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Corel’s CEO Responds to the Beta Code Controversy

When Corel first began working with Linux three years ago, we considered it to be one of the most significant technological advancements in computing this decade. Today, Linux is rapidly becoming the next tidal wave of technology and is causing huge excitement in the computer industry and investment community.








Trenches Opener
THOMAS DANNENBERG

When Corel first began working with Linux three years ago, we considered it to be one of the most significant technological advancements in computing this decade. Today, Linux is rapidly becoming the next tidal wave of technology and is causing huge excitement in the computer industry and investment community.

Breaking Into the Mainstream

Linux is a unique technology because it has been developed over the years by people who were working at their own pace and who could take all the time they needed to do it right. The challenge that the open source community now faces is to see that Linux evolves into specific mainstream markets. We believe this is where Corel can help.

Corel has the resources, expertise, and experience to foster acceptance of this excellent technology by the mainstream market. We have done this before with the CorelDRAW graphics suite. We have also carefully re-engineered WordPerfect, which we acquired in 1996, into a high-performance suite of productivity and business applications.

With Linux, we recognize that Corel faces some unique challenges, because we have to balance the needs of the open source community with our own responsibilities as a commercial software company. Corel is committed to bringing Linux to the desktop market with our Corel Linux operating system, based on the Debian/GNU distribution and the K Desktop Environment (KDE). We work closely with this community every day, while at the same time working to satisfy the commercial interests of the Linux market.

The Beta Controversy

Corel met some resistance from the open source community when we did not immediately release the code from the first beta of Corel Linux to the public. Some members of the community reacted by saying that we were reneging on our pledge to make Corel Linux an open source project. This was simply not true. Corel always maintained that we would make our first commitment to the open source community based on a substantial and relatively complete contribution. It is incumbent on us and our commitment to shareholders to bring this project to a certain level that shows promise and value for the company.

Corel has made a lot of progress in moving our Linux applications forward and in bringing the technology closer to the desktop. With Corel Linux, which is scheduled to be released by the end of this year, the company has created an installation program that greatly simplifies the installation process, and has designed a graphical user interface that is easy to use and simple for Windows users to adapt to. Corel will continue to deliver any changes we make to open source software to the open source community, but will not immediately release components of Corel Linux that were independently developed by the company. We have decided to restrict the reproduction and distribution of our independently developed components until they are developed to a point where they are of value to both Corel and the open source community. At that time, the Corel-developed components will be licensed to users under the terms of an open source license.

Corel is also developing Linux versions of the entire suites of our flagship products, WordPerfect and CorelDRAW. Corel WordPerfect 8 for Linux was made available for download in December 1998; to date, there have been over 1.5 million download requests, and there are over 143,000 registered users. The office suite for Linux is expected to be available in early 2000, and the company is also developing the CorelDRAW graphics suite for Linux. The marketplace, from technology enthusiasts to financial analysts alike, has identified a major piece missing from the Linux puzzle — desktop applications. With the introduction of these products, the whole community will be one step closer to having this technology accepted by the mainstream market.

We are making progress in some other areas as well. We incorporate many third-party technologies into our software products and are continually approaching other companies to become involved; these meetings are increasing the awareness of Linux and the needs of the open source community in the business world. Since many of these other companies are also publicly traded, these efforts are prompting the financial community to take a close look at Linux.

Corel’s commitment to Linux helps bring attention to the technology in circles that would otherwise ignore it. Several times now, we’ve invited the media and analyst community from around the world to view demonstrations of our new OS. We’ve also provided demonstrations to other hardware and software manufacturers to encourage their support of Linux. This exposure also helps to bring Linux closer to the mainstream.

Changes

The changes that Corel has made internally are a testament to our commitment to the open source community. Never before in the history of Corel have we released our engineering code to a community that would evaluate it and have the power to accept or reject it.

Corel realizes that the policies of the open source community are necessary for the advancement of the Linux OS as a viable desktop solution. We are still ironing out some of the issues that naturally arise from a commercial, public company working within the rules of the open source community. Corel may make mistakes, and the other public companies who follow us may make mistakes. But we believe in the potential of Linux as the wave of the future and we ask for the open source community’s patience as we continue to refine our processes.

Corel is but a single player in the effort to move Linux closer to the mainstream. We are not trying to own the technology or reduce the role of the open source community. Rather, we have recognized the importance of this new technology and want to lend our expertise to ensure that the effort to bring Linux into the technology mainstream succeeds for the benefit of all.





Dr. Michael Cowpland is the president and CEO of Corel Corporation. He can be reached at mikec@corel.com.

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