Abd ul-Rahman: 

Thank you kindly for your comprehensive response to my post. You have
cleared up for me the whole ATS situation. You suggest at one point that
perhaps users would not mind paying a fee for continuing support to the
software. I do see your point, but I think the responsibility for product
quality and creative marketing should primarily be with the software seller.
If I apply this business sense to the work that I do, I might conclude that
once I have designed a pcb for a product, that my livelihood will soon be
gone, for the customer will be happy with the design, and continue to order
pcbs for the life of the product, but I no longer have any income myself. If
my scruples were questionable, I might build user obslenence into my design,
so that the customer must come back after a certain time to ask for a
redesign, that way I keep my cash flow. But you will agree that this would
be underhanded business practice. Rather it is my responsiblity to create my
designs in such a way that I meet the need of the customer, and once he is
happy, I must come up with new creative ideas of what else I might sell to
him, or other customers, to keep myself gainfully employed. If I do a poor
job of my design and it requires my customer many extra dollars for me to
continue to fix the design eventually he will no longer be a customer, but
find someone more able to produce the results he needs in less time and with
less money. The point is that the responsibility to make the product solid
and viable is with the seller. The recent press release is a good example of
this principle working as it ought.

Thanks again,

-----Original Message-----
From: Abd ul-Rahman Lomax [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]]
Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2002 2:04 PM
To: Protel EDA Forum
Subject: Re: [PEDA] Protel service packs will be free to all users

At 02:21 PM 9/16/2002 -0700, Daniel Webster wrote:
>lease help me to understand this. While ATS is said to be scraped (Thank
>you Altium, this is a very encouraging development, and as one of the long
>time customers, convinces me to take another hopeful look at continuing
>Protel software), yet this paragraph seems to imply that some users will
>for "hotline phone support and pre-paid upgrades", and ATS contracts will
>honored in full. What meaneth this ?

I don't think it is too hard to understand, though there are certainly 
aspects that have not been made clear. As I read it, Protel is returning to 
the "free service pack" and "fee for upgrade" policy. Yet if you have 
already paid for ATS, you will get what you paid for, i.e., any upgrades 
that are released during the maintenance period for which you paid. 
Further, you may get special access to a support hotline.

Telephone support is expensive and I would not be surprised to find that 
Altium maintains a support product for those who want hotline support after 
the first year. Most users won't need it. And most of the rest can use this 
list or lists like it, we find that better answers come this way anyway.

>  Is ATS scraped or not? Why would some
>customers pay a fee to recieve special support, while others will recieve
>for free.

ATS was a program which promised certain things. The big thing was upgrade; 
phone support was improved for people on ATS. I think, I don't know from 
experience. Protel phone support was never very good, but the users made up 
for it in spades with mutual support.

This means, effectively, DXP "free" for those who paid the ATS fee while 
owning P99SE -- this would only be people who paid the DXP upgrade --, or 
who had ATS included when they bought P99SE at the price that increased 
about the same time that the ATS plan was announced.

ATS is scrapped as the only way that support and upgrade would be provided. 
We don't know what they would have done, since ATS did not live long 
enough, but with other companies, sometimes it is necessary to pay all 
maintenance up to date in order to get the latest product. This essentially 
penalizes late buyers, since they pay the full amount yet have missed all 
the intermediate upgrades and bug fixes, etc.

It would not be at all offensive for them to establish a program providing 
premium support, say, a guaranteed phone-back time, as well as free 
upgrades, maybe a certain amount of training, for an annual fee. They could 
have called it ATS, in fact. But it would not be a great idea, now, to call 
it that. I'd suggest calling it "Premium Support," or something like that.

>  This sounds like some users will be paying for the bug fixes while
>others users wait and recieve the free service packs. I am just a little
>confused here !

No, it definitely means that when a service pack is released (and that is 
how bug fixes are provided), every licensee for the program (including, 
traditionally, demo users) will have access to it. They won't be looking at 
whether or not you are current on maintenance.

When a new product is released, which typically is not fully 
file-compatible and has a great deal of variant code, introducing many new 
features, it will be available by paying an upgrade charge. That charge may 
change over time, but, historically, it has changed fairly slowly or with 
plenty of notice, and even sometimes is decreased with special offers. 
Typically at some point Protel announced that purchasers of the current 
version would get the next one free. My own opinion is that they should 
stage this somewhat, because it offends my sensibilities that someone who 
bought the program on July 31 would basically be SOL compared with one who 
bought it a day later. (They could do this by, at the same time, giving, 
retroactively, a partial credit toward upgrade for earlier buyers, perhaps 
so much per month so that there is no sudden jump in cost based on a 
trivial time difference.)

Notice that the way they have done it, earlier buyers of a program 
sometimes pay *more*, effectively, to get through the next version. Altium 
sales has explained this to me as justified because the earlier purchaser 
had the use of the program for all that intermediate time. That's true, but 
the argument breaks down when the delay in purchase was only a day or a 
week or a month!!!

>I will add my voice to all the others. I would very much appreciate a SP7
>for P99SE with sensitivity to all the requests made by the many users on
>this forum.

I support that. The pain of providing it could be reduced for Altium by 
restricting it to a specific list of true bugs, or maybe a few easy feature 
enhancements, and this could be discussed with users for some time, perhaps 
even *negotiated*, i.e., "well, we can't do that, it is too difficult, we'd 
have to divert too much programming labor, but how about ****?". It is not 
fair to insist on indefinite support of a version, but mission-critical 
aspects of the program should arguably be bug-free by the time ongoing 
fixes are dropped. And it should never crash from its own internal 
workings, which can lead to substantial loss of data. Or only very rarely. 
By now we, as users, should be able to identify *all* areas that Altium 
might be expected to fix.

>  I am able to use P99SE and function with it quite proficiently,
>but like others, I can see room for improvements, and a need to stamp out
>the bugs. After reviewing DXP and following the comments of other users, it
>is clear that DXP (at least for me) is an unworkable solution.

So far. I fully expect it to become the upgrade to have, however. So how do 
we help keep Altium cash-happy until DXP is fully ready? Since Protel 
provided free service packs for quite a while for P99SE, perhaps a one-time 
charge for SP7, fully applicable to upgrade later, would receive user 
support. To at least toss a bone to those who say that "all bug fixes 
should be free forever" -- which they aren't going to get -- perhaps a few 
feature enhancements might be tossed in.

I think those of us who realize that there ain't no such thing as a free 
lunch would think of such an upgrade fee as a fair investment in the 
improvement of the product, both immediately through the service pack and 
in the long run through DXP.

>  I am not
>interesting in relearning the software all over again, and finding it more
>cumbersome to perform the same tasks I did easily in 99SE.

My concern as well. Again, I'm quite confident that Altium will deal with 
this issue, it should not be terribly difficult, I'm a little mystified as 
to why they proceeded as they did.

At one time there was talk of a substantial user board, under 
non-disclosure agreement, which would be consulted by Altium and which 
would advise Altium as to what users want. I also think that the DXP 
prerelease list should have been actively consulted: "Do you think this 
product is ready for release? If not, why not?"

>  I just want to
>see the product, that I have spent so much time trying to master,
>to improve in functional development and stability. This does not require a
>complete revamping of the user interface, and a complicating of well known
>practices and procedures.
>Again, many thanks to Altium, for this encouraging press release. So glad
>know you have considered your customers !

I fully agree.

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