Corel focuses on modular components

Alta illustrates the company's new focus on mainstream use of modular applications.

Corel is introducing a new concept in free downloadable software.

The system will offer modular components added by the user at will to a single platform kept on the desktop. A new digital imaging platform, code-named Alta, will be the first to illustrate the concept. It will be released in fall 2006, according to Corel.

"Alta will provide a safe, trusted home box on the PC, but not restrictive connections. We will provide connection to a wide range of services, not tied to anyone. It's a wide expanse of partners, not a restrictive set of partners," said Blaine Mathieu, the general manager of digital imaging business at Corel.

But Corel has named one particular partner. Webshots, a photo community Web site, will be part of Alta's "digital imaging ecosystem." The Webshots module will allow Alta users to print photos and photo gifts, as well as share images via the Webshots site. (Webshots is a division of CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.)

Alta aims to address what Mathieu refers to as "the distributed shoebox problem"--sharing images, photos and video across multiple platforms.

The Alta platform will be available via Corel's Web site directly, or through partner channels. The platform, and modular versions of select Corel products, will be free to download. A full-featured version of Alta will be available for a fee. Corel partners will also offer additional online services that work in conjunction with Alta.

The modules will be able to work from the online space, while the platform will remain on the desktop. This is a system Corel says will give mainstream users a greater sense of security when storing imaging content, and allow for greater flexibility with partners.

"This is more of a hybrid model that combines the inherent speed, power and security of desktop software with great connectivity of online and rapid enhancement cycle--always updating itself in the core platform, or via new modules and services that hook into the platform," said Mathieu.

But aren't already addressing security, storage and organization of this nature? Google's Picasa already organizes photo files on a hard drive, and links to multiple online photo Web sites. Beta versions of Yahoo Photos and Google's allow photo uploading and sharing. Alexis Gerard, chair of the 6 Sight Future of Imaging Conference, says Corel's offering is the first in the imaging space to specifically feature a mix-and-match modular platform.

"I think it's a very interesting idea. Corel is doing the right thing given their position in the market...They're being a first mover in where they think the market is going. Picasa and Google haven't talked about their architecture in this way," said Gerard.

In April, Corel became a public company again, after being taken private by Vector Capital Group in 2003. It experienced a rocky opening on the Nasdaq due to a lukewarm reaction from investors.

Mathieu will be a speaker at the 6 Sight Future of Imaging Conference this October.

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