Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Avalon good for Macromedia customers

WARNING: mild rant follows.

There is one statistic that Macromedia seems to wish would go away every so often and then it seems to come back and hit them. Microsoft is well aware of this statistic and uses it to great advantage in many ways. Sometimes MS uses it as a way to gain market share. Other times they use it to create demand. Rarely do they disregard it.

Allaire always kept this statistic in the front of their minds, and we loved them for it. Macromedia USUALLY pays attention to it, but you can tell they don't want to and occasionally have to be reminded of it. So, what is the statistic?

98% of all business in the US have less than 100 employees

So when you decide as a company to pursue "Enterprise" software as a model, you've just eliminated all but 2% of your potential market. You concentrate your risk. Your product can be quickly dismissed as a non-option for many businesses without even an evaluation.

Macromedia has done this a few times that I can remember. Once, horribly, with Spectra. Recently with Breeze which they realized and changed course and added per minute pricing (kudos). And most recently with Flex.

I would love to see Flex become a huge success. I think it is the product that corporate America has been dreaming of since the beginning of the internet when our applications became stateless. We're just catching up to the interactivity we had ten years ago across the network.

The problem with Flex right now is that standing up a single production box is quite expensive.

You figure about $6,500 for a solid web server (3.6GHz, 2Gigs memory, dual 72 Gig drives w/ raid 1, Windows SE), 2cpu jrun: 1799, 2cpu enterprise version of cf: 5999, 2cpu version of Flex: 15000. Total: 29,298. A very hard nut to cover for a small business even with some discounting that would be available. Double it to stand up a staging server, triple it to add a development server (although I generally don't do that, workstations work just fine).

In most small and midsized businesses, time and effort is often substituted for cash. This means that many non-large businesses will spend lots of effort trying to roll Flash based apps instead of realizing the benefits of a flex based solution. I think this is unfortunate because the time spent developing the Flash apps is time where the product is not being used and showcasing the Macromedia product line.

With the impending release of Avalon, maybe Macromedia/Adobe will rethink their pricing policy. Since Bruce Chizen says
"Microsoft is the competitor, and it's the one that keeps me up at night", Adobe should really adopt some of Microsoft's strategies. In particular, MS almost always has some sort of "Small Business Edition" that provides a migration path to their more capable products as the company grows.

I like the fact that MM has created a non-commercial license that is essentially free. A huge move in the right direction, but it still leaves a gaping hole in the pricing model. I have confidence that MM has something on the drawing board to address this issue. MM is probably one of the best companies around when it comes to listening to their developer community. It's probably the single biggest reason I've been a MM evangelist for so many years. However, I don't have that level of trust with Adobe. It wouldn't surprise me if the powers that be at Adobe scuttle many of MM's plans.

Why the rant about Flex pricing? It's all been discussed before, even before the price went up. Well, because it's now impacting MY decision process. I've been working on a speculative RIA off and on for the last six months. Flash apps are hard. They take a lot of time and can be really flaky. I see Flex as a great solution to my problem, but the price tag makes the decision REALLY hard. Do you pursue a project that you may not be able to monetize because of high startup costs and an unproven business team? At what point do you have enough confidence to put everything on the line? I'm not sure my project instills enough confidence in me to take that risk. In the mean-time, I'm stuck trying to bludgeon developers into using Flash as a development platform. I hope there is another option around the corner.


  1. I agree with you. We are using CF enterprise for our web app. We looked at flex, but for our two app server cluster we are looking at 30K. That is the reason why we are adopting Ajax based tech. Flex should be part of CF Enterprise.

  2. AJAX definitely steals some of MM's Flash Platform thunder. I really like Flex a lot more than AJAX, but the pricetag makes you consider alternatives.

    As an aside, after all those years of working with DHTML, AJAX just gives me the heebie-jeebies. I haven't had the nerve to actually try doing some development with one of the engines.

  3. Of course you're right on the money. If they would just release the technology as a product that normal Flash Development teams could buy and deploy easily, then almost every customer who bought a copy of Flash would probably buy that add on too, considering the functionality it provides.

    And by looking at Lazlo's stuff, its just a matter of time before some open source alternative gets a little more usable and supplants the possibility of anyone paying 15,000 bucks for it.

  4. well I just wanted to correct something, when you buy cf enterprise you don't need to pay jrun license ;) it's covered by the cf enterprise.

  5. Cool, thanks for the correction. That knocks the total down to $27,499.00.

    Now if we could only find about 10 more errors like that, I'd be in business. ;)

  6. Hello,

    I just left a post but think I failed to post it somehow :(

    Anyway, we agree with you. That may sound surprising coming from Macromedia (I run the Flex and Flash Platform and ColdFusion and Studio businesses here). But to succeed over the next 5 years we need to have a model that draws in millions of developers. And we will :)

    We couldn't do it all in 1.0/1.X. I wish we could. We don't have the time and resources of a company like Microsoft. We had to *focus* to get the product right for a core market and then expand. I think we have been doing that well. Next step is we need a tiered model. Think of the Java ecosystem--from free JVMs and JDKs to free, low priced and high priced tools, from free servers to medium price servers to "enterprise servers" to very high priced portal servers. Lots of different ways for different developers and companies to enter the ecosystem and get value in a way that works for them. We couldn't do all that in 1.X, nor can we in 2.0, but we can move to a more tiered model that builds on what we have started in a high value product for the enterprise but also has an entry point that works for small shops and developers. I think we can do that. I think we can get 1,000,000 developers and also have a great product for the enterprise and ISVs that lets us build a good business and provides a ton of value. It won't happen in the immediate term, but we are all working hard here at Macromedia. And Flex is doing just great in its first year--we have amazing customers building incredible applications.

    thanks for the post...we are on it!



  7. 1 000 000 Developers? We'll see David.

    You'll have to forgive developers for being a little skeptical - I'm talking about the vast majority of developers who like myself will never build an application for an enterprise co, but who are the engine room of the web... servicing those horribly uncool in the boardroom 98% non-enterprise businesses who would benefit from RIAs but don't have fantasy land budgets. You know, the same developers who have helped build MM's success over the years and have stood by and watched MM take the enterprise route and generally loose its way with recent everyday developer product releases e.g. MX 2004

    Macromedia have been talking up RIA's for how many years now? I remember attending Flashforward in SF when Flash 5 was released and RIA's were the future then. Obsurd in retrospect, to promote RIA's to the Flash community at large then handle Flex as MM have. No wonder RIA's remain a sideshow.

    MM need to sort it out fast or someone else will - those 1 000 000 developers aren't going to sit around and continue to wait - and sorting it out doesn't include introducing crippled versions of Flex at cheaper prices.

  8. Let's see...Won't be there until 3.x. OK...That's probably 2007. How many competitors will have taken a strong lead by then?
    If an OS Flex can see the light, it may help promote the technology, but if it's the product of a competitor that gets all the love of the million developers, then Flex will just stay in its niche.