Closing the Book on Visual Page
Normally in TidBITS we try to be calm and well-reasoned, but every now and then, we hear about a move so stupid that it makes our stomachs hurt. That’s happened recently at Symantec (motto: "If you can’t beat the competition, buy them and kill their product") with their highly regarded HTML authoring tool Visual Page. We’ve written about Visual Page a number of times in TidBITS, and it’s fared well in all our comparisons of basic HTML authoring tools.
Visual Page was a perfect middle ground between a text-based HTML editor like BBEdit and the high-end as represented by GoLive CyberStudio, Macromedia Dreamweaver, or NetObjects Fusion. The fact is, most people would probably prefer not to learn the details of HTML, nor do most people need the burgeoning feature sets offered by high-end programs.
Add to this the fact that Adobe seems to be ignoring the Mac with PageMill 3.0 (currently available only for Windows) and that Home Page has disappeared into the gaping maw of FileMaker, and you come up with a situation where Symantec was, as it has been said, faced with insurmountable opportunities.
When faced with such a loss of competition, would you immediately decide to refrain from additional Macintosh development? I didn’t think so. However, the official word, as relayed on Symantec’s support newsgroup by Scott Morrison, Lead Technician for Internet Tools Technical Support, is "We have no plans for any future upgrades to this product." Of course, the Windows version of Visual Page 2.0 just shipped, where it will have to do battle with Microsoft FrontPage, which is bundled with everything short of breakfast cereal.
Scott Morrison, by the way, does deserve a golden apple for his work in Symantec’s newsgroups. He was unfailingly honest about the situation, managed to remain polite while replying to irate Visual Page fans, and even offered the professional courtesy of recommending that people check out GoLive CyberStudio, which now has a Personal Edition that Visual Page owners can pick up for free (see "GoLive CyberStudio Gets Personal" in TidBITS-433).
Our colleague Neil Robertson, a professional Web designer at Phinney Bischoff Design House and a frequent speaker at Web design conferences, seconded the pointer to CyberStudio. "I was already seriously looking at GoLive Cyberstudio since Symantec was taking so long to upgrade Visual Page, so it now looks like Symantec has lost my business and any future recommendations I might have made."
When I asked Scott Morrison if there was anything Visual Page users could do, he encouraged people to leave messages in the Symantec technical support newsgroup, where he plans to collect them for presentation to upper management. So, if you’re a Visual Page user, check out the Web interface to the Symantec newsgroups and offer your opinion. Make sure to include quantifiable numbers, such as the number of copies your organization owns, the number of copies you caused to be bought, and the number of Macs for which you’re responsible. And if you’re an individual user, your opinions count as well, perhaps even more so than before with Apple’s renewed focus on the consumer market with the iMac.
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I think what tweaks me off the most about this entire situation is that all these programs originated on the Mac, starting with PageMill. They came from small start-ups inhaled by larger companies, who have either let the products languish or refocused their entire attention on the Windows world. Companies that have remained independent and focused on the Mac, such as GoLive Systems and Bare Bones Software, seem to be doing fine, so I don’t believe the market has changed all that much.
I think we’re staring into the twisted visage of corporate greed here. Sure, the Mac market isn’t as large as the Windows market, but as has been pointed out ad infinitum, Mac users buy more software and tend to be more brand loyal (even considering the Apple soap opera of 1997). Loyalty would seem to be a concept lost on companies like Symantec, Adobe, and FileMaker, and as long as they don’t get it, I see no reason they deserve any loyalty from the user community.