|Will Microsoft Market VFP?|
This article was written based on many texts compiled from a collection of related wiki pages found in the Fox Wiki, under the main title of WillMicrosoftMarketVFP, as well as IdeaXchg web pages (Mike Asherman's web site).
In the beginning of 2001 started a discussion about marketing of Visual FoxPro done by Microsoft. This article somehow is a continuation of ShouldVFPBeInVSDotNet by Mike Feltman. Some unnecessary comments found in those wiki pages are not referenced here in order to have a clearer text, but they can be found in the original documents as well as other related wiki pages that made part of the discussion that took place - the links to those wiki pages were kept in this text to help you get to them.
In this page you will find many references to other web sites. Must be understood that you, the reader, should login in some of those web sites (The Universal Thread and The Virtual FoxPro User Group (VFUG)), prior to checking some links referred here.
|How It Started|
How It Started: This text was extracted from ShouldVFPBeInVSDotNet:
What will it matter how VFP is packaged if Microsoft doesn't promote it? For those who are inclined to debate this topic, perhaps it would be more constructive to shift your energies to drafting a collective letter to Microsoft encouraging them not to neglect VFP. At some high level they just don't get it, or maybe we're the ones who don't get it, and VFP deserves to die. Let's not argue about the clothes VFP will be dressed in when they lay it in the coffin.
The real point here, if you believe as I do that VFP is the best tool in the known universe for taking an idea from conception to realization, is to give Microsoft a little help appreciating the significance of this fact. I'm not so naive as to think that a product will survive on sheer merit. I learned that the hard way when Honeywell bought out Multics, a phenomenal operating system, and they basically pissed it away because the company was incapable of giving this adopted child a fair shot against its own oafish GCOS sibling. The parallel is scary, and I think it would be a mistake to ignore the possibility of a similar fate. I don't care how they package it, but I want to see VFP survive and evolve into whatever it really deserves to become.
It's ridiculous how Microsoft's marketing of FoxPro is so out of proportion to what it has invested in the acquisition and development of this product. I carry around Robert Green's 1996 article with me just to prove to people that Microsoft really owns and supports this product. This is getting a bit stale, don't you think? Somehow Microsoft seems to have gotten into a rut of reasoning that there's no point in marketing VFP, because people will or won't buy it anyway, not to mention the possibility of taking away the sale of one of their other products. What are they worried about? I'm not a marketeer, nor am I privy to the machinations of Microsoft's management schemes, but I think that common sense would indicate that they are shooting themselves in the foot by failing to make the most of this investment. We should lay out the case in terms that management can understand, because they clearly do not get it. You'll know when they get it, when you can mention FoxPro to a prospective customer and they don't say FoxWha??
Don't get suckered into letting Microsoft off the hook on this by talking to them about anything else, except specific bugs and features, not a bunch of vaporware bullshit. I'll bet that the majority of VFP enthusiasts, like myself, would enjoy participating in such discussions, but we simply don't have the luxury of being able to spend our time this way. A lot of people who would otherwise not be heard might be willing to sign a collective letter to Microsoft, and if it's a well crafted argument, targeted at upper management, signed by thousands of customers, it just might have some positive effect. It seems to me that wiki's collaborative editing facilities and all of your energies would be put to much better use in drafting such a letter than in debating the moot question of whether VFP be in VS.Net. - Mike Asherman
(Brought from _WillMicrosoftMarketVFP_HowItStarted in the Fox Wiki)
FoxPro is great, but Multics was
monumental. Each of them, in its time, could lay claim to being the best
thing of its kind. If you are wondering "what the hell is Multics?",
well that's the first lesson right there. The principal reason for the
demise of Multics was not a lack of technical excellence. Multics died
from a lack of marketing, because it was acquired by a company that was
incapable of wholeheartedly supporting its adopted child. The amazing
thing is just how long Multics hung on after Honeywell pulled the plug in July,
1985. As a former Multician, it brought a lump to my throat when I read
the the letter
from Prof. Fernando J. Corbato, (the father of Multics) announcing that the
last Multics site was shutting down on October 30, 2000.
So please excuse me if I sound like an alarmist, but I'm probably one of the few Multician/VFP-ers who ever existed. I know you guys are just as tired as I am of the old "VFP is dead" routine, but take a moment to consider this lesson from history: Cinderella stories don't always end happily. VFP may not be dead, but it's in critical condition, and Microsoft's self-contradictory strategy of developing without commensurate marketing is an intolerable prescription. VFP doesn't have to die if Microsoft gets its head together and embraces VFP as a legitimate, productive member of its family.
Despite valiant efforts and rumors to the contrary, VFP is dying out of
senseless neglect. A thing of tremendous value is being destroyed for no
good reason, to the detriment of everyone, but especially to the detriment of
Microsoft and all of us in the VFP community.
That VFP is dying may be viewed by some as an overstatement, but I'm not convinced that the beta release of VFP 7 and earnest discussion of VFP 8 and beyond really prove anything to the contrary. It has come to be axiomatic that Microsoft doesn't actively promote VFP, and we've grudgingly put up with that for years, content to accept a steady stream of significant upgrades to this splendid product. But if you'll excuse the metaphor, Microsoft keeps offering us more slices of cake while we're dying of thirst. This imbalance between product development and marketing has finally taken its toll in a very striking, objectively measurable way: the count of job listings for VFP both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of all categories of programming have dropped dramatically in the last few years. Short of going negative, these statistics couldn't look much worse. By that measure, VFP is most assuredly in dire distress. A programming tool without programmers makes even less sense than development without marketing, and Microsoft will inevitably be drawn to the conclusion that any further investment in VFP is a waste of money.
If there is a great unfulfilled potential in VFP to be making money for Microsoft, and they could easily capitalize on this potential, both of which assertions I strongly believe, then Microsoft has much to gain by rectifying the situation without delay. On the other hand, if Microsoft fails to rescue VFP, they will not only have lost a valuable opportunity, but they are likely to experience negative repercussions from a justifiably indignant community of former Microsoft customers.
Why should it be necessary for us to be telling Microsoft how to make more money? Surely they have amply demonstrated their competence at doing that, just as they have also demonstrated their technical competence in fostering the continued development of FoxPro. Who are we to be telling Microsoft how to run its business? Well, I wouldn't normally presume to do this, but it happens that in this particular case my own selfish interests are at stake, and the issue means even more to me as a VFP developer than it means to me as a Microsoft shareholder. Therefore I feel compelled to speak out forcefully on this matter, because it really is more than a minor inconvenience to me (not to mention thousands of others), and I suspect that Microsoft, in its ultimate wisdom, could be persuaded to behave more sensibly.
Would you consider signing an open letter to Microsoft urging them to
wholeheartedly support both the further development and marketing of VFP much
more seriously than they have ever done in the past? Do you think that a
compelling business argument can be made? Do you think that such a
document could sway Microsoft from its seeming determination to make the demise
of VFP a self-fulfilling prophesy? If you dismiss this as a hopeless,
idealistic endeavor, would you reconsider if you saw a thousand
signatures? All you have to do is indicate a willingness to consider it,
and you will help to inspire the effort to create a letter worthy of our
signing. If we build it, they will come.
Please cast your informal ballot, even if it's anonymous, and feel free to add your comments either on the Fox Wiki, or on IdeaXchg:
The complete list of votes, which follows, will be updated periodically to include any
changes requested via the Fox Wiki, IdeaXchg, Usenet, or any other
means. You can also email your request
to me, although requests via Wiki or IdeaXchg would generally be preferable to email.
Whichever means you use to submit your name, please indicate whether you
would like to display your email link in the list, which is highly
desirable, but not required. Email addresses can also be submitted to me
privately, but I won't publish these unless explicitly requested to do so.
(Brought from Will Microsoft Market Visual FoxPro? in Mike Asherman's IdeaXchg)
|The Voting Page|
The purpose of this page is to solicit an informal vote by the Visual FoxPro
community as to whether you would consider signing an open letter to Microsoft
encouraging them to take VFP marketing and promotion much more seriously.
The question is not whether you endorse any particular draft of such a letter,
only whether you're open the idea in general. If you care about the the
future of Visual FoxPro, please cast your vote below.
If and when we complete and agree upon a draft of this letter, you will have an opportunity to
decide whether you're willing to sign it. Anyone who's interested is
invited to participate in drafting an OpenLetterToMicrosoft
(on the Fox Wiki) or consider my own Open Letter to Microsoft, but please vote first. If you're too busy, or you're content to leave the writing to others, you will still be doing all of us a great service simply by adding your name to either the Yes
or No list. Feel free to add your own thoughts to the Comments
page on the Fox Wiki, or post a message to this IdeaXchg forum, and remember to check the Announcements page after you've put your name on the list.
(Brought from WillMicrosoftMarketVFP in the Fox Wiki)
|Where's the Marketing?|
With the release of Visual FoxPro 7.0 scheduled for "late this spring", it's reasonable to wonder when the VFP marketing will begin. Isn't it customary to initiate a marketing campaign in advance of a significant new release? Microsoft started marketing .NET almost a year ago, and it's not even scheduled to ship for months. VFP is more than ready to sell, but isn't it overdue for some marketing?
Why the sudden concern about marketing, or lack thereof, when VFP has survived without it for all these years? The main problem is that chronic neglect has taken its toll on the VFP job market, not just in absolute numbers, but relative to just about every other segment of programming. With the recent downturn in the economy, the VFP job market has nothing left to surrender. To make matters worse, Microsoft's announcement of its intention to remove VFP from Visual Studio has reinforced the general public's doubts about the future of VFP. In the absence of any positive spin from Microsoft on this piece of news, the VFP community faces a public relations disaster. If you've enjoyed making a living from your hard-earned FoxPro programming skills, you have plenty of reason to be concerned.
How could we hope to influence Microsoft's plans for marketing VFP, when years of previous efforts to do that have failed? We can influence Microsoft, and it will be easy if we go about it sensibly. The VB community didn't have to squawk for long to get Microsoft to alter its plans for VB.NET. Of course VFP doesn't have nearly the clout of VB, but we've got some things in our favor. We can be persuasive by sending a coherent message with such clarity and force that it simply can't be ignored. The case has already been made: we need very little from Microsoft and they have nothing to lose and much to gain by obliging us. If you haven't yet reviewed the online discussion that's been going on for the past couple of months, you might find it interesting to look over the VFP Marketing references outlined at http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix07/vm/_sys/toccontu.htm.
What remains to be done, and by whom? The simplest thing you could possibly do would be to make a wish, but that doesn't sound too promising. The second easiest conceivable action you could take would be to utter a single syllable: just say Yes. Let me add your name to the list of those who would consider signing an open letter to Microsoft encouraging them to do a better job marketing VFP. Easy enough, but if it sounds a little scary you should take some comfort in the knowledge that more than 600 people (including 7 Microsoft VFP MVPs) have already put their names on this list, which you can see at http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix07/bymda/mdav0016.htm.
The need for better marketing is an issue on which the VFP community is in virtually unanimous agreement, and by conservative estimates we are at least 100,000, maybe more than a million strong. That is a lot of people, considerably more than the total number of Microsoft employees worldwide. Is there really any doubt that Microsoft would be influenced by a very clear and reasonable request, a modest one at that, from so large a group of their own customers?
If you've taken the trouble to read this far, I'd like to thank you for your interest and finish with this small request: please vote. You can email your vote to me, Mike Asherman, at email@example.com, or use your browser to post a message at http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix08/d4post.htm, or enter your name on the Fox Wiki at http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~WillMicrosoftMarketVFP. When you vote, indicate how you want your name to appear (pseudonyms are OK) and whether you'd like to include an optional email link. You are welcome to add your own comments on either the Wiki or IdeaXchg if you have the time, but in any case, please take only a single minute more to cast your vote, Yes or No.
(Brought from "Where's the Marketing?" in the The Virtual FoxPro User Group. VFUG Newsletters, May 2001)
|Mike Asherman's Open Letter to Microsoft|
On behalf of myself and many of your other customers in the Visual FoxPro community, I would like to address a serious concern that affects both ourselves and Microsoft. Our concern is that Microsoft, in failing to market and promote Visual FoxPro as effectively as it might, is causing us great hardship. At the same time, we appreciate and respect Microsoft's perspective as a vendor whose decisions must be driven by considerations of profit and the larger picture of its many product offerings and long term plans.
For almost a decade, Microsoft has done a fine job of advancing VFP, which has earned our trust as an exceptional, proven tool for building Windows applications. We're delighted with the work of Microsoft's FoxPro team, and we eagerly look forward to the forthcoming VFP 7.0 release and further exciting developments. We're confident that one way or another, and probably in many ways, there will be a story to tell about how VFP fits in with .NET.
With the recent announcement of Microsoft's plans to remove VFP from Visual Studio, however, the VFP community is confronted by a crisis. As consultants facing a shrinking VFP job market, and as application developers who have invested much of our capital and our lives in FoxPro, we are injured when the credibility of VFP is undermined. The paradox of Microsoft's failure to more actively promote VFP both within Microsoft and to the world at large now threatens to do irreparable damage to the image of VFP, and this troubles us deeply.
Therefore we urge you to begin taking action without delay to correct the glaring omission of any references to VFP in your widely circulated Direct Access Newsletter, and we ask that you please consider the following rewording of your brief mention of VFP in MSDN Flash:
Microsoft reveals its plans for Visual FoxPro as a complement to its .NET offerings. Recognizing that VFP is a proven, established platform for developing robust, high-performance desktop and net-enabled solutions today, the schedule for shipping VFP 7.0 Beta 2 has been accelerated. VFP 7.0 will be aggressively marketed as a separate product from Visual Studio.NET, offering a wide range of integration options with both .NET and other Microsoft interoperability standards, such as COM, DCOM, ActiveX, etc.
Understanding that marketing is an ongoing concern, and that there is much more we can do to help each other in this regard, many of us in the VFP community have openly expressed our desire to assist Microsoft in better promoting VFP. We've only begun to assemble and organize our ideas, for example as a collection of VFP
Success Stories, and in a number of other web pages and online discussions
of which you are undoubtedly aware. We wish to encourage Microsoft to join
us as an essential partner in this mutually beneficial endeavor.
Please help us, your devoted customers, give
VFP the respect it deserves and you will surely be helping yourselves as well.
(Brought from Will Microsoft Market Visual FoxPro? in Mike Asherman's IdeaXchg)
|Chronology of Significant Events in the Open Letter Campaign|
1/14/01: I added the passage that Fernando Alvares excerpted into the Votes and Comments section of ShouldVFPBeInVSDotNet, preceded by this introductory line: "this debate is a misguided diversion from the real issue".
1/26/01: Evan Delay posted his Wiki Watch #3: Should VFP be in Visual Studio.NET? Thread #469094 Still, no one had made a single reply or acknowledgement of my remark, which I mentioned in the first reply on this thread.
1/29/01: Fernando Alvares added a comment, but no one had responded directly to my blurb. Fernando wrote this:
After reading all the above, I had strange feelings:
Is MS playing "with" or "against" us (VPF developers)?
Is their intent to kill VFP (just waiting for an "excuse")?
Is there a need to stablish a strategy to justify to our clients "why" we use VFP?
Are we just waiting for the doomsday? Fernando Alvares
2/6/01: I made a reply to Robert Green on UT (#473299), provoked by his reply to someone else that ended with this line:
"Why do you think they would believe us if we marketed the hell out of Visual FoxPro?"
To which I replied:
"Market the hell out of VFP? How about just trying a little harder not to keep it a secret? We're not looking for a major media blitz, just a little ammunition so that we don't have to educate prospective clients about the fact that Microsoft owns VFP, no less that they take it seriously. Throw us a bone here! Microsoft doesn't have to spend a lot to do a much better marketing job than they have done to date. It would have been so easy to work in a mention of VFP in so many pieces of Microsoft's unending deluge of marketing materials, but it's always conspicuously absent. What would it cost MS to work in some VFP promotion in the Microsoft Direct Access Newsletter, an otherwise worthless, self-serving vehicle that never ceases to amaze me in its complete absence of useful content. Let us help you write the text, if you guys can't think of anything to say. The painfully obvious message is that Microsoft just doesn't have its heart in it. They ain't even trying. In or out of the box, VFP is going down the tubes if Microsoft keeps hiding it."
"Robert, I really appreciate the way you're taking the trouble to field all of the impassioned replies on this thread, and I have every confidence in you and the rest of Microsoft's VFP team. The problem lies somewhere on high, so it's pointless for us to be arguing with you. The way I see it, we're on the same side, in favor of VFP and opposing the dark forces that want to suppress it. This in-the-box or out-of-the-box debate is like hiding our heads in the sand. It's a con job, and we're all suckers if we let them (the dark forces) divert us from the real point, which is simply a sincere, credible show of support from Microsoft for VFP. You've got a fanatically devoted community of VFP supporters on your side. Can't we do something more constructive to address the real issue? I've suggested that we make the case to Microsoft in an open letter targeted at upper management, signed by as many thousands of VFP enthusiasts as we can muster. Do you think that's silly, or worse still, hopeless? I think a strong business case could be made Microsoft's taking VFP more seriously, or at least giving it a fighting chance. Would you get in trouble for encouraging such an endeavor, or even for giving me a straight answer to this question? How about a little mutual support here!"
2/10/01: I added this remark anonymously, in a brief exchange that followed Fernando's remark:
[NEW] An animal that feeds on itself cannot survive. (_WillMicrosoftMarketVFP_HowItStarted)
2/12/01: discovered that my blurb and preceding anonymous remark has been factored out of ShouldVFPBeInVSDotNet by Mike Feltman. We debated the relevance of my comments and the significance of some dismal job stats recently posted on UT on 1/23/01 (#467465 and #467563). It was Mike Feltman who came up with the idea of creating a new wiki page entitled WillMicrosoftMarketVFP. By the time I discovered it, two people had already replied to my comments of almost a month before, the first being Fernando Alvares, who wrote this:
[NEW] I fully support mda's idea of a collective letter, as well as any other reasonable idea, because I think that we must do something to ourselves. It's better than just standing still waiting for MS, or do we really think that "The Sky Is Falling"?
In terms of market shares, if MS kills VFP, they will have one less gun to fight against competition. Who knows if the dBASE clones may rebirth, and how about the new developing tools to come from outside MS. And the installed base, and the thousands of developers using VFP? They will shift to VB?
I really can't understand why not to sell both products (VFP and VB). Take a look at the soap industry (serious!) there are just a few companies, making and heavily advertising each one of their many brands. Why? They have different customers in mind (sometimes the diference is very subtle) and, better, they crowd the market with these many brands, to make competition to their own products! Are they fools? Of course not! -- FernandoAlvares
Seeing those remarks inspired me to make WillMicrosoftMarketVFP into a voting page, so I initialized two lists, Yes and No, and I cast the first vote myself.
2/13/01: I added the blurb "A Little History Lesson" to WillMicrosoftMarketVFP. 5 more people added their Yes votes
2/14/01: Supportive comments begin to mount on WillMicrosoftMarketVFP. Steven Black gets into the act, as we attempt to collaboratively author a draft of the Open Letter in a separate wiki page. Chaos ensues. Now at 9 Yes votes, someone puts Bill Gates onto the No list.
2/15/01 - A number of additional wiki pages are born, and I add the sections entitled "What's the Urgency?", "What's in it for Microsoft", and "How Dare We!" to the main voting page. Unbeknownst to me, Alex Feldstein made an announcement about Open Letter on Microsoft's Spanish-speaking VFP newsgroup. (He had mistakenly assumed Steven Black started the campaign, but this confusion was eventually cleared up.) The count of Yes votes reaches 19.
2/16/01: I posted WiKiWatch #911 - WillMicrosoftMarketVFP Thread #476808 on UT, and made similar postings on microsoft.public.fox.programmer.exchange and comp.databases.xbase.fox newsgroups. The tally of Yes votes reaches 35.
2/26/01: Microsoft announces that VFP 7 will be not be a part of the upcoming Visual Studio .NET product offering, and VFP 7.0 Beta 2 is released. Heated discussions follow on UT.
3/5/01: with the count of Yes votes approaching 400 (better than 99%), I make another round of announcements on UT and Usenet, "WillMicrosoftMarketVFP - what next?", encouraging people to spread the word more effectively.
3/7/01: an over-eager supporter clobbers WillMicrosoftMarketVFP, substituting a crude Spanish translation. This inspires a more deliberate effort to create translated voting pages, and the realization that the list, at 423 Yes votes, has become too large to manage as a single wiki page. To address this problem, I moved the main voting list to my own VFPUtils web site, at http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix07/bymda/mdav0016.htm, where it has remained since. The wiki voting pages become a buffer for accumulating new votes, which I have periodically appended to the main list. I also introduced an alternative mechanism for submitting votes by posting messages to the discussion area at http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix08/d4/_sys/tocthrdu.htm.
3/10/01: Fernando Alvares supplies a Portuguese translation of the wiki voting page.
3/11/01: Frederic Steczycki supplies a French translation of the wiki voting page.
3/12/01: I make another series of postings on UT and Usenet, "Dear MS, Let us help you market VFP". The count of Yes votes approaches 450.
3/19/01: I post a message on UT and Usenet entitled "VFP Non-Marketing News Flash". The tally now stands at 469 Yes votes (including 7 MVPs).
3/21/01: Fernando Alvares supplies an Italian translation of the wiki voting page.
3/22/01: I composed a draft of the Open Letter to Microsoft and published it to http://www.ideaxchg.com/ix07/bymda/mdav0017.htm. This puts an end to the "where is the letter" debate that had been raging on UT and the Fox Wiki.
3/23/01: Fernando Alvares supplies a German translation of the wiki voting page.
3/26/01: I made UT and Usenet postings announcing the existence of my draft Open Letter to Microsoft, noting that there are now more than 500 Yes votes.
5/7/01: the VFUG May 2001 Newsletter publishes my brief article, "Where's the Marketing?", with the count of Yes votes now exceeding 600.
6/14/01: Vladimir Zhuravlev posts an announcement, along with a Russian translation of my Open Letter to Microsoft on the the Russian Visual FoxPro Club at http://nsvisual.com/fox2/letter.php. Hundreds of Russian names suddenly begin to stream in.
6/25/01: VFP 7.0 documentation begins to appear in MSDN. The number of Yes votes stands at 922.
6/26/01: Microsoft announces that VFP 7.0 has been released to manufacturing. That day I receive a mailing promoting subscriptions to MSDN Magazine, with no reference whatsoever to VFP, leading me to post a message on UT entitled "Conspicuous Omissions Department - MSDN Magazine" (Thread #523845). Someone else promptly points out that VFP has disappeared from MSDN's main page at http://msdn.microsoft.com/products. Another intense, protracted debate erupts on UT.
7/9/01: Microsoft mentions the release of VFP 7.0 in its MSDN Flash newsletter, to the applause of the VFP community on UT.
7/15/01: on this day I made my last update of the list for the year 2001, with the tally of Yes votes at 988 and "No" votes standing at 5. (I've been keeping track of votes received since then via the Fox Wiki, postings on IdeaXchg, and email, but these have not yet been processed and published to the main list.)
7/17/01: Microsoft corrects the omission of VFP at msdn.microsoft.com, prompting another round of jubilation on UT.
8/6/01: Robert Green announces his own promotion to managing the launch of Visual Studio .NET, and Ken Levy's appointment as Microsoft's new VFP Marketing Manager. Ken Levy posts an upbeat message "The State and Future of Visual FoxPro" (Thread #540508). Much congratulatory applause follows on UT. I replied to Ken Levy:
"That's some great marketing material! How much of it do you think will be making its way into Microsoft's widely circulated PR newletters in the near future? Without a lot more of that, it's hard to escape the sense that Microsoft perceives the primary market for VFP to be VFP itself."
To this, Ken replied (Message #540534):
"This is also on my list, although I can't discuss the details publicly. The results may take a little time to show, so be patient, but the efforts will be there soon and ongoing."
8/30/01: a feature article to appear prominently in the October issue of MSDN Magazine is previewed online at http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnmag/issues/01/10/default.asp. This is very well received by all on UT.
9/24/01: Steve Ballmer talks about VFP in a 2-minute video on the FoxPro home page. The reaction on UT is ecstatic.
10/1/01: the widely circulated MSDN FLash newsletter includes a link to the Ballmer video.
10/22/01: VFP gets another mention in the MSDN FLash newsletter, including links to recent videos. This was the last significant VFP marketing event of 2001, as far as I am aware.
Footnote dated 1/11/02: my estimate of the current tally, as of today: 1104 votes for Yes, 5 votes for No. Apologies to those whose names have not yet appeared on the main list. I'll eventually get around to updating the list again.