EDGE: Where do you see the world going and why do you think cell phones are the future?
COWPLAND: There’s maybe two billion cell phones as opposed to maybe half a billion desktops, I think the field I’m now in has huge potential because the phone is becoming the new computer. That’s the new desktop.”
EDGE: Do you still feel any affection for Corel?
COWPLAND: Definitely. Absolutely. It was a tremendous amount of fun and it’s very good to see it continuing to succeed.
EDGE: But they still seem to be losing a market share battle with Microsoft ?
COWPLAND: I think the corner has been turned and the battle has been worthwhile because Corel has emerged as one of the big three software desktop companies. Really their only competition is Adobe and Microsoft on the desktop. Word Perfect is still the most viable alternative to Microsoft Office. Critical mass is very important. That’s one of the things we always pushed for a Corel having a huge global user base. That was one of the reasons for buying WordPerfect. WordPerfect had 40 million users. They don’t have the market share, but even being a small second is still good.
EDGE: Where are you setting your sights these days?
COWPLAND: It’s a very interesting field: combining telecom and software content. We have Monstertones.com and it’s one of the top 10 portals in mobile content, which is giving us a very good launch pad. Now we’re moving into ringtones, rich content and animation. It looks like it’s full of growth potential.
EDGE: Would it be to fair to characterize cellular telephony as this era’s dot-com market?
COWPLAND: Definitely. It’s gigantic and of course it’s growing a huge amount. There’s roughly 800 million new phones each year. The other thing that’s great is that it’s opening up like the Internet. Originally each cell carrier kept their customers behind the walled garden, as they called it. The idea of cell companies trying to keep their customers monopolized is getting obsolete. It opens up opportunities for third parties to provide rich content to those two billion users. There are 500 cell phone companies worldwide. If it was just a patchwork, it would be very difficult to break in, but now it’s getting to be an open network just like the Internet is worldwide.
EDGE: How will this change occur?
COWPLAND: In the same way that the phone took over the digital camera market. There’s far more phones with cameras now. In the same way, the next generation of phones will have the same capabilities of an iPod. You’ll be downloading the music right to your phone. There’s no need to have two devices when one can do the job.
Chief Executive Officer, Zim Corp.
A leading entrepreneur, Michael Cowpland has founded and built a number of startups including Corel Corp.