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
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
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.
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.