with dozens and dozens of machines and the speed is incredible.
LeGrow: I don’t know the details of how it works, but the really cool thing is it’ll work cross-platform, so if you have a mixture of Macs and PCs, it doesn’t matter. One copy of Bryce Lightning will work on any type of machine, and you can communicate with any other type of machine.
LeGrow: We’ve been trying to innovate all our Mac products, and we want Mac users to see that the Macintosh community is extremely important to us. We put equal effort into our Macintosh products, and the end results are very solid products that take advantage of OS X and deliver great value for the customers. And we have great confidence in the platform.