Without announcing it, Microsoft changed the licensing requirements for Visual FoxPro 8.0 so that older versions of Visual FoxPro must be removed. These requirements apparently only apply to the “upgrade” version of VFP 8.0.
PCConnection lists the VFP 7.0* (NOTE: not the new 8.0 product) Upgrade at $239.95, a bargain for the most powerful Windows development environment, richest IDE, fastest single-tier database engine and best development community of any package in WinTelLand. The full version is listed at $517.35, a $277.40 premium over the upgrade product. Looked at the other way, an existing owner gets a 53.6% discount off of the full price for buying an upgrade. In 7.0 and before, this was a reward for having purchased the earlier package. In 8.0, I’m not so sure.
Section 11.1 of the VFP 8.0 End-User Licensing Agreement (EULA) states:
“11.1 Upgrades. To use a version of the Software identified as an upgrade, you must first be licensed for the software identified by Microsoft as eligible for the upgrade. After upgrading, you may no longer use the software that formed the basis for your upgrade eligibility.”
While that requirement may be appropriate for personal productivity packages, it is completely inappropriate for a development system. Applications developed with earlier versions must be supported with those earlier versions until it is practical and economically feasible, if ever, to upgrade to the latest runtime modules. In many cases, it is not feasible to upgrade tens, hundreds or thousands of machines to a later version. Older version of development environments must be maintained until all clients have been updated. For developers and consultants who are taking on new work, it is not at all unusual to come across a new client who is two or three versions behind in their systems.
The issue here is not a couple hundred bucks. It is a question of truthfulness and trustworthiness. A change this significant to the EULA cannot be buried in section 11.1 of a long and incomprehensible document. As significant change in licensing ought to be made public, explained to the community, debated, flamed, and eventually accepted. We VFP developer fans are almost always referred to as a “rabid” lot, and paying a couple of extra hours of billable time for the correct version, and to keep our product alive, is not an unreasonable price to pay for what I still consider one of the best products ever on the PC platform.
However, failing to be in licensing compliance can be an offense justifying termination for some employees. Failing to be in license compliance can result in a huge fine, possibly crippling a business, from the BSA. Changing the licensing terms without properly notifying their customer base is a violation of trust between customer and vendor.
Microsoft ought to be ashamed of trying to “sneak this in under the radar,” and needs to make all efforts to clarify what their licensing policies are, what has changed from version to version, and what their customers need to do to stay in compliance.
I send money to vendors when they provide me with new and updated products that make my job the enjoyable profession that it is. I trust them to support me as I support them. Microsoft has failed to live up to this basic principle of commerce, and needs to make amends.
* (Prices for VFP 8.0 do not seem to be available on retail sites I’ve searched. A search of mySimon.com shows PC Mall listing VFP 8.0 for $607.99 and eCost.com for $563.92, but both appear to be the full product.)