The VSE and Cincom discussion – part 2


A few days ago I posted about a discussion group mail about the state of Visual Smalltalk Enterprise. Since the original posting, a few comments showed up on squeak-dev, but nothing really new as compared to the last few times when VSE users tried to convince Cincom and other companies to open source the product.

Now Henrik, who started the discussion, also posted two comments on this blog, which I would like to respond to.

But before I do so, let me say that I neither have any information on what Cincom owns or not, nor do I know anything about Seagull or Rocket Software. I even have no idea how much Cincom charges for VSE support, nor have I ever needed their support and therefore have no idea if their support is good or not.

So let’s take a look at Henrik’s comments:

The people who are still using VSE today are not going to port their applications period, the ones that had the money to porting allready did so years ago. But a number of VSE customers have existing applications developed in VSE and are trying to keep them alive, only to find that Cincom is acting offensive.

I know a few projects that still use VSE and are planning to move away from it. They just haven’t found the right product or vendor or even technology to move to. In most of the organisations with these projects, budget problems are not really an issue. It’s more a question of not being convinced of any alternative – a few years ago, there have been concrete plans to move to java, but these plans are obsolete today for several reasons – both technical and political.

But Henrik is right: many VSE projects have lived with the situation for a long time and haven’t taken any action, and some won’t do for a while to come – the rationaly behind that surely is that as long as there is support for hard problems available, and as long as VSE covers their needs, there is no need to change that.

Some of the projects that still use VSE and still implement new features, however, simply postponed their decision for way too long. They might be in a more comfortable situtation today if only they had made any decision at all five or eight years ago. Even if they had chosen to port to Java or C++, they would probably spend much more effort into maintenance and development than they do now, but at least they’d have left uncertainty and doubt behind. Now they are just adding new feature to their software and duck under their desks whenever a new Windows version is being released. They still need to make a decision but they take the risk of one day having to make the switch within only a few weeks or months, while they could’ve taken their time over the last few years. The uncertainty of possibly taking the wrong decision is not shrinking, even though it’s said that time heals every wound.😉

So much for the “VSE projects won’t port!” argument.

Henrik does not provide any details on his perception of offensive actions by Cincom. So it seems he somehow feels threatened by Cincom, but does not share any facts. It is really hard to comment on such a statement.

The same goes for this one:

I am frustrated by the fact that Cincom is blocking the transfer of IP from Seagull software to a fundation. Cincom is trying to milk more money from their current VSE customers.

I would guess that this means he (maybe together with other people) tried to build a foundation and Seagull/Rocket Software already signalled they’d be willing to give away or sell their rights or IP to it, but Cincom didn’t. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give any details here. So this might or might not be true.

But in any case, even if it is true, it is okay for Cincom to not give their rights away and to continue charging for support. No VSE user is obliged to pay for support, and Cincom is not obliged to give any gifts to anybody. So if their support is useless, dont pay. If the support is helpful and you profit from it, but you can’t afford it: too bad, I’m sorry for you.

Everybody agrees that VSE is “dead” and it would suit Cincom to just let the product go.

Hmm. I agree that VSE is not a strategic platform, even if this is a sad thing. And I agree that it would be nice of Cincom to just let the product go (even without being able to judge if they could if they wanted), but I see no reason to try and put some moral pressure on them. If Cincom wants to be generous to VSE users, we’ll all think that it’s really nice of them.But if it doesn’t?

Maybe this whole thing is just a case of bad luck with formulating your ideas in a foreign language, and you never wanted to sound like a rebel. Maybe you just wanted to ask Cincom to give away their IP publicly in order to find people to support you. I guess there are many people who would support you in an effort to try and motivate Cincom to let the product go.

But as long as you don’t provide any facts about Cincom putting pressure on people who want to support VSE customers, this can easily be seen as an attempt to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) rather than trying to do any good to the VSE community. You don’t even say who Cincom is putting pressure on or what they do to put pressure on them. Who are these people?

And , if what you are talking about is an attempt of Cincom to stop another company from selling a VM that runs VSE code, then this is a totally different story: does this company violate any rights that Cincom owns or not?

A few VSE customers might actually go out of business due to the increasing mandatory support fees from Cincom….

So what you are saying is that you have to pay Cincom for support of VSE in order to be allowed to use it? I doubt that.

If what you are saying is: Cincom’s support is so expensive and since we need it it really puts our business at risk, then I’d say it’s time to port your software. In that case, the software obviously is very essential for your business and staying on a platform that is not developped any further (and nobody makes any secrets about this) is dangerous and probably not really clever. It is not very likely the state of VSE changes any time soon to a state in which things look much more promising.

On the other hand, you will hardly find software companies that support versions of their products that are more than a decade old, and if you find them, it is very likely their support contracts will be getting more expensive every year.

I don’t believe that a “new open source killer windows oriented killer smalltalk” is to be build upon the remains of VSE, I “just” want existing VSE customers to survive.

This depends heavily on your definition of survival. You’ve survived more than a decade already, knowing about the state of affairs for a long time. If survival means sitting on a Windows 95 box and not change that running system, you’ve already proven that it’s possible. If it means running on Windows 2013 64 bit and Oracle 14x with no hassles, then I guess your expectation is wrong. And Digitalk told you so more than ten years ago.

6 thoughts on “The VSE and Cincom discussion – part 2

  1. But as long as you don’t provide any facts about Cincom putting pressure on people who want to support VSE customers, this can easily be seen as an attempt to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) rather than trying to do any good to the VSE community. You don’t even say who Cincom is putting pressure on or what they do to put pressure on them. Who are these people?

    I understand completely why my posting is considered FUD by some people. I am sorry to say that I cannot produce evidence.

    You might argue that the *total silence* from other VSE users gives a hint about the situation.

    I do have the best intensions for the VSE users left. As a VSE user you need to be carefull not to hurt the relationship with the supplier who has a “kill switch” to your business. I on the other hand “has nothing to loose”, since I am no longer using VSE, nor any other Cincom products.

  2. If survival means sitting on a Windows 95 box and not change that running system, you’ve already proven that it’s possible. If it means running on Windows 2013 64 bit and Oracle 14x with no hassles, then I guess your expectation is wrong.
    You clearly haven’t seen applications written in VSE for a while. There are several applications running on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Oracle 14x, SQL Server 2008 etc.

    Actually VSE is one of the few Smalltalk dialects that have had the least problems coping with newer versions og operating systems, databases etc.

    But my point is not about whether VSE is capable of running on future versions of operation system (it will be), it is a matter og whether Cincom will allow the current users to keep doing so.

    1. Well, running on a new Windows version is one thing. That’s true for most Smalltalks as long as MS keeps Windows backwards compatible. Using new features easily by writing nice Smalltalk code instead of using more and more DLLs and write your own wrappers, is another one.
      I am well ware that there are projects out there that produce applications in VSE that have a great and modern look&feel. In some cases much better than what’s possible in VW or VA. But it needs more work than it should.

  3. So what you are saying is that you have to pay Cincom for support of VSE in order to be allowed to use it? I doubt that.
    Though you might doubt it, it is in fact so for some VSE users.

    1. interesting. can you elaborate a bit? Is a support contract really needed to use VSE and deploy?
      Why are you saying “some customers”? Do you mean things like runtime fees for sold copies of your app? So inhouse applications are free?
      I really ask out of curiosity.

      1. I say “some customers”, since there are alot of different contacts between cincom and their customers. What is legal for one customer might be a contract violation for another. Rerember that some of these contracts dates way back (from the Digitalk time), while others are relatively new – less than 10 years🙂, and others might be quite new (only a few years old).

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