InterviewBITS with Steve Dorner
By the time you read this article, Qualcomm will have released Eudora 4.3, which introduces a new business model for application software by adding an optional mode in which people can use all the features of the commercial version of the popular email program for free in exchange for viewing ads. The upgrade is minor if you’re a Eudora Pro 4.2 user (see our "Eudora Pro 4.2" series of articles for more information), and because of that, Qualcomm has made the upgrade to Eudora 4.3’s "Paid mode" free for Eudora Pro 4.2 owners. Current Eudora Light 3.x users can enjoy a much more significant upgrade, since Eudora 4.3’s "Light mode" offers many of the benefits of the two years of development that’s gone on since Eudora Light was last updated. And "Sponsored mode" provides access to all of Eudora’s commercial features for free. See "Eudora 4.3 Public Beta Adds Free Usage Modes" in TidBITS-509 for details.
System requirements for the $50 Eudora 4.3 include a PowerPC-based Mac with 1,800K of RAM running System 7.1.2 or later with the Text Encoding Converter. The download is likely to be about 6 MB. Note that what Qualcomm is releasing Tuesday is the full version of Eudora 4.3; if you’re an existing Eudora 4.x owner, an updater that brings you up to Eudora 4.3 and registers you in Paid mode will be available later this week.
Get the X-Eudora-Settings List via Email — To simplify access for readers of my Eudora Visual QuickStart book, as well as others using Eudora Pro 4.2 or Eudora 4.3 for the Mac, I’ve created an email auto-reply that contains the full list of x-eudora-setting URLs you can use to tweak Eudora’s myriad of hidden settings (see "Eudora Pro 4.2 Continues to Deliver" in TidBITS-489). Qualcomm makes the same information available on their Web site, but since x-eudora-setting URLs are useful only from within Eudora, I felt it would be easier to get the 80K list via email, and Qualcomm granted me permission to make them available in this fashion. I’ve also added information at the top of the file that explains how to use them and pulls out a few especially useful settings.
On to the Interview — This week we have an exclusive interview with Steve Dorner, who created Eudora back in 1988 and who has continued to drive the program forward, though ably assisted by others at Qualcomm these days. Steve managed to squeeze some time free from the hectic final days that surround any software release to chat via email.
[Adam] The major change with Eudora 4.3 is that it adds a new advertising-supported mode to the two previous ways you could get Eudora: the free Eudora Light and the commercial Eudora Pro, all now bundled together into a single program. Is this giving in to commercialism on the Internet?
[Steve] In one sense, it is giving in… to reality. That reality is that many people prefer free stuff with ads to stuff that costs money. How many times do you see people at trade shows saying, "No, thanks, I prefer my t-shirts without your advertising on them. Here’s $10."
In another sense, it’s not giving in at all. People still have the same Eudora choices they had before; pay and get the full features, or don’t pay and get fewer features. The difference is that now there’s a third choice – get all the features but don’t pay, and see ads instead.
[Adam] What was the primary reason you chose to follow this path with Eudora?
[Steve] Let’s face it, people have a lot of choices out there for free mailers. We think Eudora provides unique advantages, but some people just can’t get over the price tag. This is a way we can eliminate the price tag but still afford to produce the software.
[Adam] Are there significant new features in Eudora 4.3?
[Steve] That depends on the audience you’re considering. For Eudora Pro 4.2 users, the feature differences aren’t all that great. There is the link history window, the ability to remember addresses you type or reply to, and a few other small features.
For Eudora Light users, the upgrade to Sponsored mode is huge. People using Sponsored mode get all the Eudora Pro features; spell-checking, styled composition, inline images and movies and sounds, HTML display, toolbar, powerful filtering, etc., etc. And even if they don’t want to see the ads, Eudora 4.3 running in Light mode is much more powerful than the old Light was.
[Adam] Are there any major differences between the Mac and Windows versions of Eudora now, or are they pretty much in parity?
[Steve] They reflect the different emphases of the two platforms and the separate development teams who have worked on them. I very much believe that a Macintosh program should be a Macintosh program, and similarly that it pays to do what Windows users expect on Windows. Whether in Rome or Little Rock, you have to fit in with the natives.
One thing I find amusing is the mail we get from people who say "I wish you guys spent as much time on the Mac version as you do on the Windows version," which is evenly balanced by the mail we get from people who say "I wish you guys spent as much time on the Windows version as on the Macintosh version."
[Adam] My impression is that Eudora is often chosen by individuals and by organizations looking for an Internet email solution, but that it’s losing ground in large organizations where Microsoft Outlook offers scheduling, contact management, and group conferencing features. Do you envision moving Eudora more in that direction in the future?
[Steve] Yes, we are actively looking at ways to do more with schedules and contacts and the like. We think we’re in a position to do some very interesting things, especially in conjunction with the new wave of wireless devices.
[Adam] Was that some of the rationale behind Qualcomm’s purchase of Now Software and the code that turned into the ill-fated Eudora Planner?
[Steve] I’m glad that Now Software’s products are being carried forward by Power On Software. That’s all I have to say on that topic.
[Adam] Fair enough. It’s long been thought that Qualcomm bought Eudora originally because someone was thinking ahead and saw the convergence of email and wireless communication. But that happened in 1992 – was Qualcomm simply too far ahead of the times, or was there something else going on?
[Steve] I actually think that Qualcomm acquired Eudora because it used Eudora and wanted to see the product continued and improved. Way Back Then, companies actually wrote their own software sometimes.
Of course, some people undoubtedly had some ideas in the back of their minds, but it was really a very practical decision at the time.
[Adam] Assuming that convergence is at some point inevitable, when do you think we’ll see it taking place for a significant number of Eudora users?
[Steve] It’s hard to say. The phone market right now puts heavy pressure on (big shock) cheap or free telephones. Smart phones are a little more expensive and are a hard sell.
One thing to realize is that ordinary folks like you and I are not the "real" customers for cell phones. The "real" customers are the local cell phone carriers; they’re the ones who control which phones people can buy. And they want mass-market phones so they can get lots of users, and they don’t want to "waste time" supporting really smart devices.
So it’s going to take a while for really smart phones to go anywhere, and hence for Eudora on a phone to really go anywhere.
[Adam] Still, you’re obviously making inroads in that direction all the time. What about Qualcomm’s PureVoice plug-in that enables people send and receive voice messages with Eudora?
[Steve] What your readers may or may not know is that PureVoice is the same voice technology used in Qualcomm’s CDMA digital cellular phones. We hope to see a day where PureVoice will make truly efficient telephone to computer communication very easy to do. Imagine being able to record a message on your phone and email it to someone, for example. Or to easily pick up your voice mail with your email program.
[Adam] Moving away from cell phones, what are the major problems you’re seeing in email today that you think email programs can attempt to solve?
[Steve] Volume is obviously one of them. People get more and more mail, and have to deal with it. But rather than worry about solving problems in email, I’m more excited by providing tools so that people can solve problems using email. Eudora 5.0 is going to have some fun things in that direction.
[Adam] Fun is good, especially in a program that people use all day long and despite the sticks-in-the-mud who think email should be serious and professional. I still miss the dialog box that said "You may as well stop typing now because no one is listening." Any other easter eggs you’d like to share? Should someone make a Eudora plug-in that puts a few of the cute little bits back in?
[Steve] We’ve been thinking about such a plug-in. 🙂 As for easter eggs, the "You have no new mail" envelope that appears if you have Eudora set to display alerts after checking for mail actually has words in it that can be read, if you work at it. Note that it went in at about the time a lot of the fun went out.
[Adam] With Mac OS X due to ship sometime this year, what level of support do you plan for Eudora? Classic, Carbon, or Cocoa?
[Steve] That’s up to Apple. Cocoa is a total rewrite for a Macintosh application, and we don’t anticipate doing that initially.
We’ve been working on Eudora under Carbon for quite some time, but the brutal fact of the matter is that Carbon hasn’t been ready for us. There are many things that Eudora does that Carbon just doesn’t do at all, or that don’t work. For example, Eudora can be smart about what to do when you’re on battery, but Carbon doesn’t currently provide access to the power manager. For a while, we kept getting "Tough luck, applications shouldn’t need to do that" responses when we asked about stuff like that, but things seem to have improved lately.
[Adam] You’ve been developing Eudora for over 12 years now, so you’ve seen a wide variety of Internet technologies come and go. What I’d like to do then to finish off is play "Technology Association Test" – I’ll give you a technology and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
XML (eXtensible Markup Language), the much-hyped markup language for creating other markup languages that can define meta-information about data):
[Steve] Sound and fury…
HTML mail, which lets people send HTML styled messages:
[Steve] Deal with it.
LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol), which provides directory lookup services:
[Steve] Vomit. It’s really too bad that XML wasn’t all the rage in time to forestall this idiot OSI protocol from proliferating.
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol, at least with version 4 – it used to be Interactive Mail Access Protocol), which changes the mail storage model so all mail remains on the server, rather than being downloaded to the client, as with POP.
POP (Post Office Protocol), the simple and efficient method of retrieving mail that’s still by far the most common on the Internet:
[Steve] Mom and ___.
APOP (Authenticated POP), which encrypts the otherwise clear text passwords used to login to a POP account as a way of increasing security.
[Steve] Doomed. Few sites are going to change their authentication databases for APOP, cram-md5, or anything else. They’re going to stick with plain text and just run everything through SSL when RSA’s patent expires in September.
SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol), one of the basic protocols on top of which all Internet email runs.
SMTP AUTH, which is an authentication extension to SMTP that ensures only people with the proper access can send email through an SMTP server as a way of preventing spammers from hijacking servers.
[Adam] Thanks again for taking the time out to talk, and best of luck with Eudora 4.3 and all the fun stuff you have planned for Eudora 5.0.
[Steve] Glad to help – now it’s time to get this new version uploaded.