Dev Interview: Corel’s Gérard Métrailler

Last summer, Mary Jo Foley and I spoke on Windows Weekly about our desire to understand how developers feel about the innovations in Windows 10 and Microsoft’s recent efforts to engage with app makers. Corel Executive Vice President Gérard Métrailler is one of the people who reached out to us at that time, and we’ve been meaning to discuss this topic with him ever since. We finally met with Mr. Métrailler in February to discuss the release of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2019 and to catch up on our long-awaited developer discussion.

As a bit of background, the discussion here is specifically about developing for Windows and Microsoft’s decision to bring a mobile apps platform and store to Windows several years ago. I obviously have my own theories about what Microsoft has done right and wrong, why things are the way they are today, and how the developer space has changed over the years. But I’m not a developer.

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Also, we do kind of meander around a bit, and we come back to topics a few times. Organizing something like this long proved to be too difficult, so the interview is presented as it organically happened, after a briefing about the new CorelDRAW.

Paul: I’m curious about how you view this situation. For example, you’re launching a Store version of a vector graphics application that is incredibly command- and feature-rich, with a very detailed UI. You just don’t see apps like that on Universal Windows [Platform, UWP] typically. I’m not saying it’s impossible. But it seems like the control sets and the various things that Microsoft has made for his platform, by and large, have big touch targets and aren’t very professional-looking.

Mary Jo: I was also curious if it’s also a UWP app.

Gerard: CorelDRAW Store Edition is based on the Centennial Bridge. It’s a full Win32 application, so it’s not a different UI from the traditional desktop product, it’s not based on UWP. It’s a Win32 application that is coming to the Store and it will be sandboxed.  We are currently going through the full process, working closely with Microsoft.

Mary Jo: I think that’s going to be the future of the platform. It feels to me that developers have just said no to UWP.

Paul: Yeah, that’s what it feels like.

Gerard: It’s hard to speak generally about developers because everyone has specific needs and specific requirements. When we look at product releases, we’re not necessarily known as, or trying to be, the very early adopter of technology. We’re going to be supporting our users when they start having that technology in their hands. So, when Windows 8 came out, we looked at Metro [the predecessor to UWP], did some prototypes, and made some early designs of a few UWP apps just to have our development teams experiment with it and try things. We developed a few UWP apps to see how they worked, WinRT apps back then, which then [the platform] evolved into UWP, to really learn about that platform. But it wasn’t like taking a product that was developed over 30 years, like CorelDRAW and being able to move that to a new UI experience. I can guarantee you it’s a lot of work because we just did it with macOS.

Paul: Okay. So that’s actually the problem, right? There are all these big successful apps that were written a long time ago and have been updated all along. To start over [with UWP], I can’t even imagine why anyone would do that, especially with a huge app.

Gerard: I think you mentioned it a few times on the podcast, which is that Microsoft obviously has a vested interest in getting the customer base to the latest version [of Windows] as quickly as possible. And we [Corel] fully agree with that. I’d love for everybody to be on this year’s releases, basically 1803, 1809. I looked at it a few months ago, and about 50 percent of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite user base was still on Windows 7. So, when we develop something, we cannot develop for UWP version 1809 because we are limiting ourselves to 50 percent or less. On Windows 10, we do see a very fast adoption of the latest versions, very similar to what Microsoft is seeing. Windows 10 users move quickly, with 1803 and 1809 being the majority. For CorelDRAW 2019, our rule is going to be 1803, 1809 and every version released during CorelDRAW 2019’s life-cycle [on Windows 10]. But when it comes to native UWP, and especially as [Microsoft is] adding more and more features to UWP, this is limiting to reaching users of the latest versions of Windows only. And that limits our availability for users. I am really excited about the look and feel updates via the Fluent Design Language, it makes the UI really engaging. But there is also going to be a lot of work. And so, the challenge is more the user base. If you have millions of users like we have for CorelDRAW, or tens of millions of users as we have overall, it is very hard to just say, going forward, everybody moves to this new thing.

Paul: Every time there’s an SDK release, there’ll be a list, and it’s usually a pretty long list, of what’s new in this version of the SDK. So it’s not even a [publicly released] version of Windows yet. But I always look at that and think to myself, okay, so let’s say I was a developer, and I have an existing app or maybe I’m working on something new, would I ever use any of this? I don’t know how deeply you look at this stuff…

Gerard: We do, we do. We always try to leverage things that come into the OS. But we’re not going to be leveraging them within the first three months of [those features] coming out. [Today,] we’re looking at whatever comes into 19H1 and saying, okay, that will really drive our 2020 and 2021 product releases because then we’ll know that those features have been broadly adopted. We’re not going to do the development up-front. First of all, the full SDK is not finalized and we’re not going to work off of beta SDKs.

Paul: When you say that, are you literally talking about full-up UWP Store apps or your existing [desktop/Win32] code base?

Gerard: Our existing code base.

Paul: So, you’re literally looking at specific features, and you’re thinking that six, 12 months down the road, this is going to be in there almost certainly?

Gerard: Yep. Here’s an example. When we developed LiveSketch, our AI-based tool, we had to build our own neural network. With Windows ML and CoreML on Mac, do we really need to continue to maintain our own AI engine? Or is it really all about that learning and how we can use what’s built-in that’s been optimized for CPU, GPU, and, in the future AI-PU? So instead of us doing our own thing, that is then a lot of maintenance, can we go to a model where we leverage what is in the OS once that is distributed? And that’s what we’re thinking: If it’s in the OS, we’re not going to reinvent the wheel. In CorelDRAW, we are looking at using the spell-checking engine that comes with Windows 10 in the future. With Windows 7, we will still use our own because there is no spellcheck [built-in to Windows 7]. We leverage the OS as much as we can, but we also have to be cognizant of a certain level of legacy users out there who haven’t switched and are not switching to 1809 for another year or two years. Well, we’ll see how the transition from Windows 7 happens next year. That’s going to be interesting.

Paul: Have you seen a change in Microsoft’s messaging with regards to developers over the course of Windows 10? In other words, in the beginning, did you get the vibe that they were maybe pushing the new platform [UWP] more, whereas now they’re pushing these features out across existing frameworks?

Gerard: We have a very close relationship with Microsoft, so I have to be careful about not divulging anything that we have under NDA. But as a general rule, when you look at the releases like a year or a year and a half ago, Microsoft started talking about Sets and the Microsoft Graph and when these features would potentially be available. And then it was [clear that Sets was] not ready to go live. I’m not saying it disappeared, and will never come. But they seem to be taking their time to make it right. I’ll provide an example from our perspective, because we’re taking exactly the same approach: The Object Docker I showed you earlier in CorelDRAW. We had it on the roadmap for last year’s version, but we were not happy with how it looked, and it wasn’t enough of a shift compared to the previous Object Docker so we decided to take an extra full development cycle before releasing it. We took it away from the beta and said that’s coming in the future, we’re not ready to ship that based on feedback. So we pushed it to the next release, or whenever it made sense. And now it’s coming this year.

Paul: Do you think that’s a sign of a new maturity for Microsoft? In the past would they have just kind of thrown that out there regardless of whether it was ready?

Gerard: That would just be an opinion or a guess. No, I think Microsoft is extremely committed at pushing their path forward, and they are going to do what they think is the best for their platform overall. Microsoft seem to be expanding Windows while also keeping up with mobile, keeping up with Mac, keeping up with Chromebooks, keeping up with all of these platforms that exist out there. And they want to drive their platforms so that they continue to be a very important partner for software vendors like Corel. That’s very important for them.

Paul: Is it very important for you?

Gerard: Windows is very important for us, yes.

Paul: I know. But as you look at what’s happening in Windows, is it meaningful, the stuff that they’re adding, to you, as a developer?

Gerard: We do see things that I’m pretty sure in the next year or two we will use and leverage in our products, absolutely. As I said, the Windows ML example, I’m pretty confident that in some of our products we’re not going to add our own machine learning engine. We’re just going to leverage what in the OS, it’s so much easier for everyone. We’re going to continue to look at what’s happening with Windows Ink and how that evolves, and how that integrates with their services to do auto-transcribing of handwritten text for example. There are many things that Microsoft does in Windows for other types of users that are not necessarily important to us. And then there are certain things that happened in the OS that are very valuable for our users. And therefore, we’re continuing to look at the parts that make sense for our users. We work very closely with Microsoft, and they’re definitely a strong partner there. We also work closely with the Surface team. And we’ve worked very closely with different teams at Microsoft to make sure that our voice is heard, that we can understand what is happening in the future. We’re looking at some opportunities, where can we go next, what other possibilities exist when you look at their platforms and what they’ve disclosed so far. There’s some really interesting stuff for [Corel] MindManager, for example, as our product that is used for brainstorming in meetings amongst many other things. Some of the hardware that Microsoft has pre-announced is interesting for us to look into [presumably Surface Hub 2]. I’m not saying we’re doing it, I’m just saying this might be an interesting one for us to think about.

Paul: Where are you right now with UWP? I think it’s notable, for example, that you have this web app [] and you’re talking about making it into a PWA, and that brings a whole level of compatibility that is awesome. It’s interesting that a web app can be that sophisticated.

Gerard: Yeah, our online graphics engine is pushing the envelope. UWP, right now, we haven’t announced anything. When you look at it, the web and PWA is the direction that Microsoft is heading, which is also happening on Android, and may also happen with Apple and Safari. We’ll see. Then it becomes this one platform. Today, if you look at our web-based graphics product, it has a shared engine that is available as a standalone app in the Store and as a download from the web. We use Electron for now. We haven’t gone to PWA yet, but that’s definitely the route to go in the future.

Mary Jo: It seems like Microsoft if of two minds with PWA. They want to push it, but they also have native apps. I’m surprised they haven’t pushed PWA more.

Paul: I guess it’s the same problem. If you’re Corel, for example, you’re not going remake CorelDRAW in PWA or UWP. You might use that for something new.

Gerard: This year is the 30th anniversary of CorelDRAW. So, 30 years of development into this product. The question we’re always asking ourselves is, what’s the benefit for the user? We’ve seen the effort it took to take CorelDRAW and build a Mac version. Going to another platform like UWP, well, we’ve learned a lot, and our engine is much more separated from the UI framework. But we still would have to rebuild the whole UI. And then you’re still Windows versus Windows. For us, Corel, rebuilding in UWP doesn’t bring anything significantly better to the user than what we can do just iterating on our current product. So it’s really a question of what’s the best for the user, not technology for the sake of technology.

Paul: Right. Why have two separate apps for the same platform?

Gerard: The CorelDRAW Store edition is going to be the same build [as the desktop download] at the end of the day. It’s just that we changed the library for the licensing entitlement, and we removed the things that don’t work with the sandbox. And then we’ll see how that grows and we’ll see the success of the Store [app version]. This is our foray into the Store and the Store experience. In the future, will we have more apps in the Store? Could very well be. But let’s get one. We have WinZip today. We have CorelCAD that launched [in February] in the Store. We’re adding quite a few things in the Microsoft Store and the Apple Mac Store. And we’re going to learn with that and see how being in the Microsoft Store benefits the end-users.

Paul: When Windows 10 is the only supported version of Windows, does the conversation change because then you’ll have the Store as a baseline?

Gerard. It might. We were actually quite excited to see the changes that Microsoft made this year about the royalty and rev share moving from a 30/15 to a 15/5 [split], which is a very interesting change.

[We noted that this change hadn’t happened yet, but it has since we talked.]

Gerard:  The Store today also doesn’t have the concept of an upgrade, as you know from Photoshop Elements. So we’re going to make our products available across the Microsoft and Apple stores as subscriptions because that’s the model that we’re limited to there. As features get added to the stores, we’ll review our decision. But for now, because we release new versions every year with new features and enhancements, we want to make sure that our users can get the latest all the time on those platforms.

Paul: If you could move to use UWP, would you actually lose functionality?

Gerard: As far as I understand it, and again, I’m not the hardcore developer, there are two parts of the UWP, the UI layer and then the engine. And if you look at how things are done, the UI layer today in CorelDRAW in Windows and Mac are totally independent of the actual engine rendering in the background. So building a new UI layer for UWP wouldn’t be terrible. It would certainly be less work than what we had to do to bring CorelDRAW to the Mac. But, again, the real question is why? What is the benefit to the user versus just getting the CorelDRAW for Windows? It’s working today really, really well, and is already optimized for high DPI, is already optimized for pen and touch, and is already optimized for all those things that you would gain as a benefit of UWP in theory.

Paul: Can you talk at all about the Corel development environment? With regards to languages and tools?

Gerard: It really depends on the product. For CorelDRAW for Windows, we use Visual Studio and we’re usually pretty much up-to-date on the latest versions. For the Mac version, it’s obviously XCode. And then, in order to get the Dark Mode for macOS we have to be on the latest version of the libraries, etc. So it depends on the product. We have different tools. I’m not exactly sure what the team uses for the web version. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use a mixture of everything and then they commit the changes in the background. We also use a mixture of different tools in the background for version control and so on. It really depends on the product and the product line. We use a lot of cloud tools today.

Mary Jo: Do you use GitHub?

Gerard: Yes, I believe we use GitHub here and there.

Mary Jo: I’m curious if you care at all what’s happening with .NET?

Gerard: We actually had some experience back in the good old days with WPF and .NET. And when you look at the evolution of WPF as what was behind WRT and UWP, it’s still there, a legacy of WPF still shows up there. So that learning we had back then, some of our products had a lot of WPF, were built on WPF and .NET. We don’t have a lot of those today because once we started developing for native, then we really want to have as much performance as we can and not have an interpreter in between. Now, .NET is getting very fast as well these days. But it really depends on the product. For certain products, we’ll look at it, but from past experience, we tend to do more native development of the experience. And then the engine itself that becomes cross-platform is written in a combination of C and C++.

Mary Jo: What do you think about Microsoft basing Edge on Chromium?

Gerard: I’m pretty excited about it because today Edge is a small percentage off the total user base, which means we allocate a small percentage of our effort in making sure it works well. For the online graphics engine, for example, Chrome, Chromium is very well supported and very well tested. So we’re actually quite excited because this means we have really one engine to test and it will run really well everywhere. And if Microsoft can bring their expertise in power management and things like that and help Chromium get to the next level on those, which they’d done an amazing job on Edge, if they can take that and bring that core power saving and performance down to the bare engine type of speed and performance to the Chromium engine, it’s going to be even better for the whole ecosystem. So I think it’s going to be really good. And from an ISV perspective, it’s a very exciting thing because there is less to test. But it’s also because of the benefits from the Microsoft expertise that will come into the Chromium engine and will be very beneficial for the Chrome platform overall, which still is pretty memory intensive, to say the least, and power-intensive.

Mary Jo: I think it will help PWA as well.

Gerard: Absolutely. We’ll have one PWA to test in one environment.

Paul: So the initial version of is web-only and online-only.

Gerard: Yes, it’s online-only. This is really to answer a need: You’re on the go or in your network environment, and you can just turn it on, work on it, and save it to your cloud storage.

Paul: Do you see that changing as you move to PWA?

Gerard: We’ll evaluate it. I’m not sure yet. At the same time, our desktop app is our desktop app. But perhaps on Chrome OS or something like that, it could be interesting in the future to be in the Chrome Store and be visible there and have some offline capabilities. We’ll look at it platform by platform. For the rest of the year, we have a pretty exciting road map.

Paul: Circling back to our original back and forth about this stuff last summer, I feel like Microsoft’s been kind of treading water now for five years when it comes to its app platform.

Gerard: Microsoft today is a very different company from five years ago. It has evolved quite a bit and has evolved even faster on the Windows front in the last 12 or 18 months with the Terry Myerson departure and the restructuring. Historically, they’ve been very aggressive on trying to push new features, new features, new features. 19H1 is more of a concerted effort to do a great release, get it out properly, and have some stability there. It seems to come in waves with Microsoft, as always. I think that’s a good thing to a certain extent, but they’re still finding their way. They see the risk of Chrome OS, they see the challenges of iPad. That’s my personal take, they know what they need to do and they’re going to iterate. But Microsoft is really good as iterating, and they’re going to continue to iterate for quite a while. But it hasn’t changed that much in the last few years at the core level of where they’re going. It has to be a great experience from the get-go. I have the impression that they want to avoid things happening in their platform that they don’t quote, unquote control. They like the iOS model. They don’t want to be the Android model. They need to evolve into the other way, and they want to go there, but it’s going to take time and effort.

Mary Jo: What do you mean by that, the Android model?

Gerard: It’s the ability to bring everything you want, mess up your computer, and have to reinstall everything every six months later because something went wrong.

Paul: iOS is more locked down.

Gerard: You’ve seen it with S mode, with Windows RT and Surface RT.  Now S mode is optional, but they’re still iterating on that, trying to find what this offering is going to be. But I have no new view into that.

Paul: How’s it going with Surface Dial? [Corel was an early supporter of Surface Dial.]

Gerard: When you look at this, this is a great idea. [Holds up a Surface Dial.]  I haven’t seen a lot of products [that work with it]. It is hard to design for it. When you looked at the demos they did with some apps where you can rotate it and bring up color palettes, I would just call it gimmicky. It’s beautiful, it demos well. But it’s not useful. When we decided to go and do something for the Dial, we really thought about what it meant to have the pen and, in your non-dominant hand, the Dial. How do you make this [the Dial] your toolbox and not have a gimmicky thing that doesn’t add value for the user? We’ll see how it goes. The Wheel API is built into the OS so that everybody could use it. Dell has a big screen PC with a puck that uses the Wheel API. You put it on the screen and it shows up. It works exactly the same way as a Surface. And I think we are starting to see more 2-in-1s that are mimicking Surface Studio as well. As those happen, perhaps we’ll see a second coming of the Wheel API. I think we’re ready whenever it happens, but we ended up deciding that we’re doing only in CorelDRAW and not elsewhere until there’s more adoption. It’s the fine line between trying something out, experimenting, learning, and then waiting until there’s actually demand by users to implement broadly.

Mary Jo: Do you think Microsoft will ever do its own version of Android?

Gerard: I don’t think so. My personal opinion is no. Mobile is a very interesting world. It all comes down to hardware distribution. So they would only do it the day they know they have Samsung and five top manufacturers committed to say they’re switching from Android to Microsoft Android. Ultimately, they all want to be as low in the stack as possible on mobile. But I honestly don’t believe that Microsoft will do it unless they have commitments from all of the top hardware manufacturers to replace Google. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. And what’s the incentive for Microsoft? They already have so many millions of people on Office on Android. Their Android launcher is really good, I use it, and it works really well for me. So what’s the benefit to Microsoft in doing that and how could they get distribution? That’s what they learned from Nokia. If you only have one player who does distribution and everybody else is going up in the same base, it’s hard to win.

Mary Jo: How has your relationship with Windows changed since Terry left? Are you still dealing with the same people or groups there?

Gerard: There’s not been a big change for us. We’re in a great partnership with Microsoft. We have multiple people on the team who work with different parts of Corel. And that hasn’t changed. We have regular calls with them, and we go to see them regularly, et cetera. Once we detect something that is a problem on a specific build of Windows, we can escalate, log the bug, and it gets reviewed based on our strong partnership. It took many years to build that relationship. But we have that in place now, it’s been there for quite a few years now, and that is continuing to go very well.

Paul: This is only semi-development related, but you [Corel] have a lot of products. Some of them were acquisitions, smaller companies and so forth. Do you bring those people into a single location or do you have people all over the place?

Gerard: They’re all over the place. We have some developers in Ottawa, where CorelDRAW development has been historically. But my product team is across different locations. ClearSlide and MindManager, for example: the teams were mainly located in the Bay Area, so they stayed there. We work remotely a lot. When I talk about the concept of this modern knowledge worker, we actually all live with this. [Gesturing towards the restaurant and his laptop] This is my office and most of us are on Skype, Slack, Teams and other similar tools all day long. We don’t need to be in the same location physically. Our development teams, the same thing. And our internal teams are distributed.

Paul: You had talked about looking at specific things coming in different versions of Windows and thinking a year or more out. Who does that work? Do each of the product teams kind of look at this stuff in isolation almost and determine what they want to do?

Gerard: We have regular calls where all of the product leadership come together, for each group and for each product team. And we discuss that. And we have a monthly interaction with Microsoft to get feedback on what’s going on, et cetera.

Paul: Do they ever come to you and say, hey, by the way, this is great new thing coming in with [whatever version]?

Gerard: Sometimes they do, yeah. The Surface Dial, for example, we talked with them early on. And that was a pretty unique situation. We actually flew out to Redmond with someone from our UX team and spent a day with Microsoft to ideate and work on our implementation.

Paul: On the flip side, is there ever like the opposite kind of approach where some guy working remotely from his home wherever escalates up the chain internally that, hey, there’s this thing coming and it’s not good for my product, but I think it would benefit you guys.

Gerard: Yes, we do talk a lot internally about new ideas, how to improve our products or deliver new innovations. Another great source of information is called Windows Weekly. There are certain things that you share in the podcast that I haven’t heard from Microsoft yet. And so I listen to the podcast, and then when we have our regular call with Microsoft, I ask them to tell me more about [whatever topic]. And they ask, how do you know about that?

Mary Jo: One thing we’ve talked about on Windows Weekly is this idea of a dual-screen laptop.

Gerard: We haven’t heard anything about that as far as I can share. So, this is all rumors and speculation. My personal opinion is that I haven’t figured out that device yet. I can see an interesting concept where you have something that is a tablet and then you flip it up and it becomes a bigger environment for you to work with a pen. But nobody has an idea of what it really going to be. Technology for the sake of technology is not worthwhile. I already have a phone, a Kindle, an iPad, a laptop, and a Mac. I travel light. [Laughs.] So I think we’re more at the stage of understanding what the use case is, and once we can see it, we can start thinking about where this goes.

Gerard: One thing that we’ve realized for a long time is that the death of the desktop has been overly exaggerated for many, many years. It’s not going away. There is more mobile plus laptop versus doing everything on your mobile phone. There are these ideas of having external screens for Windows Phone, and Samsung tried something like that [with Dex]. And the idea is great, but it’s not happening while I travel. I really personally enjoy where Surface is going with this [gestures towards his Surface Book]. I annotate PDFs, taking my pen, sketching on it. I like just taking it to a comfy chair to start sketching and give me a little break from the office chair for a moment. It’s a very nice environment. I’m more of an occasional user when it comes to graphics, I’m not a pro user. I actually use the pen more and more in Office as well because of PowerPoint. I’m starting to annotate and edit and sketch in PowerPoint before I do the actual slide layout. I sketch it quickly with the pen and I find it very natural. We’re another two, three years away from that really starting to have an impact on how people interact with the computers. But I notice this when using my Mac, because I always do this now [tries to touch the display].

Mary Jo: I think we’re still confused about UWP. What is it anymore? It seems like it keeps changing.

Gerard: I think about UWP as another tool in the developer’s toolbox. It depends on what they’re trying to build. Going the UWP front-end might be easier for some to achieve their goal compared to going to Win32. I think there’s a lot of benefit there for new apps. For a 30-year-old suite of applications, it is a very difficult move and you’ll see that for everything. Even Microsoft is not using UWP for Office from what I can tell.

Paul: It seems odd that anyone would even make a new Win32 app today.

Gerard: There are still 1.5 billion Windows computers out there if I am not mistaken. There are two options today. You’re either native or you’re web. With the web, certain things might be limited. But it’s closing the gap more and more and the browser is getting better and better.

Paul: It seems like PWA is progressing even faster than UWP is these days.

Gerard: I don’t think of it as UWP versus PWA versus Win32. I see it as, here is my choice of tools. Am I going to do a web-based front-end? OK, then I can take PWA, to go to the Store to distribute it to the Microsoft [environment]. I don’t expect we’ll do a lot of UWP apps for what we do at Corel. It might be more a choice of native versus PWA for us. For others, there might be benefits, specific workflows. I think they announced at one point that Desktop Bridge apps could start being able to take some of the Fluid Design Language to Win32 apps. With CorelDRAW, for example, we’ve always designed with a native look and feel and that’s why we’re doing the Mac version as native from the ground up as well. But if more and more of the native apps, like Office, start having Fluent integration, we will want to do that as well. We’ll still be building on top of Win32.

Paul: So that would only work on Windows 10? You’d still get the default look on Windows 7.

Gerard: Yes, you’d get whatever was native on your version of Windows. It really comes down to how we can enable our users to be the most creative and the most productive, and the UI will be designed with that focus in mind. Some products will have a traditional toolbar, some will have a more immersive experience, and some will more closely follow the design of the Office productivity applications.

Paul: What about the Store?

Gerard: From our perspective, the Store is a distribution platform just like Amazon, just like Best Buy. It is one way to get in front of many of the Windows 10 users, 700 million or whatever the latest number is. [800 million now. –Paul] Now, it is also a way to get hidden and lost in the Store. And that’s where we’re working very closely with both Apple and Microsoft. If our product is great, they will highlight it. At the end of the day, that’s what drives all of this. If you look at the Microsoft Store today or last week, depending on who you are and how you’ve been categorized by the Store engine, you might see a WinZip offer on the home page. From a product reach perspective, that’s a way for us to get in front of an audience that is much harder for us to communicate with on a global scale.

Paul: But that’s smart for them too, because it makes their Store seem more sophisticated as well. Just the arrival of a full-featured CorelDRAW, especially as the first version ever on the Mac. Basically, they [Apple and Microsoft] are both desperate, I think for those stores to appear to be successful.

Gerard: That’s a very interesting perspective.

Paul: I should have asked this earlier when you were talking about pricing and subscription versus perpetual. You are very specifically not making the functionality different between products [in the Store vs. downloaded directly from Corel], which is in sharp contrast to what Microsoft’s doing [with Office 365 and Office 2019]. They’ve artificially limited the perpetual product now in a way that they never did before. Probably to make the subscription offering all the more valuable. I mean, I appreciate that you’re not doing that.

Gerard: We actually did that about five years ago. The CorelDRAW subscription offering went live within two months of Adobe Creative Cloud, with version X6 of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. We were actually on a quarterly release schedule back then. We released updates every quarter and if you were on a subscription, you were getting additional new features that would only roll out in the next major release for everybody else. So, it was very similar to Office vs. Office 365 today, where they say the feature list is frozen and this now becomes your perpetual option. We did that when we launched our subscription offering. There was a certain level of overhead from a resource and effort perspective. And for our users, especially back then, they didn’t understand that model. It was very new. Now we have settled on a yearly release cycle. Today a subscription for us is really a purchasing option. You can rent or buy. And if you stop renting, your software will stop working. If you get the perpetual license, you can keep on going. But then obviously if things change because of a new OS update or new hardware a few years down the line, for example, you’re on your own. If you’re on the subscription path, you get updates automatically. And if you’re not, then you’ll need to go and buy the new version. We also offer something we call the upgrade protection program for single licensed users, and software maintenance for our volume license customers.

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Conversation 30 comments

  • dontbe evil

    22 March, 2019 - 10:10 am

    <p>It's funny how Paul as non dev try to bash UWP … on the other hand Gerard with a clear mind explains everything properly</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      22 March, 2019 - 10:56 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#414711">In reply to dontbe_evil:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'm not "bashing" UWP, and there's nothing funny here: This is exactly why Mary Jo and I wanted to talk to actual Windows developers, to see whether Microsoft's developer story resonated with them. That's nothing but credible on our part, as is reporting exactly what we were told. </p>

      • christian.hvid

        22 March, 2019 - 11:20 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#414719">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>This is in fact a great article – more interviews like this one, and I won't have any choice but to renew my subscription.</p>

    • skane2600

      23 March, 2019 - 3:09 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#414711">In reply to dontbe_evil:</a></em></blockquote><p>Gerard has to be more careful than Paul since the former has a business relationship with Microsoft and Paul doesn't. Having said that, it's clear that Gerard sees little value in converting Corel's programs to UWP. His statement: &nbsp;"Windows versus Windows." pretty much sums up his position and is an argument some of us have been making here for years.</p>

  • soundersfan

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 12:17 pm

    <p>Great stuff. More of this please.</p>

  • ecumenical

    22 March, 2019 - 12:58 pm

    <p>Really great interview, Paul. More content like this would be extremely welcome and really make the subscription feel worthwhile. Very interesting to hear the comments about their timeline for considering new Windows features, and also the considerations around the Windows 7 user base. Sounds like devs will finally be ready to jump to UWP just in time for whatever the next thing is :)</p><p><br></p><p>There's been a minor wave of graphics apps in the store (Affinity Designer / Affinity Photo, Paint.NET jump to mind alongside Photoshop Elements and apparently now CorelDRAW on the way). It's one of the few categories that has a credible selection of high-quality apps. It'd be interesting to ask some of these devs whether any of that is driven by Microsoft's positioning of Surface and Windows Ink – even if not a ton of people use those things, is there a growing perception that Windows is a good place for art/design apps?</p>

  • lvthunder

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 1:30 pm

    <p>Great discussion. It also shows the big need for Microsoft to get rid of Windows 7 as soon as possible.</p>

  • martinusv2

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 1:34 pm

    <p>It's nice to see the developer side of making Windows applications these days. Hope you will do more interviews like this Paul.</p><p><br></p><p>But about UWP, I feel that it had the bad reputation of being for touch / mobile applications. When you look at it more in depth. I see great new technologies like Async classes, MVVM, and XAML. When you do it right, it's very cool. But UWP came in the age of desktop and Web development. I feel like we couldn't find any use for UWP.</p><p><br></p><p>I'm an hobbyist, when I need to do something fast, I like to go with Delphi, create a native application with all the framework inside the exe. Easy to deploy, and if needed, easy way to make the application store compliant. </p>

  • ijprest

    22 March, 2019 - 3:01 pm

    <p>I really enjoyed this interview… as a former CorelDRAW developer—3 years removed, now—and a current Microsoft Edge+Chromium devloper, it really hit all the right notes for me. :)</p>

  • jaystyba

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 3:18 pm

    <p>This was a fascinating read and I agree more developer focused content like this would be welcomed.</p>

  • factoryoptimizr

    22 March, 2019 - 3:33 pm

    <p>I'm working in a start-up where we're building a next-gen enterprise system from the ground up. In the beginning, we evaluated the different software languages and development environments out there. We ended up choosing the Microsoft stack because it gave is the best integration across the needed technologies — dev environment, app/mobile/web development, and enterprise-grade database and cloud resources. And we chose UWP for app development (and Xamarin for cross-platform development) because these are very clearly Microsoft's path forward for native application development. There have been some efforts to "bring forward" older technologies like WinForms and WPF (both Win32 technologies), but from an underlying technology framework perspective, the technologies that are the foundation of UWP (based on the new .NET Standard) are what are actively being developed at Microsoft.</p><p><br></p><p>That said, I completely agree with Gérard Métrailler that there's little user value or ROI in re-writing existing Win32 apps in UWP. Yet, I find it nothing short of <strong><em>amazing </em></strong>that Microsoft still fully supports those "legacy" technologies (and I have no doubt will continue to for a very, VERY long time).</p>

  • longhorn

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 3:36 pm

    <p>Great interview! Lots of good questions and answers.</p><p><br></p><p>I would like to mention Electron because I think it's flying under the radar here at Thurrott. com. For apps that require more OS integration (tray applets, USB read/write access for example) than PWAs can provide Electron is a good alternative that can be made with the same skills. The developer is also in control of the framework and doesn't have to deal with different browsers and different browser updates (just follow Electron releases). It's a more stable environment than PWAs. Also more resource hungry, but that shouldn't be a problem in this day and age. Some popular Electron applications (there are more than 500 out there):</p><p><br></p><p>Skype Desktop</p><p>Microsoft Teams</p><p>Visual Studio Code</p><p>Atom</p><p>Simplenote</p><p>Tweeten</p><p>Mailspring</p><p>Discord</p><p>Left (distraction free writing tool)</p><p>Poddr</p><p>Rambox (messaging app combining many services)</p><p>Typora (markdown editor)</p><p>Slack</p><p><br></p>

  • irfaanwahid

    22 March, 2019 - 3:58 pm

    <p>Great interview Paul and MJ. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. </p><p>Also wondering, why this didn't go Premium?</p>

    • locust infested orchard inc

      23 March, 2019 - 3:09 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#414777">In reply to irfaanwahid:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Don't go giving Paul any ideas, for we freeloaders ought to be grateful for this insightful interview !!</p>

  • karlinhigh

    Premium Member
    22 March, 2019 - 7:04 pm

    <p>Paul &amp; Mary Jo can do tech interviews like few others, with great questions generated by deep experience.</p>

  • locust infested orchard inc

    23 March, 2019 - 3:15 am

    <p>An excellent interview conducted by Paul and Mary Jo, with an assessment of Microsoft endeavours with UWP, the Store, and more generally with Windows 10, from the viewpoint of a VP of a heavyweight software application company.</p>

  • locust infested orchard inc

    23 March, 2019 - 3:20 am

    <p>I feel somewhat for Corel having just developed the macOS x64 application, as Corel will have to re-code CorelDRAW for the expected Apple architecture switch from x86-64 to ARM64 in 2020/2021.</p>

    • skane2600

      23 March, 2019 - 12:00 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#414881">In reply to locust infested orchard inc:</a></em></blockquote><p>At this point I'd consider the credibility of MacOS switching to ARM about the same as the credibility of the Surface Phone circa 2016.</p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    23 March, 2019 - 5:35 am

    <p>I liked his store perspective also their understanding of Subscription vs perpetual.</p>

  • SeattleMike

    Premium Member
    23 March, 2019 - 9:57 pm

    <p>This is exactly what I’d love to see more of on this site. Keep up the great work!</p>

  • justme

    Premium Member
    25 March, 2019 - 7:30 am

    <p>Thank you for not making this premium – this is a fantastic piece. Enjoyed reading and appreciate the developer insight.</p>

  • gmetrail

    25 March, 2019 - 2:13 pm

    <p>Thank you all for your feedback, and thank you, Paul &amp; Mary Jo, for your time. It was a pleasure to get together.</p><p><br></p><p>Gérard @ Corel</p>

  • mrdrwest

    25 March, 2019 - 2:23 pm

    <p>More posts / interviews like this please! I really enjoyed this!</p>

  • robincapper

    29 March, 2019 - 12:42 am

    <p>Great article, would like to see more of this sort of conversation. Been a Corel Suite user since the 90s, still prefer it over Adobe!</p>

  • I Khan

    Premium Member
    01 April, 2019 - 12:36 pm

    <p>Thank you for this article. It is great to read about a different perspective of technology/ new technology and what it means to the development of a product.</p><p>To echo and paraphrase the words of Olive Twist – Some more please?! :)</p><p>Great job.</p><p><br></p><p>Imraan</p>

  • kylejwx

    05 April, 2019 - 12:37 am

    <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I'm really glad you got around to talking to a developer. I hope to hear more interviews like this. I think one area where Windows development is still happening is in the live video streaming market. The </span><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">vMix company</span><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"> is always rolling out new features. And NewTek is developing it's TriCaster platform, </span><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">plus investing in the NDI technology</span><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">.</span></p>

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  • surendra111

    06 April, 2019 - 3:18 am

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  • surendra111

    09 April, 2019 - 8:37 pm

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