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Apple: Don't shoot yourself in the other foot!

An open letter to Rick Fleischman, Apple Computer:

A few years back, when Apple took over CCL from Coral, I
talked to the MCL product manager at MacWorld.  I told her
that they now had in their hands a marvelous product, one
that was of great use and interest to programmers and
educators alike.  I said, please advertise this product in
Mac Magazines, make people aware of it -- keeping it entirely
within APDA was hiding a light under a bushel.  I was told
that, "Apple doesn't advertise its software products."  I
said that she should go back and tell her boss that that
policy should not be applied to this marvelous product
because it would prevent it from being as widely distributed
as it should be.  The rest is history.  Apple continued to
make it available only via APDA.  Any ordinary person that
would be excited to have MCL had to have the skills of an
undercover agent to first learn about its existence and then
to find out that they needed to apply for APDA membership and
finally order the product.  Why not MacWarehouse as the
supplier?  They send out lots of free catalogs, have an 800
number, don't require you to "become a member", etc.  (only a
little bit facetious here).

What happened is rather clear and it's also pathetic.  Apple
made a product very difficult to get and now claims it didn't
make a profit.

They shot themselves in the foot.  Now they're going to shoot
themselves in the other foot by discontinuing future
development of the product.  They're making hardware and seem
to not have the sense to port one of their own great products
to their own hardware.  Their argument would have had more
force if they had locked CCL away in a safe and said, gee, our
sales are zero and that amount of income isn't enough to pay
the salaries of the guards who are guarding the safe.  Makes as
much sense.

I feel hurt and saddened by this. I have worked hard to
convince government agencies, my students, postdocs, faculty
colleagues, professional colleagues, readers of our published
papers, etc., that MCL is an excellent, efficient and serious
programming language in which to develop cutting edge
prototypes and useful systems in newly expanding areas such as
Digital Libraries, Multimedia, etc.  It's going to be a sad and
humiliating experience to have to go and tell all these people
that I was wrong.  But damnit, I wasn't wrong, it's just that
Corporate America couldn't get a tiny piece of localized budget
balancing to work, and based on this myopic view of how the
world works, they're going to kill MCL .  (*emulation* on the
PowerPC?  Take a giant step forward and two giant steps

A case in point: LOOM is a sophisticated knowledge
representation system.  It is developed at the Information
Sciences Institute (part of USC in Los Angeles).  LOOM is big
enough that they have workshops where people fly in from all
over to learn about LOOM and talk to the developers.  What is
LOOM developed in, what does the primary developer of this
system prefer? -- MCL of course.  Go ahead, kill it.

On the positive side, Mr. Fleischman, tell us what we can do.
How many copies do you need to sell to finance the port?  And
will you meet us halfway by stopping this practice of treating
MCL like a development tool and open it up more, e.g., making
educational site licensing a simpler process.

Do you realize that there are many universities around the
country using Lisp as the language of first choice in
introductory programming courses?  You are the product
manager.  Have you explored this market?  Are you aware of its
potential?  Do you in fact "market" at all?  Though many
university people like myself are active on the MCL mailing
list and though you can look at your sales and identify what
copies are going to universities, have you ever made any
mailings to these customers explaining to them that educational
site licensing is available?  [I think it is, if you know the
right person to contact.]  Since you're the marketing manager,
maybe you should engage in proactive marketing.  Otherwise,
you'll just be a pallbearer in the funeral of a cherished thing
that died of neglect and deserved to live and prosper.

As a researcher, my students, staff and I have been developing
software for applications in speech synthesis, natural language
processing, physics, biology, AI and other fields, starting in
1958.  I have worked in many languages and used many operating
systems in that 26 year period.  I have chosen MCL now based on
all that experience.  I know something good when I see it.
True, I haven't always taken the easy road, but the easy road
doesn't usually point to the future, and that's what computing
is all about, the future.  I'm busy trying to envision and
create the future.  I have chosen MCL as the tool to do this.
Kill MCL and you'll kill a marvelous vehicle that has a proven
ability to move us into the future.

I have a friend whose uncle was offered a partnership in a
startup business some years ago.  It was the idea that Ray Kroc
had to sell hamburgers cheap -- he'd call the restaurants
"McDonalds".  The uncle said, no he didn't want to invest his
money in helping Kroc start such a business, there was no
*future* in it(!)

So please, this is the world of computing, a world that needs
some vision.  Do the right thing.

Bob Futrelle

Sleepless in Edinburgh

PS: My thoughts could change if Dylan turns out to be a product
with the excitement and potential of MCL (and more) -- and, if
it becomes widely available soon and runs native on PPCs .