Corel’s new general manager of digital imaging, Blaine Mathieu, is basically running a company.

Earlier this year the software company acquired Minneapolis-based Jasc Software, makers of Paint Shop Pro. Mathieu’s authority is over the former Jasc organization, which makes a suite of graphic

arts software products, along with a development centre located in the Twin Cities.

In an interview with CDN Mathieu acknowledged his division’s unique position in the marketplace. It’s not Adobe Systems Inc., the market leader. He knows because he used to work at the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

However, Mathieu says he knows Adobe’s weaknesses in user friendliness and is preparing a plan to exploit that with the help of the channel.

Mathieu recently gave CDN some time to talk about his new role and some of his initiatives. The following is an edited transcript.

CDN: What are some of the channel initiatives you want to put in place for 2005 and 2006?

Blaine Mathieu: The key challenge for Corel is to figure out a way to win against Microsoft and Adobe in digital imaging. There are two key things we have to hit on and they are flexibility as a company. We are a small company and we deal with channel partners on their own. That is something Microsoft and Adobe are not interested in doing. It is not worth their while to go after $500,000 deals, but it is relevant for Corel.

CDN: One of the common concerns with digital imaging market and the channel is that there aren’t enough qualified resellers in this area in Canada. What I see are too many generalists. Is this one of your concerns and how do you go about increasing the number of qualified resellers in this area?

B.M.: That is a good point, and I totally agree. A lot of resellers think they understand and when you get to digital imaging not too many people are experts and (can) deal with it head on. The products are discoverable and a reseller can boost its revenue up from trial version to full versions. They will find with us a program that leads them through workflow step-by-step. Photoshop does not do that. It is very intimidating and you need high expertise. It is not like word processing. What we try to bring is the power of an application like Photoshop but with ease of use like word processing.

The challenge for us is to get those resellers to try out the application and work on it.

CDN: We have seen Tech Data create a digital imaging division recently. Do you think for Corel that value added distributors or broadline distributors will help you achieve your goals?

B.M.: They can and digital imaging is a mass market segment. Boutique distributors serve the high end very well. The Corel space is mass market. We are in consumer and SMB. People are increasingly using imaging and they are e-mailing images to people and they need an easy way to track and store these images. We need to get to the mass market so you do not need special training for our products. It does not take a special distributor to sell this. One of the issues was image management, but we have made it easier to track images and people now have hundreds of images on there machines.

CDN: How big is the digital imaging market in Canada and at what rate is it growing?

B.M.: About 20 per cent per year in North American. I do not exact know what it is in Canada, but it is very similar, if not even advanced. Canada has always been more advanced with vector illustrations and page layout. The market is about a $300 million business and 10 to 12 per cent of that is in Canada.

CDN: Where is Corel in that market and how do you differentiate against competitors?

B.M.: Right now Adobe is the leader, there is no doubt. For us it is a battle with Microsoft for No. 2. But the two cornerstones we have is flexibility and customer focus.

CDN: What are the margins like for these kinds of software products? Are they important to the livelihood of your reseller partners or should they look to other opportunities that the Corel product line offers?

B.M.: Margins are important and the margin does vary. There are too many variables and we do not lock into a high list structure. This software should not be a loss leader. Digital imaging is a hot space and people who work with these product and today people are buying their first and their second digital camera. This is a true value-add opportunity for OEMs and resellers to make money on digital camera software and new PCs and other things that are commodity products.

CDN: Is there any thought to creating some kind of graphic or digital imaging suite for the channel and retail?

B.M.: There has been a lot of talk about that and we are thinking about that for PaintShop Pro 10, which has the functionality of a suite on its own with image management and data archiving. You can say it is a suite because if you had to buy the same products to get the same functionality it would be like putting a bunch of products in one box and calling it a suite. It is a band-aid for a real solution, so we put the functionality in the one application.

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