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Hentzenwerke Publishing and Visual FoxPro Books

"Didn't you say you weren't going to publish any more FoxPro books? But now you announce a VFP 9 book. What's up?

1. Microsoft bought Fox software over a decade ago as a competitive move against Borland, which at the time had both dBASE and Paradox. Hard to remember that they were actually a major software company at one point, huh? Anyway, Microsoft had tried to develop an inhouse database a couple of times and had failed, so they bought Fox software. Many saw the acquisition of Fox as a stalling maneauver until they could do their own in-house database.

2. Microsoft promoted FoxPro 2.x for a year or two, until Borland was ground up. Then they started using it as a testing ground for new technology, while at the same time, letting it's public face languish. With VFP 3, the "MSFT is killing FoxPro" stories started to surface.

3. At that point, they undertook a campaign to let Fox slowly wither away. They put minimal resources into the product, and stopped marketing it outside the existing customer base. Ten years later, outside of a handful of loyal developers and customers, Fox has disappeared from visibility. They have not advertised and promoted the product outside of the VFP market for a decade, and have cut ties to every form of promotion that would attract attention to VFP.

4. Their intent all along has been to let VFP gradually lose market share. The regular threads that whine "Microsoft should market VFP more" are silly. They don't want to grow the Fox market. They want it to languish and slowly disappear. Get it through your heads, folks! They want Fox to slowly go away, and they want Fox developers to move to .NET.

I challenge you to find a single place where a MSFT or VFP marketing has publicly said they want to grow the Fox market. You will never get anyone on the team to say that, because it flat out isn't true.

5. I personally have outlined plans to grow the Fox market several times and talked with Microsoft about them. Their response, each time, was to laugh out loud at me.

Ask yourself - does Microsoft treat VFP as Fox Software did? Do they promote it with the passion and fervor that Fulton and Co. did?

You know in your heart that the answer is 'no'.

6. Eventually the market shrank to the point where even a single guy working out of his house couldn't profitably publish books about FoxPro. When I made that announcement, I'm sure there was dancing in the street in Redmond, as it meant that they were just one step closer to seeing the Fox market disappear.

7. Some people took that announcement as me saying that "I hate FoxPro", and that was a ridiculous interpretation. I love FoxPro, and still use it every day, maintaining my legacy apps, and if I could run FoxPro on Linux without fear of retribution or other legal action from Microsoft, I would be running it for another decade. I'm sure that many of you will be supporting VFP apps well into the 2010's. But for me, there's no longer a profitable business in publishing books.

8. So what's the deal about this New In Nine book on VFP 9? Well, Fox publishing has become a hobby. With the assistance of my printer, I've figured out how to economically produce short runs of books - 250 to 500 copies. It's still not a trivial job - including the costs for production, editing, layout, indexing, shipping, and so on, are still fixed, and it still takes just as much of my time. But I've gotten the printing costs down to a more managable level.

Of course, there's one other issue here. The authors. There was a time when a VFP author of mine could expect to reel in $20,000-$40,000 for a book, which was well above industry average. That was when we sold thousands of books. Thanks to the non-effort of MSFT, those times are long gone.

9. I'd publish a half-dozen VFP 9 (or 10, or 11 <g>) books if there were authors willing to write for the minimal royalties that the reduced sales generate now. I still have a half-dozen VFP-centric topics that need to be covered. But I can't ask someone to spend hundreds or thousands of hours to write a book that will only sell a few hundred copies, and generate less money in royalties than a busy week of consulting would.

(You might ask yourself why someone would want to, if they're only going to sell, at most, less than a thousand books. The answer is, as has always been the truth for many computer book authors, is credentials. If you write the definitive work on VFP and cryptography, or VFP and email automation, or VFP and the Windows API, you now have a calling card that is worth its weight in gold when it comes time to call on a prospective client. Many of my authors have done just that - parlayed a single book into multiple lucrative consulting gigs. I personally never lost a competitive bid after my "Programming VFP 3.0" book came out. It was impossible for another shop to compete when they admitted they learned Visual FoxPro from the book that one of their competitors wrote. Heh!)

It's quite a credit to Tamar, Doug, Rick, Toni and Jim that they're willing to lose their summer to writing and editing a book that they're going to make very little money from. I'll do everything I can to help them generate consulting work from their book.

10. I'll still publish VFP books if someone wants to write them. But make no mistake - this is no longer a profit generating business. Just like Detroit manufacturers and sells small cars at a loss, the FoxPro book market has turned into a professionally run hobby that breaks even at best. "Sorry 'bout that, Chief." Don't shoot the messenger.

Whil Hentzen

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