IBMer becomes new Corel CEO

Corel Corp. yesterday said it has selected a 20-year veteran of Big Blue to take over the top spot at the software company.

Ontario native David Dobson succeeds Amish Mehta, who took over Corel when it was acquired by Vector Capital, a privately-held venture capital firm based in San Francisco,

in August 2003. Mehta will continue to work with Corel in his new role as chairman.

Mehta said it was always his intention to choose a successor following the Vector deal. “My day job was a partner in Vector Capital, if you will. I stepped in to lead the turnaround and I stayed longer, frankly, than I thought I would,” he said, adding that Corel’s acquisition of Jasc Software last year compelled him to hold the reins a while longer.

Following a period of profitability, Mehta it was the “opportune time to bring on a world class CEO to help propel growth and continue along the trajectory that we have been on.”

Dobson has occupied a number of positions during his tenure at IBM Corp, including a senior role in its printing systems division and more recently as vice-president of global marketing and strategy. He spent the bulk of his career at IBM Canada where he served as general manager of channel and partner services.

Dobson said he plans to continue to lead Ottawa-based Corel on the path it has followed in recent years – selling an office productivity suite marketed chiefly on pricepoint rather than functionality. “What Corel has done is really maximized the value and delivered on the more important features that a small business or a consumer – or even a some enterprise customers, particularly in government – would use and get value from,” he said. “That’s what attracted me to Corel.”

The company has focused some of its efforts on appealing to niche markets, like the creation of WordPerfect 12 for small law firms, which was released last year. In April it released a small business edition of the suite.

Microsoft continues to be Corel’s main competition and the dominant player in the office productivity market, said IDC Canada analyst Joel Martin. Corel may find its most significant opportunities in the digital imaging market since the competition is more fragmented and the Jasc acquisition from 2004 give Corel a toehold. Dobson’s experience in IBM’s printing division can only be a boon in that area, said Martin.

Dobson doesn’t plan any significant deviation from Corel’s game plan of the last few years, but said he sees untapped potential in digital imaging. There are hundreds of OEMs shipping digital cameras and printers, he said. “Those all represent opportunities and potentially new partners and customers for the Corel Corp.”

Dobson added that he will also take advantage of the good will he’s generated at IBM. “Whether it’s my colleagues that are now running Lenovo . . . or the contacts that I’ve had throughout my career at IBM, I plan on leveraging those.”

IBM formed a partnership with Chinese firm Lenovo late last year in order to reorganize its PC business. That transition doesn’t affect Corel’s relationship with IBM, said Dobson, but Lenovo “creates another potential client and opportunity for Corel.”

Corel has relationships with other OEMs like Dell, which bundles the WordPerfect suite with its PCs and laptops.

Martin said that Corel has “their ship pointed in the right direction” since going private in 2003. “Now they want to capture the momentum and keep going. Having somebody who’s had a long and solid experience at IBM . . . to be the captain of that ship seems like a good idea.”

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