Dear Microsoft shareholders, how much Visual FoxPro worth?

With the recent announcement(March 13) that Microsoft will not make Visual Foxpro v10, a lot of people were sad, me included. Many smaller companies relied on Visual FoxPro(VFP) because it is a great tool for them and fit well with their needs/budgets. They don't need Access or SQL Server(yet) but something in between. Visual FoxPro fitted that need. They might go latter to SQL server(back end) but still keep VFP for rapid development or front end. Some even use VFP to make a fast prototype to show clients and then they go from there. To Microsoft credit, you will offer Sedna and service pack 2 this summer and keep service until 2015(2015-01-13 to be exact). Take my case All of my career path was with FoxPro/dBase/Clipper. My first summer job as a programmer was with Clipper Summer '87(Haaa! memories). My internship(4 months) when in college was with dbFast from BumbleBee Software for a small company under Windows v2.x(Yes! Windows 2.x). My first contract out of college was with FoxPro DOS v2. My first real job was with FoxPro DOS and then we migrated to Visual FoxPro, on my advice, but we looked at other non Microsoft products. Even my sidelines contracts were in Visual FoxPro: One was to convert from FoxPro DOS(first contract) to VFP and another one from Clipper to VFP. MIS Info Video and Info2MIS are programmed in Visual FoxPro because:
  • I wanted to show what is possible to do with VFP in a none typical field(multimedia)
  • I wanted to launched something fast and, of course, leverage what I knew.
Later, by using a third party tool ActiveX, I was able to integrate a media player in MIS Info Video v2.0. Of course, I will learn new languages and try to make the best of it and hope that the database side are as easy with them than with Visual FoxPro. But now, my mind think database first and I will be able to take what I have learned with Visual FoxPro and transpose it to the new language. But how many are like me and more importantly, how many small companies can afford the switched? They have until 2015 but at what cost to them? Why Microsoft did that? From your business point of view, I can understand why. It was a product bought from another company way back and was not properly sold to management. Your efforts was to mostly to sell Visual Studio and .NET. But, some good people in the Visual FoxPro Group did tried. What about the FoxPro community? MasFoxPro started a campaign to change your the mind. They ask you to come back on that decision, sell to a 3rd party for continued development or make it open source. I signed the petition. So what about you Microsoft shareholders? It's all about money after all and you want results. But you should also asked questions like: How much will it cost to keep service alive until 2015? I can't answer that question but I think it would not be a lot. Let's say 1 person at $80 000/year(MS must pay well) for 7.5 years(2015-01-13) equals $600 000. This is just a ballpark number and it can be lower. The main task of that person will only be in supporting version v9 SP2 calls. How much licenses can we sell on a now discontinued product? Most of the people already have the latest and those that don't will look elsewhere being it's now discontinued. It's not a guarantee that they will look at a Microsoft product again and some in protest will look at non-Microsoft alternative. Numbers are harder in this case. What if we sell v10.0 of Visual FoxPro at $200/license with upgrades(v11 and+) at $75/version? I saw that 100 000+ are using it at this moment with 2-3 times more illegally. Let's take the first number and to be safer I will lower it by 25%. 75 000 x $200 = $15 000 000 (Price for new and old clients, no upgrades) A small team of 5 could do the work. Better visual effect and integration with .NET or the thing/OS of the day at Microsoft. 5 team x $100 000 = $500 000/year (Part of the current team) 1 PR x $100 000 = $100 000/year (Sell to small companies owners) Budget x $500 000 = $500 000/year (Publicity, travel, equipment...) Other x $400 000 = $400 000/year (Lease, unexpected, training, distribution, accounting...) So, for 1.5 Millions(12 months for v10), you can have $13 500 000 in profit.
Now for the upgrades: With a new version on 18 months cycle and by keeping the 75 000 75 000 x $75 = $5 625 000/version 1.5M x 18 months = $2 250 000 (cost of development) A profit of $3 375 000 per upgrade and that's not counting new clients at $200. If you think that salaries a low, just come to Quebec City. ;) It's about 2 times the average. Plus, being a bilingual city, the team will think in developping more for multilingual clients(v11) and sell more overseas. :D How much can you sell it to a 3rd Party company? A fair price would be 1.2 Million. Take the $600 000 x 2 for a discontinued product. A new company would need to rebuild all the team($$$) but you are not supporting it anymore and make a nice profit. What good PR can you get from making it open source and what is your lost(Patents)? Good PR would be good for you but you might not want to do that because of the technology(Patents) that you want to use in your other products or keep the patents. Can you give it to a non-profit organization while keeping patents? If you don't want to support it yourself, then give it to the community(non-profit group) with a clause that source/patents are to be kept secret and still belong to Microsoft. Good PR for you! 10 team x $ 75 000 = $750 000/year (New team but with salaries for experienced programmers ) 1 PR x $ 75 000 = $ 75 000/year (Sell to small companies owners) Budget x $350 000 = $350 000/year (Publicity, travel, equipment...) Other x $325 000 = $325 000/year (Lease, unexpected, training, distribution, accounting...) Would need 1.5M/year budget. 75 000 x $30/upgrades = $2 250 000/version 1.5M x 18 months = $2 250 000 (cost of development is longer because of new team) That will cover the cost of each version. Or to raised the initial money, members could give $20/year instead of upgrades. 75 000 x $20/upgrades = $1 500 000/year Asking $40-60 to new comers will give a little leeway in the budget. Remember it's not open source but a non-profit. Microsoft saves $500 000 on the long run but you will send a current team member($100 000) during the transition. Again come to Quebec City to lower cost! ;) Conclusion Granted, I don't have the real numbers but the best thing would be for Microsoft to continue it's development and make a profit or give Visual FoxPro to a non-profit and have good PR and keep programmers and their clients in the Microsoft world. You don't want them to look elsewhere? The current version Visual FoxPro is stable enough but it can always be improved a little each 12-18 months. The word version exist for that!
Keywords: Business, Info2MIS, MIS Info Video, Passion, Software, Technology, Visual Foxpro


Good article, and good points what you make!

Thanks, I do my best! ;-)


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