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How Does VFP Drive Windows


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It doesn't insists Steve - others disagree
It does Says many - even if it's not a lot

( Refactored from VFP Revenue Model Problems )

I think the biggest problem with this revenue model is that it leaves entirely out of the picture what is probably the biggest component. Those are the indirect revenues that come, not from developer purchases, but from the applications they create and put into operation in people's businesses. This establishes and secures a dependence on the MS Windows environment, not to mention many MS facilities (like SQL Server) that are nicely integrated with VFP. Consider the "revenue model" for IE. No one pays a cent to MS to purchase IE, but do you doubt that MS is making plenty of money from it, indirectly? If one doesn't account for this indirect component, I think the revenue model is seriously flawed. - ?mda

The differential benefit of this is zero. Here's why: If the app isn't written in VFP then it's written in VB or Delphi or Powerbuilder or Java or Word macros or whatnot. Therefore how can VFP be given credits for quote "dependence on the MS Windows environment" unquote? How could this possibly be the quote "biggest component" unquote? The notion that VFP drives windows, even just a bit, and that this is worth something to Fox that other MS developer tools don't is, frankly, lunatic in the extreme. -- Steven Black

If the choice is between building a solid VFP application vs an inferior VB app, Microsoft is best served by providing the best solution for the ultimate consumer. Otherwise, the customer is liable to throw the whole goddammed machine out the window and ask someone to do a better job on a Mac or anything but another Windows box. The choice doesn't just come down to "which Microsoft Windows technology would you like us to use". Delphi is a cross platform tool, the Linux movement is growing, Java runs on more than just Windows. The point is that VFP applications most assuredly help to secure people's commitment to the Windows platform and the technologies that are well integrated with VFP. - ?mda

Assuming that for 97% of cases, 97% being the approximate Windows market share, assuming that what you say isn't patently ridiculous fantasy, how do you suggest this be accounted for in a revenue model? But first I've got to tell you that in 17 years of developing in Fox on a dozens of projects, some of them big ones, in a dozen different countries, we've not sold a single copy of Windows for Microsoft that otherwise wouldn't have been purchased had Fox not been used. So to me, and excuse me please if I'm wrong, we're discussing something that has zero value to Microsoft and zero economic merit for an argument. What I'm saying to you in no uncertain terms is: if this model were in an Excel spreadsheet, we're quibbling over the the fifth or sixth significant digit.-- Steven Black

Ah, but what if it was a Lotus spreadsheet running on Linux?

Still the fifth or sixth significant digit. I'm constantly amazed that when I say "Fox brings in little cash for Microsoft" and some people reply with a straight face "but Fox solidifies the Windows brand" as if somehow this matters in some conceivable economic sense. -- Steven Black

Steve, you say that VFP's contribution to sales of Windows and other M$ products is impossible to measure, yet you assert with absolute certainly that this contribution represents only a trifling amount of the revenues that VFP generates for Microsoft. While I agree that this is hard to measure, I still maintain that it is by no means negligible, and if Microsoft is not already aware of it, they should be. When you've already got 95%+ of the market, the issue is not how to capture the rest of it, it's how to keep that market share. It stands to reason that companies with a big investment in VFP applications that are doing an important job and doing it well will think long and hard about switching to a non-Windows platform. VFP may not be instrumental in bringing new customers to Microsoft, but it seems absolutely clear that VFP serves to keep customers in the Microsoft fold. Hard to quantify, yes, but hardly insignificant. - ?mda

Microsoft is a $250 billion company (Mkt Cap) and $28 billion in sales annually. What "is by no means negligible" at that scale of operations? Moreover the comfortably wealthy managers at Microsoft all get their eggs from peddling technology. VFP is to Microsoft what Clue or Yahtzee are to Hasbro. It's just in the periphery of vision going forward, and not notably in the marketing mix.-- Steven Black

I believe that a fairly recent development does give VFP the potential, at least, to help MS to retain Windows users. Software houses, specifically Borland right now, are beginning to market solutions claimed to run cross-platform with only a re-compile/link-edit. So customers adopting such languages will have an option that VFP customers will not have. Therefore, to counter this, MS might be wise to add significant new features - paralleling the features of the competition - and to market VFP aggressively to those communities. -- Jim Nelson

The fifth decimal of $250 billion (MSFT Mkt Cap) and $28 Billion (annually in sales) respectively is $2,500,000 (mktCap) and $280,000 (annual sales). Assuming we could measure this effect VFP has on Windows, how big with that number be? Let's be generous and multiply your number by a factor of 10. Are we on the radar yet? -- Steven Black

Ok - then lets get Dave Fulton out of retirement and take VFP private with an IPO. It could be the first developer owned language. Lots of free press, and finally some marketing, etc. Yes, you lose the advantage of being hooked to the MSFT tractor, but that tractor doesn't seem to care about hitting potholes anyway. Hard not to become a little frustrated with this diamond that isn't getting much light. Peter Diotte

Dave Fulton isn't in the radar either. Is it too much to ask that we please think realistically, and quit daydreaming, even for just a moment? Otherwise I of course agree, VFP's magic in many of the different ways you can slice it.-- Steven Black

Steve, I don't appreciate you insertion of the heading It doesn't at the top of this page. You just twisted the debate about "The VFP Revenue Model" in an entirely different direction. When I remarked that indirect sales due to VFP are an important component, probably the most important component, I was referring to an accounting of all revenues that VFP generates for Microsoft. That was an appropriate observation in the context of your breakdown in VFP Revenue Model. In proportion to direct sales of VFP licenses, upgrades, and its arbitrary percentage of MSDN subscriptions, my point stands: the failure to account for VFP's indirect sales is the most glaring flaw in your VFP Revenue Model.

Now you come back with a comparison between VFP revenues and Microsoft's revenues from all sources. If anything, my observation that VFP contributes to the perpetuation of Windows coupled with your observation that this is impossible to measure, would seem to strengthen the argument that VFP is not to be so lightly dismissed as a superficial analysis might indicate. Granted, even taking the most optimistic assumptions about VFP's contributions, both direct and indirect, this still represents only a small part of Microsoft's total revenues. But that is not the point of this discussion.

If you want to make the argument that VFP is merely a tiny piece of the Microsoft pie, you could just as well say that about any number of individual products that Microsoft sells. Presumably, in a large business that sells a variety of products, they figure out some way to structure things so that somebody cares, and all of those individual products contribute their small part to the overall profitability of the company. Of course things don't always work out that way in big companies, and that's one of the reasons there is a tendency toward diminishing returns. The Dilbert phenomenon sets in, and nothing makes sense anymore. How the hell do you analyze that? Why does a billionare give a damn about making another hundred million bucks? If logic and shareholder profit are not the basis for corporate decision making, what does that leave? - ?mda

That leaves us with you believing that VFP drives Windows. Somehow, in a puzzling redefinition or revision of DifferentialAccounting (which you will find discussed in any Managerial Accounting textbook) VFP's contribution to the Windows franchise is worth something notable in VFP's favor with respect to Microsoft's alternatives. Mike, the effect of VFP on Windows is essentially zero. Considering the alternatives, which are all captured by Windows, so any benefit that comes from Fox comes equally from all the others so the effect is zero. VFP does not in any way drive windows. -- Steven Black

Mike. I've come to the conclusion (and obviously I believe that it is correct) that this topic and its "sisters" ("VFP Revenue Model" and "VFP Revenue Model Problems") are immaterial to the perpetuation of VFP with the exception of counting direct sales of VFP. In fact ALL MS development languages 'suffer' from the same plight inasmuch as these topics are concerned. However, VFP's sales being sparse compared to VB, and C or C++ not really counting in the arguments, the recommended strategy by KenL to purchase MSDN in favour of VFP itself whenever possible is poison for the future of VFP! It can NEVER be helpful and is in constant jeopardy of having its "slice amount" reduced without our even learning about it! Accordingly I go along with the idea proposed in one of the topic bodies that we should make purchases of VFP directly whenever we contemplate acquisition of VFP, upgrade or fresh.
We can make suggestions as to how VFP could increase its revenue to MS by adding reasonably-priced functionality add-ons too. And I think that, other than pestering KenL and folks to increase awareness and marketing of VFP, that is about all that we can do -- Jim Nelson

Steve, once again you are distorting things. I didn't say "VFP drives Windows", I said it contributes to driving Windows, and if you want to make any sort of reasonable accounting for whatever value VFP represents to Microsoft, the failure to account for this component is a huge oversight. You never did reply to my point about how MS justifies giving away Internet Explorer. I think it's fair to say that the same sort of indirect effect is behind that, albeit on a much larger scale.

I'm not going to argue in circles with you, Steve. We already covered your claim that the only alternatives are other MS products, so it's a zero net benefit to MS to be selling VFP. Bullshit. If VFP can do a better job for the customer than the alternative tools that MS has to offer, they would be wise to sell VFP, where appropriate. Otherwise, they'll be perceived (and rightly so) as strong-arming people into accepting inferior solutions and vaporware. Some of those former customers will be pushed over the edge and encouraged to look elsewhere, anywhere but Microsoft. Your argument only has validity in the unacceptable limit where people have no alternatives to Microsoft whatsoever. We haven't quite reached that point, and the closer we get to it, the more you'll find people reacting negatively to it.

Somewhere in you rather academic analysis, you seem to have lost a sense of the importance of intangible things, like customer satisfaction. How do you account for good will? And let's not forget about bad will, Steve, even if your cockamamie college textbook never covered that. Just how do you figure that satisfying 100K + customers who are in the business of developing applications that give people a good impression about Microsoft hurts them? If there is the slightest shred of common sense in whatever the hell you're trying to say, I utterly fail to see it.

Now, moving on to Jim, yes, of course I agree that the bogus rationale Ken gave us for pushing MSDN subscriptions at the expense of VFP purchases was the height of absurdity. I think I made that pretty clear in the now infamous "Decline of VFP" thread on UT. But I don't accept your conclusion that all we can do is "pester Ken", buy another copy of VFP, and try to promote it all on our own. Our argument is not with Ken, it's with Microsoft. It's a sound argument, and however intransigent they may seem, that is still the easiest, and probably the only way to succeed. We must coax and persuade MS to recognize the folly of their attitude toward VFP. It ain't easy, but it's the best we can do. The FoxPro community prides itself in being a community, but we are all-too-aware of the silly divisions among us, as exemplified by some of the wrangling on this page. In unity their is strength, baby! - ?mda

Mike, as I see KenL as "Microsoft", I meant Microsoft as much as I meant KenL. If you have ways to get at Microsoft, short of suing them, I'm interested in hearing them. [for the record I don't see enough danger yet, or proof that MS is deliberately starving VFP, to warrant suit on those grounds]
We do have divisions in the "community", that's for sure. And one of the larger problems is, in my opinion, the MVPs. They have "inside channels" and valuable freebies that they want to protect, leading most of them to toe the line. And, as was demonstrated by your long-ago drive to get a letter to MS going, countless others follow the lead of the MVPs, unaware of those (self-imposed) pressures that the MVPs are under.
I hope that my record conveys my desire to see VFP's marketing expanded well beyond the existing user base and to see VFP continuously developed to add more functionality. My top three wishes are:
1. Significantly improve the documentation, and specifically the Command Reference, so that newbies have a decent chance of success;
2. Significantly improve the awareness of VFP within Microsoft and expand the marketing/advertising of VFP beyond the community;
3. Report known bugs regularly and openly. -- Jim Nelson

This is getting odd. Here's my take:

Ok. I think it's pretty clear to everyone but Steve that VFP is driving Windows to some degree. The question becomes: "how much?"

Let's take another way of looking at this. Let's say Microsoft somehow lost the ownership to VFP and it's technologies (bear with me), and whoever now had ownership made a version which runs on Linux, and now all someone had to do was install VNC on the machine, and it was (for relevant intents and purposes) Terminal Server.

So, which would a client of your software want more? An application which ran ultra-quick (imagine the caching potential - all of your tables and indexes in memory!!), and all they had to do is get a Linux server, and put a 200K EXE on any workstations (Windows, Linux, Mac, etc), or go to a website and use a JAVA version, and they had it installed, or something that they would either have to setup Terminal Server, or Citrix (yes, Terminal Server or Citrix is clearly nicer than VNC on Linux, but for many purposes, VNC wins - it's simple, easy, and CHEAP), in order to get the same speed, or the classic model in a LAN environment (EXE and DLLs local, data remote).

They could be across the planet, in a Korean "Internet Cafe", and access their VFP based application by typing in an IP on a machine that supported Java. How long would it take before VFP developers were preaching Linux (seeing as how much better their applications would look)? About 10 minutes (assuming it was stable on Linux, etc), I assume. Now, this hits Microsoft where it hurts: Windows vs. *. Even if all the workstations were Windows, it doesn't matter. I can't tell you how fast *I* would switch. Perhaps not existing installations, but new ones, definitely.

Of course, this is unlikely, at best. BUT, if all applications were totally cross-platform, Microsoft would not have the strangle-hold it does now.

And that is exactly what MS doesn't want. More Linux = Less Windows. My two cents. Feel free to comment, as I hope you already do :) -- Peter Crabtree

To some degree? I think if we make assumptions, and SET DECIMAL to a conveniently large integer, then anything is measureable. Fox drives Windows about as much as planets Venus and Mars drive oceanic tides here on Earth. We can calculate the effect of Venus and Mars, and the numbers we'll find will be non-zero, nevermind the scale or the proportion. Some astrologers believe that planets Venus and Mars drive what happens here on Earth to some degree, but for practical purposes, it's not a factor. VFP just doesn't drive Windows to any appreciable, functional, psychological, or economic degree.-- Steven Black

So why doesn't Microsoft drop VFP? Is there any other reason Microsoft wouldn't? Or, at least, drop the development on VFP (since Rushmore is used in Access, I would assume they wouldn't sell it). You seem to imply that if someone was no longer developing in VFP, then they would go to another Windows-only language. And if they DID market VFP, then that would just provide more reason to use Windows. I'm not saying that Windows exists because of VFP - I'm saying it's a part. True, VB is probably a bigger part (a lot bigger), but that's not to deny VFP's role. Also, I am thinking in more general sort of thoughts - what about SQL server? Also, how many active VFP developers do we really have? Maybe what we can agree on is that if Microsoft actually marketed VFP, then it would have (at least more) impact. -- Peter Crabtree

Why don't they drop it? My guess is big ticket clients like the US Government and many more would be pretty dissatisfied with Microsoft over that. -- Mike Helland

In the end, Microsoft only has to care about one group: its shareholders. Shareholders want to see continued growth and profits. Shareholders will tolerate losses (e.g. with Xbox) as long as they can understand the strategic import and can trust management.
In the case of VFP: unless somebody can tell me the strategic purpose of VFP for MS, we have to assume that VFP survives because it produces more $ than it costs to run, i.e. turns a profit. IMHO as far as MS is concerned we're a curious little profit centre whose product will keep being stocked as long as enough of us continue to buy. -- John Ryan

Meanwhile the microsoft sycophants try to convince everyone moving to .net rubbish what about delphi is better more stable cross platform cheaper --- J Thayanandarajah

Category VFP Marketing
( Topic last updated: 2002.12.17 05:26:54 PM )