TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Geoff Perlman on REALbasic

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 03
Column Tag: The Industry

Geoff Perlman on REALbasic

Catching up with Geoff and REALbasic 2008

by Norman Palardy

INTRODUCTION

At MacWorld 2008 REAL Software announced the first release of REALbasic for 2008. MacTech Executive Editor, Edward Marczak and columnist Norman Palardy had an opportunity to ask REAL Software CEO Geoff Perlman about the announcement, REALbasic, and REAL Software.


THE INTERVIEW

Norman Palardy: The press release went out: It was announced on the various boards, MacNN and MacWorld, it's on your website, it's been published in your forums and sent to your mailing list. But, it's a press release so it only says so much. Can you tell us what's new in REALbasic 2008 R1?

Geoff Perlman: The big thing is introspection. It is the most heavily requested feature of all time. That is what's appearing in this release. There is always a lot of maintenance. There are a few minor features but introspection is the big thing.

NP: For somebody who might not be familiar, what is the current pricing of REALbasic and how do you handle updates?

GP: The standard edition is $100 and the professional edition is $500. The difference is that the professional edition, among other things, adds access to database servers and cross platform compilation. Actually, I should back up because we just made a change with this release. We are no longer calling it the standard edition. It is now called the Personal edition, and this is to help distinguish between editions. People ask us "why don't I use one or the other"? If you are writing software for yourself, then chances are the personal edition is appropriate. If you are writing software for other people, the professional edition is probably what you need.

Obviously there are times when you might be writing software for other people and the Personal edition would work. But most of the time we find that when people are writing software for somebody else they need some feature that is in the Professional Edition.

NP: That is an interesting name change. I wasn't aware of that, but it should help give people better clarity, as you said, as to what the intended audience is.

NP: Some time ago you guys switched from the traditional dot-1 dot-2 dot-3 kind of release naming to a different schedule and a different naming scheme. How frequent are updates nowadays?

GP: We release every 90 days. Occasionally it is less than 90 days. We made that change for a number of reasons. First of all, our customers are developers. Even if they are one hour a week developers, versus 40 hour week, they are developers and we need to be able to respond more quickly to what they want. We felt having a year, or a year and half or two year development cycle doesn't make sense. We can't respond to the market quickly enough that way. The other thing is that the smaller you make a project in scope or in time, the more likely you are to succeed. So, for us internally, by breaking our delivery schedule down into ninety day segments, we are much more successful at meeting our deadlines and getting things done on time than we were before. So it worked out really well.

NP: At one of the REAL World conferences you had mentioned that REALbasic has surpassed 100,000 users. That was over a year ago. What is the user base up to now? You have to be well beyond that.

GP: At this point we have over 125,000 users.

GP: I will tell you that we track the percentage of new customers we get each month versus renewals from existing customers. And the percentage of new customers has been climbing almost every month, which is really great.

NP: And are they renewals? Obviously those numbers tell you about broader appeal, lots more people trying it out and what not. But the update numbers must tell you something too.

GP: Yeah they do. I think it works better on the new model. With the old model, people would look at each individual release rather than thinking 'I just want to make sure I'm up to date'. The new model actually allows us to do a lot more maintenance on the existing code. It's a change of philosophy. Rather than feeling like they are buying this particular update or this particular new version, they are buying the next six months or the next twelve months of updates or versions. As a result of that change in their thinking about what they are buying we can get away with pouring more time into maintenance. Before there had to be lots of new features in each release because if there wasn't, there wouldn't be a reason for people to upgrade.

I am a big believer that the road to happiness is managing people's expectations. If you want people to be happy, manage their expectations. Get their expectations to an appropriate level and, of course, you have to meet those expectations. And I think that's where you can get into trouble by having a big discrepancy between what people are expecting and what you are delivering. So one of the things we keep trying to do is bring those two things together.

NP: And you feel the new release model is helping you do that better?

GP: Oh absolutely. I would never go back. It works so much better. Look at it this way: Suppose you knew we were working on a feature and we got close to the release date and decided it's just not ready so we are not going to put that in this version. We ship it and you know that the next version is a year a year and a half away. And you were waiting for that feature. With our rapid release model, worst case it's 90 days away. That's not very far. So really it allows us to produce a better, higher quality product than when we were using the traditional model.

NP: I think there are a lot of things that have really come along nicely with the new model and, like anything else, there have probably been growing pains to get to that point.

Ed Marczak: Imagine if Microsoft did this with Office. You just pay this one fee and then there were continual releases. I think that would be a much more successful model for them.

GP: Well, in fact, Microsoft has announced they are moving away from the monolithic release. They are actually moving to this model.

EM Oh really? Wow!

GP: Probably not every 90 days, though.

NP: Let's be realistic, software is never perfect. It is never bug free so it is constantly evolving and gaining new features and gaining new fixes. This model fits better with that reality.

GP: Everyone would love to have code that is bug free but they don't want a static product either. Static, bug free code is extraordinarily expensive. For example NASA claims that the code that runs the space shuttle is bug free. But they also say that it costs $25,000 per line of code.

NP: That's a lot of money to be spending on one line of code.

GP: Right.

NP: Over the course of the past year the company has had some changes. You have had personnel changes, and now a product name change. How are those things impacting your ability to deliver as a company? Or are they having an impact. I mean loosing developers has got to have in impact.

GP: We have only lost one developer in the last year and he actually still continues to do work for us on contract. Honestly, like the product, our development team evolves. And that's not a bad thing because what we need in our development team changes and developers don't always keep up with changes in technology. [Take] for example when we added support for Mach-O, which is the one of the two executable formats, and really the only one now that Apple supports. We started supporting that years before that change was made and there was a lot of debate in the engineering team because they really preferred the old PEF format and they believed it was better.

I said 'guys,it doesn't matter if it's clear or not' because Apple is saying that Mach-O is the blessed format so it's a pointless debate whether Mach-O or PEF are the better format. Now we don't support PEF because with Mac on Intel, Mach-O is the only format. Sometimes people's attitudes about technology don't change with the tide and if that is the case, if they leave and we bring in new developers that have a different take on things, we're going to make sure that the people coming in are looking at development the way that we do. Honestly, I think one of our strengths with REALbasic has been that we have been successfully able to keep up with technology. If you bought version 1 of REALbasic it ran only on a Mac and it was PowerPC and 68K. Now it runs on Mac OS X on Intel. It runs on Linux and Windows up to Vista. You can build console apps. We have abstracted our customers from lots and lots of those platform details.

NP: And it was only recently that you quit supporting OS 9. Realistically you have to at some point. You supported it long after Apple said 'OS9 is dead'

GP: The other thing is that it's important to recognize that if you try to develop an application for 100% of your target market you won't make anybody happy. The application will be too feature rich. There will be too many options and it will be too complex. So our attitude, and I think this is Apple's attitude as well, is make 80% of your potential customers happy you will have a much better product than going for 100%.

NP: Do you find when you are building a cross platform tool like you are that you have to make platform specific compromises in any way?

GP: No, we try to make it so that when we look at any piece of technology we say, "how do we make this cross platform?" Generally speaking we don't have to make those compromises if it's supported on more than one platform. Going back to the 80/20 rule, 80% of the functionality that 80% of your customers want is probably going to be supported on all three platforms. So we just have to make sure that we provide an API that makes sense across all three. But we're not afraid to add something that is platform specific either and let the developer make the decision as to whether to use that or not. AppleScript on the Mac or the Registry on Windows are other examples. Generally speaking we don't have to make those kind of compromises because it's either cross platform or it's platform specific. If it's cross platform we can usually come up with a good API and if it's platform specific then it's not a problem.

NP: I was just wondering about the trade-offs. When you look at some of the other tool kits they always seem to trade something off. Or they don't use native controls. I was just wondering if you encountered that in developing REALbasic as a cross platform framework

GP: I think that if you recognize that you should design for 80% of your potential customers then you give up very little, if anything. I think it is when you try to make everybody happy and pitch your solution as the be all end all solution, the Holy Grail solution, that's when you run into trouble.

NP: Over the years that we've known each other and dealt with each other, I might have asked you 'who do you see as your primary customer, is it a Mac user, is it a Windows user is it a Linux user' and you've always said 'That's not necessarily the way we perceive ourselves. We're a cross platform company so they are all our users". Right?

GP: Our user base is pretty broad but it's basically people that want to build cross platform applications and they want to do it quickly. They don't want a big learning curve. They want to be abstracted from all the platform details and I think we do cross platform better than anybody in the world. Frankly, I'm not afraid to say that. I ask people, "think of a cross platform tool set that does a better job than we do". I don't think there is one out there.

NP: There aren't a lot of them to start with. Which ones have a rapid application development environment like REALbasic? The list gets pretty short really really quickly and that is one of the attractions of REALbasic. I'm curious about the product name change. Do you see that as targeting a particular kind of developer? I think people who develop software for a living have this notion of "professional developers" versus "hobbyists".

GP: I think what it is, is that "standard" as a name was a mistake from the very beginning. If someone says 'This is a standard version of anything' that implies this is the version you should buy. It's the standard. And that's really never what we meant and we really should have taken a different approach in the first place. Over the years what we've found is our users tend to be people writing software for themselves or people writing software for somebody else. We recognize the people that are writing for themselves buy standard and the people writing for others buy pro. The people writing software for other people are generally being paid to write software therefore they are professionals. So the professional version makes sense.

The problem is that, honestly, it is a marketing thing. It's like some corporate IT guy has to explain why he needs the $500 version when there is $100 version available. "Standard" sounds like that is what you need; it's the standard version. If it's personal versus professional he can go to his boss and say this one is clearly for individuals, and that the publisher (us) is telling you to buy the professional if you are building for other people. The IT guy builds for other people therefore he needs the professional edition. That's a very easy way for people to pick the right product for them.

But honestly if the question is 'do hobbyists programmers exist I can tell you they definitely do.

NP: I have no doubt they do but I think a lot of people who use that moniker use it in a derogatory sense and that's an unfortunate thing because there are certainly a lot of people who program as a hobby and that doesn't make them ineffective or unskilled.

GP: No, no. What I have found is that hobbyists are people who describe themselves by saying "I don't do this professionally. No one is paying me to do it. I just do it on my own". Believe it or not, we get a lot of psychologists that buy REALbasic and they're developing the software pretty much for themselves although it is going to be used by other people. I guess that is developing for other people, but they will build software to do psychological testing and often times that's going to be on one platform. It doesn't need to be cross platform, so they're sort of the exception, where they are building software for other people but really they only need one platform, they don't need SSL or database access or that kind of stuff.

NP: REALbasic has been around for...

GP: Ten years this July 4th.

NP: Over the course of ten years, one of the things that hasn't really sort of sprouted up of its own accord is a big third party market. I'm not sure how it came about with a thing like Visual Basic. Do you see that as being important to the overall success of REALbasic as well having a big vibrant successful third party market?

GP: Well, I will say this, the thing I think is important to the success of REALbasic is that customers need to be able to get all their needs met. So it's not a question of a third party market or not. Having all their needs met is what makes the product successful. Or is at least one of the elements that makes the product successful. I think in the past we have taken on way too much and tried to put everything and the kitchen sink into the product and that has limited the opportunities for third party developers. But if you've been watching the release notes for the last couple of releases you've been seeing the word deprecated showing up, and what you are going to see in the future is that we're going to start trimming down the product a little bit. The features that only a small group of users need are going to become more third party opportunities so we can focus on the core product and make it even better. And, honestly, I think that is a mistake we made in the beginning was not recognizing that we really should stick to the core product and try to develop the third party market. Now, there is a fine line there.

When I worked at 4D long ago there was a big third party product called AreaList. It was a grid control and they never built a good grid control into 4D. They were afraid they would upset the makers of AreaList because anyone who was doing any serious development with 4D used AreaList. They were basically going to screw the developer of AreaList if they built something in that did the same thing. I think that was a mistake because a lot of customers looked at 4D and didn't know much about third party market. So what happened was people said "Well it's kinda weak when it comes to grid control". So you have to pick your battles. With things that are really important, it's the 80/20 rule again. If it's important to 80% of your customers, it probably means it needs to be built into the product. If it's less than 20%, probably that is a good third party opportunity. And we're going to really try in the coming years build up the third party market and partner with third party developers so that we can get them the exposure that they need to our customer base to help them be successful. That's a win win situation.

NP: Actually you just led right into my next question which is exactly that: If it's important, is there something you see REAL needing to do to help bring that to fruition ?

GP: Well, you've already seen that we are selling books on our website, Soon we will be selling RB Developer Magazine. We're probably at some point going to have a third party section of the website. When people are evaluating REALbasic we want to make sure that they know there is this set of third party tools out there.

EM To know there's a vibrant community.

GP: Exactly: knowing that the community is there, knowing the third party community is there helps us and it also helps those communities to grow and to continue to be vibrant. So it's totally a win win situation. I can't tell you when that is going to happen but it is definitely something that's very important to us going forward.

NP: Thanks for taking the time and letting us do this.

GP: No problem. Thank you.


Norman Palardy has worked with SQL databases since 1992, and has programmed in C, C++, Java, REALbasic and other languages on a wide variety of platforms. In his 15+ years of IT experience, Norman has developed innovative and award-winning applications for TransCanada Pipelines, Minerva Technologies (now XWave), Zymeta Corporation, and the dining and entertainment industry. He holds a BSc from the University of Calgary in Alberta.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Ableton Live 10.1.1 - Record music using...
Ableton Live lets you create and record music on your Mac. Use digital instruments, pre-recorded sounds, and sampled loops to arrange, produce, and perform your music like never before. Ableton Live... Read more
BetterTouchTool 3.202 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom)... Read more
Fission 2.4.6 - Streamlined audio editor...
Fission can crop and trim audio, paste in or join files, or just rapidly split one long file into many. It's streamlined for fast editing. Plus, it works without the quality loss caused by other... Read more
Drama 1.0.27 - Prototyping, animation...
Drama's handy 3-in-1 functionality uniquely integrates design, animation and prototyping into a single familiar tool. No more frustrating switching between apps or learning new stuff. And by... Read more
Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 8.4.1 - Impor...
Adobe Lightroom Classic is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (was Adobe... Read more
iExplorer 4.3.2 - View and transfer file...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2018 16.1.3 - Cre...
After Effects CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for $52.99/month (or $20.99/month for a single app license). The new, more connected After Effects CC 2018 can make the impossible... Read more
Adobe Audition CC 2019 12.1.4 - Professi...
Audition CC 2019 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $20.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Audition customer). Adobe Audition CC 2019 empowers you to create and... Read more
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2019 13.1.5 - Digi...
Premiere Pro CC 2019 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $52.99/month. The price on display is a price for annual by-monthly plan for Adobe Premiere Pro only Adobe Premiere... Read more
Navicat Premium Essentials 12.1.25 - Pro...
Navicat Premium Essentials is a compact version of Navicat which provides basic and necessary features you will need to perform simple administration on a database. It supports the latest features... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Marvel Strike Force is adding Agent Coul...
Marvel Strike Force, the popular squad-based RPG, is set to receive a bunch of new content over the next few weeks. [Read more] | Read more »
Lots of premium games are going free (so...
You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming... | Read more »
Yoozoo Games launches Saint Seiya Awaken...
If you’re into your anime, you’ve probably seen or heard of Saint Seiya. Based on a shonen manga by Masami Kurumada, the series was massively popular in the 1980s – especially in its native Japan. Since then, it’s grown into a franchise of all... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

4-core and 6-core 2018 Mac minis available at...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 Mac minis available on their online store for $120-$170 off the cost of new models. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty... Read more
$250 prepaid Visa card with any Apple iPhone,...
Xfinity Mobile will include a free $250 prepaid Visa card with the purchase of any new iPhone, new line activation, and transfer of phone number to Xfinity Mobile. Offer is valid through October 27,... Read more
Sprint is offering the 64GB Apple iPhone 11 P...
Sprint has the new 64GB iPhone 11 Pro available for $12.50 per month for new customers with an eligible trade-in in of iPhone 7 or newer. That’s down from their standard monthly lease of $41.67. The... Read more
Final week: Apple’s 2019 Back to School Promo...
Purchase a new Mac using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for the discount... Read more
Save $30 on Apple’s AirPods at these reseller...
Amazon is offering discounts on new 2019 Apple AirPods ranging up to $30 off MSRP as part of their Labor Day sale. Shipping is free: – AirPods with Charging Case: $144.95 $15 off MSRP – AirPods with... Read more
Preorder your Apple Watch Series 5 today at A...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 5 GPS models available for preorder and on sale today for $15 off Apple’s MSRP. Shipping is free and starts on September 20th: – 40mm Apple Watch Series 5 GPS: $384.99 $... Read more
21″ iMacs on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP,...
B&H Photo has new 21″ Apple iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP with models available starting at $999. These are the same iMacs offered by Apple in their retail and online stores. Overnight shipping... Read more
2018 4 and 6-Core Mac minis on sale today for...
Apple resellers are offering new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis for $100-$150 off MSRP for a limited time. B&H Photo has the new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis on sale for up to $150 off... Read more
Save $150-$250 on 10.2″ WiFi + Cellular iPads...
Verizon is offering $150-$250 discounts on Apple’s new 10.2″ WiFi + Cellular iPad with service. Buy the iPad itself and save $150. Save $250 on the purchase of an iPad along with an iPhone. The fine... Read more
Apple continues to offer 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1019. An standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, outer cases are new... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**719499BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001266-Charleston-Store **Job Description:** At Best Buy, our Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**733266BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000144-Union City-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**730765BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000565-St Petersburg-Store **Job Description:** **What does Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**725617BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001095-Chesterfield-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Student Employment (Blue *Apple* Cafe) Spri...
Student Employment (Blue Apple Cafe) Spring 2019 Penn State University Campus/Location: Penn State Brandywine Campus City: Media, PA Date Announced: 12/20/2018 Date Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.