At 10:07 AM 11/13/01 -0800, Michael Elliott wrote:
>[...]was wondering if Protel ever offered any kind of supplemental
>shape-based or more advanced type of router for PCB3. I know that they did
>for 2.5 and 2.8, but can't find any mention of such in the online manuals
>for PCB3.
>If they did, it might be useful to me. If anyone has a copy to sell (and if
>it is within the terms of the Protel license agreement to do so), or knows
>where I might buy one, please drop me a note at [EMAIL PROTECTED]

I jumped on board at Protel 98, but my understanding is that Advanced 
Route, such as it is, was added for Version 3, I don't think it was new for 
Protel 98. That tool has not been much improved since then, though it can 
be very useful, but we are expecting a greatly improved router with the 
next major release; someone buying or upgrading to Protel 99SE at this time 
is highly likely to receive the new version at no extra charge. (Since Oct. 
1, new 99SE licensees have received ATS included for a one year period. 
This is Protel's recently announced support plan, and it includes all 
upgrades taking place in the year. The next version has pretty much been 
promised "before the end of the year," which doesn't leave a lot of time, I 
have heard no whisper that it is even in Beta; but it might be, I'm not 
necessarily informed of every Beta.)

Waiting to upgrade with Protel has probably not been a good strategy, 
overall. Right now, the upgrade from version 3 to 99SE is $3995 US. If the 
upgrades to 98 and 99 had been purchased when first released, I think it 
would have cost $1990. The ATS issue will add not more than $1995, plus it 
will probably included the *next* release, though that is speculative, 
Protel has made no promises. It might only cost $995, which would match 
earlier hints from Protel employees and would also be more consistent 
overall with general Protel upgrade policy in the past.

Even if the cost is the same, even after factoring for the time value of 
money, it would have been well worth it to have upgraded at the start. The 
productivity improvements in Protel 98 and then in 99 plus the free SE 
release would have easily paid for the upgrade costs if the software were 
being used to any significant degree, even one board a year. (This is 
assuming that one will eventually upgrade.)

Many of us are apprehensive about what is happening with ATS; as it was 
announced, it seemed that it was going to more than double our overall 
effective support costs. That seems a bit extreme. There is some 
indication, unconfirmed, that the upgrade from 99SE to 2002 or whatever it 
will be called, will be less than the announced $1995 ATS price. The 
problem may not be so much with the immediate upgrade, because $1995 will 
not only upgrade the software but it may include the *next* revision if it 
comes out within a year or is otherwise included. That would work out to 
roughly $1K per revision, consistent with past charges. But, after that, 
maintaining the software will be $1995 *per year* and I doubt that Protel 
will come out with two major versions a year! For software that costs 
$7995, that's a 25% maintenance cost per year, nearly double the industry 

What clearly exists now is a $1995 cost to upgrade from Protel 98 to Protel 
99SE, and it includes one year's ATS. I find it difficult to believe that 
Protel is going to have almost exactly the same pricing for a current 98 
licensee as for a current 99SE licensee, which is why I expect the initial 
upgrade from 99 to the next version to be about $995.

Generally, Protel has priced the program such that late buyers of upgrades 
paid more, overall, than early upgraders, but not  by a huge amount -- 
until the recent price increase, when the differential went up about $2K, 
with quite a bit of warning. I don't know what the v. 3 to 98 upgrade was 
when it was new, I'd guess it might have been less than $1K, but not a lot 
less. Then 98 to 99/99SE was $995. So total cost to go from v.3 to 99SE was 
$2K, maybe a bit less. Until recently, the upgrade from v.3 to 99SE was, I 
think, $1995.

If ATS is really worth $2K per year -- most of us think it will not be 
worth that much, obviously we don't know for sure -- then the $1995 at the 
beginning of this year will be about equivalent to $3995 now, given that 
ATS is included in present upgrades.

But the whole thing is a mess. Altium should clean up the mess; I do 
recommend that Altium consider the comments which have been made by users 
on this list and, before further fixing prices, and if changes are 
warranted, get it right.

Historically, at least in recent years, Protel, now Altium, has treated us 
well. I'd like to say that I expect this to continue, but the confusion in 
the ATS announcement has made me uncertain. (We have heard directly 
contradictory comments from Protel sales personnel, contradictory between 
U.S. and Australian sales and contradictory with the actual press release 
of the ATS announcement.

Abdulrahman Lomax
Easthampton, Massachusetts USA

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