The unwashed masses of computer users do have clout, though it has seldom been used to effect change in the overall strategy of a company bent on, well, screwing its users. The best recent example of this clout came when Apple decided under user pressure to license MODE32 from Connectix to solve the problems with unwashed ROMs on some of the older Macs. There has been talk of a similar campaign to free FullWrite Professional from the depths of PC-oriented Borland after the acquisition of Ashton-Tate. That talk has yet to lead to any concerted action, but another movement against Borland is just gathering steam.
Remember Reflex Plus? Nah, I didn’t think you did. It was a powerful and well-liked relational database that had its roots back in the early days of the Macintosh in 1985. Many people bought into Reflex Plus and spent thousands of hours and dollars creating custom databases to run their businesses. Then, in 1988 Borland decided that they had to concentrate on their DOS and Windows products to remain in the marketplace at all, and in the process cut off all future development work on Reflex Plus, abandoning the entire user base. Many people switched from Reflex Plus to one of the other powerful relational databases but many others, an estimated 40,000, liked the Reflex Plus environment and/or did not wish to throw away the significant investments they had in Reflex Plus. Thus was born the Reflex Plus Orphans Association (RPOA), a volunteer user group dedicated to supporting users of Reflex Plus when Borland would not.
The RPOA has provided support for Reflex Plus users on America Online and CompuServe for over a year now, and recently started a campaign to find a third party developer who could take over the Reflex Plus code and provide updates and support to existing and future users. Philippe Kahn, the CEO of Borland, said on CompuServe: "We love the [Mac]. So tell me of a concrete solution and we’ll work on it." Despite this apparent (though never concrete) willingness, the RPOA has still met with much difficulty in dealing with Borland, although several developers have shown interest. Part of the problem is that Borland does not want to sell the Reflex Plus code to a company that will be unable to stand behind it and continue supporting its users, although Borland may get even worse PR for sitting on the code. Ironically, many people used Ashton-Tate as an example of a company that sold its software when it no longer wished to support it. Ashton-Tate sold dBASE Mac to New Era Software, which renamed it nuBASE and has recently suffered massive mismanagement, threatening its chances to continue supporting nuBASE.
Borland does have a point in not wanting to just let anyone take over Reflex Plus, but at the same time, four years of neglect have done little for Borland’s image in the Macintosh market. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Borland get back into the Mac market at some point, and although there is no indication that they are working on anything, there is all that code from Borland’s Sidekick utility and Ashton-Tate’s FullWrite Professional, Full Impact, and FullPaint just sitting around. Kahn is not stupid and selling Reflex Plus to a good home would do a lot towards helping the company regain some respect among Mac users, respect that might be of some use in the continual battle with Microsoft.
What does all this mean for you? For most of you, not too much short of general knowledge of industry workings. If you are interested in lending support to the campaign to find a developer and know a company well-versed in the Mac, 68000 assembler, and Reflex Plus, you should tell them about the RPOA’s efforts. If you harbor hopes of rescuing FullWrite Professional or Full Impact in the same way, I’d pay attention and see what works and what doesn’t for the RPOA. Kahn is no pushover. Finally, if you own and use Reflex Plus, you can join the Reflex Plus Orphans Association for $25 per year and get a year’s subscription to the RPOA News, online and phone support, discounts on support disks, and the latest version of the program (7/7/88) to its legal owners/licensees. In meantime, we wish the RPOA all the best in their quest to liberate Reflex Plus.
3142 Beaver Brook Lane
Baldwinsville, NY 13027 USA
315/635-7550 (email is preferred)
Fred Rushden/RPOA — FredAR on AOL — [email protected]