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VFP Revenue Model Problems

Namespace: WIN_COM_API
A place to list the problems with the VFP Revenue Model

That the VFP Revenue Model is deeply flawed is not in doubt. Despite the huge value that VFP delivers, Microsoft's not interested in promoiting it, nor cashing in on it. Here are some reasons why.

It seems to me that all of the above applies equally to VB and/or C and/or C++ etc. -- Jim Nelson

... save for an order of magnitude in scale, and this matters when all your radar can do is scan the horizon.-- Steven Black

I thought that you wrote the original, Steve. Assuming that to be the case, what is the relevance of magnitude/scale??? All of the points you enumerate apply equally to VB and C and C++ and xx, don't they?... sales hard to runtime revenue...enabler of SQL Server...enabler for solution providers...enabler for Windows platform. I fail to see how any other language's impact is any different in terms of quantifying those measures. What am I missing here? -- Jim Nelson

What I'm saying is there are all these difficult-to-measure financial things, and if there are ten times the number of VB developers, for example, and ten times the number of VB solution providers and ten times the number of VB third party vendors and ten times the number of Fortune 1000 customers then that's going to factor pretty significantly in the decision making about strategy, support, and marketing.

OK, that's fair enough. BUT... then there is only ONE item in your list that counts - number of sales (leaving aside the rumours that VB is Bill's baby). We needn't cloud the issue with all of the other stuff.
However, I too think that swallowing the line that VFP sales are adequately counted when purchased by MSDN is dangerous and should never be practised by those truly concerned with the future of VFP! Those of us inclined to purchase MSDN subscriptions should first buy VFPx, then use the added discount available through that purchase (as was available until recently for VFP7 purchases) to purchase MSDN. Yes, that means a few bucks more when VFPx-1 also is eligible for the discount but it seems worth it to me regardless. Then again, I live without MSDN anyway. -- Jim Nelson
An alternate approach:

I think it may be a mistake to assume that Microsoft's marketing decisions are based on rational economic analysis.

An example:

At some point in the past, Foxpro was bigger than VB.

The revenue model for Foxpro is not significantly different from that for VB + Jet. That is, I don't think there are any per-seat or per application licensing fees for the latter.

If that's the case, it might be valid to assume that Microsoft realizes it makes more money from the latter because there are a lot more VB developers than there are Foxpro developers.

However, that wasn't the case when VB started. And if it is the case now, it is only because Microsoft has consistently promoted and pushed VB and disparaged and hidden VFP.

A rational economic analysis would have led Microsoft to promote both systems equally for the situations for which they're best suited. This would have maximized the revenue from both. Alternatively, it might also have been economically rational to pull the plug on VFP long ago and transfer all of its intellectual capital and human resources to VB and/or Jet and/or SQL Server or whatever. It might also have been economically rational to have realized that VFP was a better product for RAD/data applications than VB would ever be, and therefore to have pulled the plug on VB and transferred all of its resources to VFP. All of these courses of action would have been more rational economically than what Microsoft actually did.

The history of large corporations is full of examples of corporate leadership that made irrational decisions on the basis of nepotism, ego, emotional fragility, and/or stupidity and, as a result, drove their organizations into the ground.

I think Microsoft's behavior in this area has not been based on rational economic analysis. It's been based, instead, on hubris, an ego-driven dream: a long-term plan to dominate the computer industry by forcing people into dependence on Microsoft products using Microsoft proprietary "extended" standards and technology. Microsoft made the decision long ago to push VB and bury VFP not for reasons of profit and loss, but for other reasons: because VFP at that time was cross-platform (and still contains important prerequisites for being so today) and VB was proprietary, and because VB was Bill Gates's more or less personal creation. And the fact that Microsoft did not follow this course to its logical end and pull the plug on VFP indicates that Microsoft's leadership suffers from serious, and perhaps ultimately fatal, flaws.

I think the best evidence suggests that Microsoft has backed itself into a corner with its focus on keeping people "hooked" into basic applications (OSes and Office) and trying to force them to buy periodic upgrades for those applications even when the applications stopped addressing important unmet needs two or three versions ago. It's becoming clear that corporate and professional customers don't like being in that position, especially now that they've learned that there are basic, systemic security flaws in Microsoft's designs that the company doesn't have serious plans to correct, and they are beginning to look for a way out. That's why Linux and MySQL and Firefox and Open Office are slowly gaining market share--a phenomenon that I think will probably snowball within 3-5 years. But the human beings--not financial-analysis robots--who run Microsoft have made a huge investment of their emotions and their egos in the belief that they could actually succeed in permanently dominating the computer industry by following that model. They tried to out-IBM IBM--and we all know what happened to IBM. Failing to learn from the mistakes of others is another sign of irrationality.

And now, to turn around and begin to try to really compete, by innovating and listening to what customers (including developers) really want, in all sectors of the market--in other words, to drop the model they've built their business on, that made them famous and rich, and do something radically different--will require these people to admit they've made a series of mistakes, to admit to themselves that they aren't the hotshots they thought they were, to accept that their big dream is dead and gone. Well, lots of people aren't able to do that. And when people who can't do that run big companies, either the companies go down or the companies get a regime change. I don't know if the MS board has the guts to usher Ballmer and Gates out--or even if they have the power to do so. But I don't think either of those guys is the type that can acknowledge their own faults and change their ways spontaneously.

Now, if Microsoft's handling of VFP is not based on rational factors, then there is no way that any sort of rational analysis or argument put forth here or in any other VFP forum, by any members of the VFP community, can change how Microsoft behaves with regard to VFP. I think that horse is dead, and those who keep kicking it just keep getting spattered with more and more unsavory detritus from the rotting corpse.

What, then, can we do?

I can see five possible courses of action:
  1. If our own business model doesn't really depend on whether or not Microsoft continues to "support" VFP, stop worrying about it. This applies to most of us in the small business/not-for-profit market. Most of these organizations couldn't care less what tools we use, and they don't have a lot of need for bleeding-edge technology or extremely-high-capacity systems. We can all continue to use VFP until we retire.
  2. Get involved in applying the only kinds of incentives that Microsoft will respond to. That is, become rich and influential, buy Microsoft stock and/or get on Microsoft's board, and participate in efforts to retire Gates and Ballmer and turn the company around. I don't think many of us are in a position to do that; I'm just underlining what it's really going to take to change Microsoft's behavior.
  3. Get on board the Microsoft bandwagon. Increase your dependence on Microsoft technologies and do your best to ride whatever wind blows out of Redmond this year. Take the risk that the merry bandwagon is not, in fact, a drifting ship with an insane captain that is about to founder on the shoals of changing market realities and sink.
  4. Hope that the board and/or stockholders of Microsoft wake up and turn the ship around, and that one of the results is that Microsoft either starts promoting VFP like mad, contributes the VFP source code to the open-source community, or sells VFP to an independent company.
  5. Walk away from the whole mess. Take a very serious look at Dabo/Python and MySQL, and so position yourself to provide quality data applications to users of all platforms in all areas of the database market.
  6. -- Ken Dibble
    Category VFP Marketing
( Topic last updated: 2004.12.14 10:44:10 PM )