Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Long Tail: Fortune 500 vs Fortune 500,000

One of my readers, Tom Bellmer, pointed me to this recent posting, commenting on how the next set of successful software will deal with the thousands of smaller businesses, likely moreso than the big Fortune 500 where many companies, including Microsoft, spend their focus.

One of my favorite lines: "They need apps that can’t be categorized. They need apps that break the rules that no longer apply."

I'm a bit in between on this - as an independent developer, I'm always looking for the one job that is going to bring in lots of money - but realistically, I'm very happy dealing with the smaller pieces that go around. Even in Fortune 500 and government departments, many of the actual workers (ie. non IT people) need these innovative solutions.

In the July 23rd Techpodcast roundup, at least two of the participants worked for either large companies or Fortune 500, and they were lamenting how the applications they saw (by larger companies) were terrible both in terms of interface and performance. But how would a small developer get in there?

It has to be done from within, with a sponsor or whoever. People make up corporations and people will support solutions that work. I think the case study that Ken pointed to about Crimestar is an excellent case in point. Here is a flexible tool that could be run on a local database (FoxPro) but also scales to a larger one.

Myself, I've seen tons of smaller applications that make a difference: Basecamp, Newsgator, and many others.

So Tom's email was really about how MS (and VFP specifically) should focus on those companies who are not going to Windows or looking to move away from it. Craig noted a while back that Linux was being shown at a MS show - well, that's all good, but it might be worth it for MS to even consider what it might take to run VFP on another platform (if you're a fan of history, the core of what was in FoxPro 2.0 was actually found in FoxBase+/Mac so it's not completely impossible). But think what you're asking - you have likely one of the smallest development teams in Microsoft, who want their product to work well under their flagship product , Windows, which most of their customers are running. Now is it possible to run FoxPro under other environments? Well, if it wasn't for the lawyers and the EULA, it would be. What is the harm? I think it's purely a matter of time and focus. But can someone tell me what would the harm be in allowing a FoxPro application to run on another environment?

Update: obvious answer from Ted: because foxPro running under Linux doesn't sell more copies of Windows.

If you do think you want to build a DB solution for another platform, consider taking a look at Dabo, something that long-time Fox "pros" Ed Leafe and Paul McNett have been cooking up. Hey guys - do you have any clients running Dabo apps yet?

Sadagopan's weblog on Emerging Technologies,Thoughts, Ideas,Trends and Cyberworld


Ted Roche said...

Andrew said, "But can someone tell me what would the harm be in allowing a FoxPro application to run on another environment?"

Ted: FoxPro is a Windows (tm) development environment sold by Microsoft to encourage the purchase of the Windows Operating Systems. Microsoft is not interested in making money selling development tools; otherwise, we would have Visual Studio.NET for OS X and Linux. The purpose of the Development Tools Division at MSFT is to sell OS licenses.

Andrew: "Hey guys - do you have any clients running Dabo apps yet?"

Ted: Actually, yes. Read the white paper Ed Leafe presented at the 2005 Python conference (PyCon) where he says:

Ed: "Having said that, there are applications written in Dabo are already in use in several companies"

It's at:

Check out the screenshots in the paper! I didn't make it to the conference due to a prior engagement, but heard from several local attendees that Dabo was quite well-received.

Andrew MacNeill said...


Good point - although I do find it to be of a chicken and egg type of deal.

Owner: I want a solution that does x and y.
Dev: what system do you have?
Owner: I have Windows
Dev; that means I will give you x

The day of an owner saying "i'll get what you want me to get" especially for a smaller desktop app, I think, is in the past.

Of course, I have been wrong before (and you always catch me on that! :) )

That's great about the Dabo stuff. I've been tinkering with Python but this really makes it an interesting area for sure.

Andrew MacNeill said...

Oh - and no one start on me being "anti-Windows". I don't have a problem with Windows over other systems. I just want a good operating system.

As they were mentioning on Buzz Out Loud on Cnet, every O/S, every browser, every software has their problems and when you're the BSOC (Big Software on Campus), you're the easiest target.

I think Ted does hit the nail on the head though - MS is not interested in making money selling dev tools - the purpose is to sell OS licenses (and other tools).

Anonymous said...

Andrew: "Hey guys - do you have any clients running Dabo apps yet?"

Well, yes, almost. I'm *finally* making headway in getting my internal TimeTracker application ported from VFP to Dabo. It has been a great exercise because I keep finding places in Dabo that need serious improvement, and then I get sidetracked by improving those things and discovering other things, etc.

The underlying Dabo is really maturing. It still lacks a robust report writer, but the rest of the user interface is very nice. So... the state of my TimeTracker app right now is that I can enter time, review invoices, update client information, etc. But I can't *print* invoices yet (gotta switch to VFP to do that).

But... I'm working really hard on getting a good report writer cooked up. It natively creates PDFs which work nicely on all platforms, and is "band-based" like VFP. As of this writing, it only knows how to print string, images, and rectangles, it knows nothing about groups or report variables, but on the bright side it can rotate any object and it has the concept of PageBackground and PageForeground (ignore the bands if you want).

My next plan (once I get my TimeTracker printing invoices and statements -g-) is to write some simple apps for free or low cost for local businesses to prove Dabo at a real client site.

So... stay tuned but do start taking a look at our work. We are very proud of it.

--Paul McNett