Ruby points out that, after NeXT shifted its strategy, developers needed to "rethink their business model or slowly wither on the vine," and later, that newer developers were "prepared to go where NeXT led them." Wherever that might be. The road of NeXT's history is littered with abandoned marketing plans, major changes in corporate strategy, large numbers of personnel changes, and sudden surprises Ð from dropping optical disks to laying off hundreds of people to announcing new alliances every six months or so.
Ruby makes the presumption that developers are only interested in the NEXTSTEP platform itself, and that they will (and should) adapt in whatever way necessary to the vagaries of the platform. This misses the point. RightBrain Software developed software for people, for users. We are not technology junkies. It is ridiculous to assume that the correct thing to do is follow all of the twists in the NeXT highway system because it is the One True Way.
It is perhaps true that we could have "adapted" to NeXT's new focus, but that sort of assumes that all we really want to do is to program NEXTSTEP and that we'll blindly follow wherever the path leads. Ruby writes that I "stubbornly stuck to the mainstream vision until reality forced [me] to pull the plug." Well, what I really did was to try to finish what I started, to deliver PasteUp, fix the bugs, support my customers, and develop new products. It is true that we pulled the plug because of reality, but that reality wasn't forced on us Ð it was a choice.
We were still seeing strong sales of PasteUp the day we ceased operations, and, if that were not the case, I seriously doubt that Anderson Financial would have acquired PasteUp. It wasn't clear to me that the NeXT market had made any progress in the three years I had been involved in it, and I wasn't interested in finding out the hard way. If my goal in life were to program NEXTSTEP, then sure, I could have survived spotty sales and paid bills by doing contract programming for a bank or developing mission-critical ObjectWare for the CIA. But that was never my goal.
Nor is it Software Ventures' goal, nor Adobe's, nor WordPerfect's, nor Frame Technology's, nor Lotus's, nor any of the many developers who have made brief appearances in the Product Catalog over the years.
It is difficult enough to plot NeXT's path looking backwards through time, and I submit that it's impossible to chart it into the future. NeXT doesn't even know where it's going, and when it does know, it always springs it on the rest of us as a series of surprises, some of which are extremely difficult to adapt to quickly (like the demise of its hardware line). My crystal ball was filled with tule fog like the Central Valley of California, and I decided to pull off the I-5 to avoid the possibility of a 100-car pileup (to stretch the analogy a bit).
I also found it amusing to read that "both companies will miss the coming wave of third-party software sales." This wave has been coming for several years now. I think it's just rhetoric. If you look at the measurable phenomena, you can see a large efflux of high-visibility developers, an influx of small unknown developers, and, on the good side, an increase in the installed base. Of course, we don't know exactly what the increase is, only that it "exceeds expectations." And we don't know what percentage of the installed base will be buying third-party applications. It's all theoretical: "It's gonna be great," with the emphasis on "gonna."
I don't know whether the NEXTSTEP software market will increase, and neither does Ruby. I chose to get involved in something more predictable, more rewarding, and less of a roller coaster. Currently, I am developing publishing software for Windows and the Macintosh, and I was very surprised to find that I can produce working software very rapidly. NEXTSTEP is great, but you know what? It's not that much better than the Mac. Besides, even if NeXT realizes its goal of 100,000 units in 1994, that will still be 100 times smaller than the Mac market, and 500 times smaller than the Windows market.
NeXTWORLD might recall that, for many months, the number-one position on its own Ten Most Wanted list was a page-layout program like QuarkXPress. That is what I set out to deliver. It took only about two years, which is pretty quick development for a product like that, but, by the time we finished, the market had completely changed, and publishing was not a part of it any more. And now I pick up NeXTWORLD only to read my own epitaph (which I can assure you is premature), and to read that the reason we are among the "dearly departed" is that we did what you thought we should have done a couple of years ago, namely develop a shrinkwrapped page-layout application.
In summary, you paint a picture in which we made a lot of strategic mistakes and stubbornly refused to accept the changing market. I'll concede that we didn't accept the changing market, but it wasn't stubbornness: It was good business sense. When NEXTSTEP software development grows from a religious passion to a smart business pur- suit, maybe you'll see some of us again. Meanwhile, I'll be thumbing through the pages of Inside Macintosh and spending more time with my dogs.
If we confined ourselves to happy talk, we would lose credibility with our readers. NeXTWORLD makes no bones about being partisan to-wards NEXTSTEP, but we are not a marketing arm of NeXT. We aim to serve our readership by covering the challenges, as well as the benefits, of using NEXTSTEP. Ð NW
For the record
The DiskMaker review on page 38 of the December 1993 issue sports an incomplete e-mail address. You can contact SmartSoft either at email@example.com or info@ smartsoft.com.
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