At 02:59 PM 11/15/01 -0500, Sean James wrote:
>Say no more! It's as if Altium (and other big CAD software makers) are
>penalizing the people who are utilizing their software. I wouldn't be
>surprised if the future issues of Protel will have *cracks* available on the
>Internet. I've run into the same situation, you have to upgrade your
>software, but ALAS, the service contract has expired.

Actually, the ATS FAQ does make a few things clear. The upgrade price from 
99SE to the next version has not been set (or at least is not being 
announced at this time), as I had reported from Altium USA sales.

However, there remains an anomaly which I have described previously. It is 
in these three pieces of information from Altium:

I have purchased a Protel 99 SE Full Suite since October 1st 2001. When 
will I receive confirmation of my ATS membership?
As the purchaser of a Protel 99 SE full suite (since October 1st, 2001) you 
are entitled to 12-months free ATS membership. [...]
Can I buy ATS membership for my Protel 99 SE license purchased prior to 
October 1st 2001?
You do not need to purchase ATS for existing Protel 99 SE licenses  you 
will continue to receive ATS-level support and technical resources for your 
license. When you upgrade from Protel 99 SE to the next version of Protel* 
you will then receive 12-months free ATS membership as part of your upgrade.
How much does ATS cost for Protel products?
12-months ATS membership is provided free with all Protel full suite 
upgrades and new licenses. After the initial 12-month free membership the 
annual renewal cost is US $1,995.

Since July 1, the upgrade price for Protel 98 to Protel 99 has been $1995. 
What Protel has now done is to toss in the next upgrade free to those who 
upgrade from 98 to 99 (or buy new or upgrade from an earlier version). We 
who upgraded before October 1 will not get the free upgrade. If the upgrade 
price is on the order of the $995 that was expected at one time, this will 
be reasonable.

However, $1995 *per year* represents as much as a tripling of the 
historical effective Protel maintenance pricing. If the pricing remains 
within reason, I do agree that the ATS system could have its superior 
aspects, and the FAQ addresses many of the issues which we might have with 
ATS. If service improves, if we don't have to wait for the next major 
upgrade for major tools to be released or improved, if our productivity 
improves substantially, this increased cost might be justified for some of 
us. Others will bail, and it is going to be more difficult to sell, I 
predict. Protel's current maintenance/upgrade system has been a strong 
selling point. Jumping from that to something close to double the industry 
standard maintenance cost is, I think, quite an enormous change.

Right now $1995 for ATS for one year for a Protel 98 upgrader is a 
reasonably good deal, a better deal than was available before October 1. If 
the upgrade for 99SE to the next release, however, is $1995, Altium would 
be offering us zero value for our $695-$995-$1495-$1995 upgrade from P98 to 
P99-- depending on when we did it -- that we made to 99SE prior to October 
1. That seems unlikely. If the initial P99-P2002 upgrade is $995, that will 
be in line with historical upgrade pricing for a version upgrade, and it 
will have been a low yearly cost for us, perhaps $500 per year.

But the next year will be quadruple that.

Protel can easily remedy this by lowering ATS pricing beyond the current 
year. It is reasonable for Protel to expect, with an improved and more 
reliable revenue stream, that it will be able to deliver improved quality. 
Quadrupling the quality.... not likely.

Since ATS is not now offered for current 99SE licensees, it makes sense to 
talk about $1995 as the ATS cost *at this time*, since that is the minimum 
that an older licensee, who becomes eligible to receive the latest revision 
through it, will pay. If, upon the release of P2002, Protel lowers the ATS 
*renewal cost* to $995 per year, I think it is likely to be and to be 
perceived as a good value. P98 upgraders who wait beyond an announced 
deadline to upgrade might then pay $2495 or $2995 for ATS, etc.

Further, the problem faced by those who feel they cannot afford ATS will be 
ameliorated if Altium does not severely penalize late adopters. It is 
severe to require those who have not paid maintenance to pay *all* the 
"delinquent" maintenance costs. Based on Protel history, I'd expect that 
jumping onto ATS late will be more expensive than simply paying the current 
year of ATS, and less expensive than paying all the back payments.

One does not want to make it so expensive for an earlier licensee to remain 
in the Protel family that they are motivated to go elsewhere.

Abdulrahman Lomax
Easthampton, Massachusetts USA

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