I was one of the presenters this past weekend at the 2011 REAL Studio Summit in Atlanta, Georgia and I was comparing Microsoft Visual Foxpro and REAL Studio. I got the question “How many Visual Foxpro developers are out there?” I’m afraid that I stumbled all over the answer and finally ended up with an “I don’t know” type of answer.
I’m very unsatisfied with my answer. In the end, the “I don’t know” and “We’ll never know” is the ultimate answer but lets take a closer look at why that is the case.
Let me start off by saying that I have only ever purchased one copy of Visual Foxpro. One. Ever. So I get counted as “1“. To make matters worse, I believe that version was Visual Foxpro 9.0 when it was first released and I got some sort of huge discount at the time. I admit that I have been a professional Foxpro and Visual Foxpro developer since about 1992 and I have only purchased one version of Visual Foxpro and it was one of the last versions that Microsoft has published. I will posit that I have been a legal Foxpro owner all along.
The ultimate reason is how Foxpro and Visual Foxpro was sold. In the early days Foxpro was sold stand alone. All of those years, each company that I was employed with purchased a copy of Foxpro per developer. I wasn’t the independent consultant at that time. At that time, counts of Foxpro developers were possible.
Once Visual Foxpro 5.0 came along, it was bundled with Visual Studio. Yes, you could purchase Visual Foxpro stand-alone but it made best financial sense to just purchase all of Visual Studio. By Microsoft’s own admission, they didn’t count a sale of Visual Studio as a ‘user’ of Foxpro. However, if I recall correctly they *did* count them as users of Visual Basic.
Soon, Microsoft came out with their MSDN subscription which basically was a mountain of CDs of every OS, development tool, and piece of software produced by Microsoft. To have a years worth of updates for Windows, SQL Server along with Foxpro was very appealing. Again, many many developers and companies purchased the MSDN subscription and the Foxpro developers went uncounted.
By the time I went on my own as an independent consultant, Microsoft has the ‘Empower’ program. It was basically the MSDN program but for small business owners and software developers intent on creating and selling software products. I subscribed to that for many years and was never counted as a Foxpro developer.
Lets take a look for a moment at Foxpro itself. Foxpro doesn’t require registration with Microsoft. It doesn’t phone home. There is a way to report errors back to Microsoft, but that’s optional. Most of the time, I don’t report my Foxpro crashes/errors back to Microsoft. Bottom line, is that Foxpro can be pirated without Microsoft knowing. China is a huge user of Foxpro based on some indicators but their sales of Foxpro is almost non-existant. Not too many sales of Microsoft products in China either. There are a lot of Foxpro developers in Russia and the Eastern European countries.
Heck, there’s a lot of Foxpro developers all over the world. The database power, and low system requirements of VFP make it a great low, middle, and high power development tool.
Being a member of the Atlanta Foxpro Users Group, I know there are hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of Foxpro developers in Georgia alone … but we never see them. We’ll see people who have lost their job, they come to one meeting, get a new job even programming with Foxpro, and we never see them again. Frustrating. Don’t programmers want to work on developing their skills in their ‘art’?!?!
Is there a way to count Foxpro developers? I don’t think so. We’re many but we’ll never know how many. Any other ideas on how to get a true count of Visual Foxpro developers?