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Lawsuit happenings

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Just finished reading Jerry Pournelle's take on the Microsoft findings. I think that, in many ways, he is spot-on. Reading his adventures with the developer programs awakened some neurons in my brain that have been hibernating for the past few years, so I'm gonna relate my own experiences with the IBM and Apple developer programs.


As I've mentioned a few times in the past, all of the games in my current product-line are written using a C++ application framework called StarView. It was created by the same StarDivision that, after years of obscurity, finally made headlines by giving away their office suite and getting purchased by Sun, but I digress. Anyway, it's one of those frameworks that exists on several platforms, including Win16, Win32, Mac, Solaris, and OS/2. I chose to develop the games for Win16, Win32, and Mac, as that was (and is) the lion's-share of the market.

This was early 1996. Windows 95 was a big seller, but there still were a lot of OS/2 fans out there. My licenses with Expert did not require that I exclusively sell my games through them. I knew that OS/2 versions of my games would never be published commercially, but I figured if I could get a couple-hundred OS/2 users to register my games as shareware, it'd be worth my time. I got an evaluation copy of StarView for OS/2, and tried to hook up with IBM for development tools.

Well, to call IBM a mess would be way too kind. The only C++ compiler available was IBM's own, and it was so slow that it literally took 20 minutes to compile a single game, reducing my productivity to near zero. I would have preferred Borland, but they had just bugged out of the market, with IBM paying them $$$ for guaranteed sales that never happened.

Furthermore, I had heard that IBM had a developer program similar to MSDN, but I couldn't find anyone on the phone who knew of it.

The capper, however, came when I finally hooked up with OS/2's version of a multimedia evangelist, who I was able to find because I had a friend on the OS/2 Austin team who knew of him. Figuring all of my problems were solved, I told him of my adventures and how I was having trouble getting things going with them. He apologized for their situation. I then heard a drawer open and some shuffling sounds. He then told me that he would send me a copy of the multimedia developer's CD as long as I promised to send it back, as it was his only copy. I told him not to bother and never looked back.


This story doesn't involve me directly, but I was pretty closely involved with the whole situation. From 1994 until 1996, I worked for a small Mac development company named Foresight Technology. They were working on a nice networked contact management product called FastPace Instant Contact, and I was hired to get the Windows port going. This was right when Apple was gearing up to sell their new Macs based on the PowerPC processor. The guys at Foresight wisely decided that releasing a PowerMac version of their software at the same time as the PowerMac hit the streets would be a good way to get some press and some sales. Over a year earlier, Apple had announced a "developer preview" program that would allow developers to get pre-release hardware and development kits. It was expensive (the projected retail cost of the new PowerMac), but they figured it would be worth it if they could get their product out faster.

Well, the hardware never arrived. No pre-release developer information arrived. Foresight ended up having to purchase the new Metrowerks C++ compiler, as Apple didn't release a compiler. One week before the new PowerMacs hit the streets, Foresight received a new PowerMac machine. The president of the Foresight wrote an angry letter to MacWeek explaining how worthless their pre-release program was, and how Apple was guaranteeing a dim future for themselves by pissing off developers.

Well, the letter got some buzz, but we never got a response from Apple. We did, however, get a call from somebody else. . .

One morning, Foresight's president called me into his office. Microsoft's development evangelist was on the phone, and he wanted to know what he could do to help us out. A week later, we got a box containing the new Visual C++, Windows NT Server, Visual Basic, an MSDN subscription, and some games, T-shirts, and frisbees. A month later, head Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki got wind of what happened and wrote a full-page column about it in MacWeek as a fine example of how Apple is throwing themselves out of the market by alienating developers.

As a postscript, I just signed up for MS's developer program for Win2k. It cost $10, and it included the Win2k developer CD, A CD of development tools for their new "baby SQL server" engine, a CD of tools for their new setup engine, and a year's subscription to MSDN.

Say what you will about Microsoft, but they do realize that developers sell their products.
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