About application developers, platform licensing and bananas.

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I took the time yesterday evening to catch up with my reading, and came across some great posts about Application Platforms. Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” and posted “Do Application Developers Need To Change Their Ways?”. He makes four recommendations to application developers – Understand the business in your bones”, “Be a developer not a coder”, “Use new technologies, but only when they make a difference”, and “Become Architects again”. As someone who evangelizes the abstraction of technological issues as a way to facilitate quality application development with a focus on the business solution, I am fully in agreement with Mike’s post. My recent post about A broader perspective on Google’s CHROME OS is very much along the same lines.

Another entry that I found highly relevant is John Rymer’s “Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads” (also on the Forrester blog). John relates to the recent work he did with Mike on CEP platforms, and forwards the argument that Platform vendors should offer unrestricted downloads for developers, in order to encourage them to adopt the platform and use it in production projects. And as far as survival goes, those vendors would collect revenue “as serious shops come back for deployment support including paid licenses”. We have the same passionate discussion time and again at Magic Software, in each licensing and pricing policy meeting. It is much easier said than done, in particular when your core product is the Platform. Megavendors such as Microsoft or IBM can and do promote much of their development technologies as lost leaders, compensating the freebies via (sometimes hefty) licenses on other parts of their technology that are required to complement the application environment. Most pure play vendors cannot afford that luxury, and in order to continue and innovate and support their operations they need to get revenue from almost any value added activity they perform. And when it comes to Open Source, the harsh reality is that there are very few vendors in this space who manage to survive independently for an extended period – most flare and then are either acquired or just fade away.

Let’s take both posts together – after all, it’s all about application development and John and Mike jointly report about it. Paraphrasing on Jackson’s song, Mike asks “What if application development professionals look in the mirror? What changes would you make to develop better applications?”. They also report that “Developers consistently tell us they want unrestricted platform downloads — no time bombs, no forced contacts with the vendor’s sales staff, no limited-function versions”. Let me take this reasoning boldly further. In other words, those developers who want unrestricted free platform downloads should be willing to do their own development work for free – hoping that their employer would find their work useful enough to pay them for subsequent support! Or maybe they should look in the mirror, and apply the same criteria they’d like for themselves to their fellow developers who develop platforms.

There’s also something to be learned from the banana merchants and the Max Havelaar foundation (incidently, the original story is related to Java – the island…). The foundation promotes fair trade and pay, and certifies that a minimal fair portion of the revenue from agricultural products from developing countries reaches the farmers who produced it. In the supermarket, Max Havelaar branded bananas are a bit more expensive than the non certified ones, yet they are very popular and sell well.

Would you rather buy Max Havelaar bananas? How about seriously evaluating a non-production version of an application platform that supports Mike’s recommendations?

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4 responses to “About application developers, platform licensing and bananas.

  1. Eyal Pfeifel, the new CTO at Magic Software Enterprises posted a message at the Magic Forum today stating: “My aim is to bring this
    product to greatness.” This message was in response to a thread from the most devoted, loyal and evangelistic Magic developers on the planet. The thread issued a simple plea – we’re a dying breed, Magic management must think differently to reverse this trend. And the trend is very apparent. Without an attractive entry point it is virtually impossible to recruit new developers.

    Eyal Pfeifel words are nothing new. I have heard these words for the past 20 years. During this time period Magic consistently has knocked the ball out of the park with regard to creating a product that offers superior productivity. Yet, by all accounts, when it comes to marketing the product they have underacheived on a colossal scale.

    Luckily for Magic, the internet is a game changer. In the past, it was impossible to compete with IBM or Microsoft. Now, the smallest vendor can spread the word simply by having the best product. Of course, if the product is not made available it can’t be marketed. Hence the plea to use Magic’s ingenuity to “finally” deliver a free download that will act as a screaming messenger, if you will A Shot Heard Round the World to wake people up out of their 3GL coma. Yes, I want to see 500,000 downloads! Please join the discussion/revolt at the Magic Forum where this issue can be discussed in more detail:

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/magicu-l/messages

    Thanks,

    Randy

  2. avigdorluttinger

    Randy,

    Thanks for bringing this up here. I looked up the Magic Forum and found that most opinions were essentially along the “Max Havelaar” principle – give us a free download with which we can fully test the product in a real situation, but put in whatever limitation to prevent reasonable productive use. I fully support this approach.

  3. Avigdor,

    Please read the posts under the current thread “Why not Zero?” – especially the most recent posts. I believe Magic is missing out on a potential marketing bonanza, a sector that could increase visibility as well as reverse the trend with regard to recruiting new developers. Let’s be honest, Guy Bernstein’s latest comments in the Wall Street Transcript did not offer a realistic alternative to growing Magic’s developer base other than waiting out the recession. At the very least, it’s time to have an open discussion. Looks like Eyal is doing a good job of this, you also have much to offer, please be critical and let us know what you think.

  4. avigdorluttinger

    I did read the “why not zero” recent posts, which was the basis to my previous comment. Personally, I believe that most concerned persons share a similar view, and that it is rather a matter of time and quality until we would get more compeling eval versions of uniPaaS. Let’s give Eyal the time and credit to move things.

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