On Fri, 9 Apr 2004 13:19:34 -0700, Brooks,Bill wrote:
> This is pretty damning commentary. And maybe a bit 'rash'...
> It does make me think hard about Mentor and the cost/vs. productivity
> issues.
> If, I say,* IF * Altium is shifting its focus to the embedded systems market
> as a way of garnering revenue... it may mean that they have come to the
> conclusion that there is no more or not enough money to be made in the PCB
> design industry for them, for whatever reason. I doubt this, because I know
> that Protel has the lion's share of the market in the UK and the rest of the
> world for that matter...

I've thought about this too and I think most EDA tool companies lose
sight of the fact that they are providing tools to a niche market
(relative to other desktop PC software) with a limited size and the
requirements haven't changed all that much in the past 20 years. Yeah,
geometries have gotten smaller and frequencies higher, but schematic
capture and PCB design principles are still pretty much the same
-- physics doesn't change and the manufacturing is still basically
copper on a substrate. 

I know when it comes to tools, I want reliability and familiarity.
Something I can pick up, do my job efficiently, count on the results
and move on. 

Making software more complex and "feature rich" -- whether for serving 
the fractional percent of users that really require the added features 
(but seldom used by the vast majority) or for marketing purposes 
-- seems to be more common every day. Why can't good software be 
developed and maintained at a relatively stable feature and bug-free 
level? I guess the software companies see no increasing revenue stream 
with this model (since the "current version" stays current, longer),
even though it results in the best product for the end user. So it
actually pays to produce buggy or otherwise deficient code, where you
get to charge the user for the fixes "in the next release" (service
pack, whatever -- heck, just change the name of the program and charge
an upgradge fee! ;-) ). Sheesh, I wish I could run my business and
write my software that way... 

Another observation -- all my best software tools are written by
smaller, privately held companies. Coincidence? I think not. They are
mostly small groups of dedicated people that aren't just working for a
paycheck (or stock options or quarterly bonuses). They actually have a
personal involvement with the product and the customer and it's in
their best interest to cultivate a loyal clientele who in turn "sells"
their products by reputation and word-of-mouth. It seems that once a
company goes public, the whole dynamic and focus of the company
changes. Same with small companies acquired by larger public
corporations. I think this is some of the dynamic we are seeing with
Altium. When they were privately held Protel, they were an entirely
different company and focused much more on the end user's needs. 

Ah well, Altium is free to run their business any way they see fit. It
will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

Matt Pobursky
Maximum Performance Systems

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