The Drumbeat 2000 & Macromedia Saga


April 28, 2000

Mr. Michael J. Miller
PC Magazine
28 E. 28th Street

New York, NY 10016-7930

Dear Michael, 

As a long time reader of PC Magazine I am writing to your for both advice and comment on a situation which has recently developed with users of Macromedia’s Drumbeat product. As you read on you will see an incredible saga unfold that has all intrigue of a mystery novel. There are a number of aspects of this story that have concerned many members of the Drumbeat developer community and as I have dug deeper into the issue, I have found that it exposes some real weaknesses of the current software development structure and customer support. 

I have enclosed a copy of my recent letter to Rob Burgess, CEO of Macromedia, asking for some clarification on these matters. The letter details many of the concerns that Drumbeat users have expressed quite vehemently on the various Macromedia Drumbeat and UltraDev Newsgroups. If you read on, I think you will find the whole story to be extremely interesting. Since I posted and mailed the letter I have received phone calls both from David Mendels, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Corporate Marketing at Macromedia, and Beth Davis Vice President of Product Marketing. Both of those were congenial conversations, but in hindsight it is possible that they were motivated more by a desire to extricate themselves from a bad situation of their own making than by altruism to their customer base. 

As I’m sure you are aware, Macromedia acquired Drumbeat in August on 1999 and hired many of the original Drumbeat program team. Macromedia began selling Drumbeat under their logo at that time. Macromedia made a number of public statements about the acquisition of Drumbeat. These statements (see the enclosed Web pages) specifically suggest that a new, expanded edition of Drumbeat would be developed. (These pages continued to be published on Macromedia’s Web Site through April 24. It was only through the prompting of my recent letter and phone conversations that the pages were revised to show an accurate picture of Macromedia’s plan’s for Drumbeat.) 

In September, Macromedia released Service Pack 2 for Drumbeat, which had been developed by the Elemental team. It added a few new features as well as introduced new bugs with stored procedures. Since then Drumbeat users have waited patiently for Service Pack 3 to solve these problems. Upon the release of Windows 2000 in February, Drumbeat users learned that Drumbeat would not run on Windows 2000. When questioned about this on the various Drumbeat newsgroups at the time, Macromedia staff were quite vague about the issue, saying only that “it was being looked into.” 

On April 5 of this year, Macromedia announced that Drumbeat would be discontinued in June and a new product, UltraDev, based on the Dreamweaver architecture, would be released. This announcement generated both excitement and a great deal of concern. Many Drumbeat users had spent months learning the program and developing sites, based on the assumption that “the next generation of Drumbeat 2000 will contain a greater integration between Drumbeat and Macromedia’s existing products.” 

Macromedia certainly decided to discontinue Drumbeat long before April 5. I expect that a review of Macromedia’s records would set the date in mid-fall. However, Macromedia continued to market the product from September to the present day and advertised it as “running under Windows NT 4 and above.” When questioned about a Windows 2000 patch the response was “we are looking it” when in fact, the company had already decided that it wasn’t going to create a Windows 2000 patch. This was confirmed in my conversation with Beth Davis when she said that the program team examined Windows 2000 and determined that it would “take a team of programmers months to create a Windows 2000 patch so we decided not to do it.” While I don’t disagree with Macromedia’s decision on how to allocate their programming resources, the company maintained a policy of both misinformation and obfuscation about their product for months between the decision to scrap Drumbeat and now. 

After reviewing the Federal Trade Commission practices I have found the following descriptions that seem to fit the current situation. 

In interpreting Section 5 of the Act, the Commission has determined that a representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to:[1]

·        mislead consumers; and

·        affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service.

In addition, an act or practice is unfair if the injury it causes, or is likely to cause, is:

·        substantial;

·        not outweighed by other benefits; and

·        not reasonably avoidable.


From my reading of this it seems clear that much of Macromedia’s approach has been deceptive as defined by the FTC and may even be considered as unfair. Macromedia continued to sell a product that it knew it was going to discontinue without providing customers with the proper information to make an informed decision about purchasing the product. For many Drumbeat developers this has become a significant financial hardship. Here’s what one developer reported. 

I am a developer who just put in my resignation at my full time job and planned to do freelance Drumbeat development. After a great deal of planning, I was slated to "go live" with my new business on June 3rd.  Only days after making this life altering decision, I found out about Macromedia's plans to discontinue Drumbeat.  This has been an upsetting development and I have been left with few options.  I can continue to develop with Drumbeat but using soon to be outdated software is a great disservice to my customers. It could also lead to great losses if I have to redevelop sites at my own cost just to update a few items. On the other hand, I could take the time to learn UltraDev (which I feel is by no means an upgrade to Drumbeat 2000) and cut my losses with the countless hours spent learning Drumbeat. This option would mean waiting until UltraDev is released (June, July, who really knows?), spending several months learning the product, and then I would finally be able to sell my services.  I would not be able to "go live" until at least November. Financially, this is not even an option.


When I first considered starting my own business, I was only slightly apprehensive and very excited. I had decided initially to choose all Macromedia products because of their quality and Macromedia's excellent reputation. Now their thoughtless decisions, clearly motivated by financial gain, have turned my dream into a nightmare. I looked to Macromedia as a company I could trust and am still shocked by the lies they have fed the development community. They need a hard lesson in respect for their customers. It seems like large companies always end up forgetting just how they got where they are. They wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for us, the customer.


Macromedia's actions have really made me consider how I will run my business.  After dealing with this much frustration, I understand the requirements my customers will have. I must be honest, fair, and respectful of their needs. In other words, everything that Macromedia no longer is... 

Based on my research it seems to me that there is legal cause of action here for Drumbeat users. I personally don’t want to interfere with the release of UltraDev, but I do believe and expect that Macromedia should live up to its obligations to customers. I would appreciate your perspective on this. Do you believe that we should be provided with this level of support? Do we, as Drumbeat users, have any standing to compel Macromedia to deliver on a Windows 2000 patch? 

The next interesting piece of the story involves the Unify Corporation, a high-end e-commerce server company. Unify has licensed OEM versions of both the ASP and JSP versions of Drumbeat to serve as the front-end development tool for their server solutions. After discussions with staff at Unify I have been able to confirm that Unify has committed to build Windows 2000 support into their OEM version. Given the licensing agreement it seems strange that Macromedia is also not aware of this. 

Subject: RE: Unify VISION 6 & VISION Studio - New from Unify!

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 09:30:26 -0700

From: David Lowe <davidl@unify.com>

Organization: Unify


Hi, Rick.


Unify VISION Studio is not currently certified to run on Windows 2000. Our

development team is in the progress of determining a release date. We'll

post to this list when the product is available for Windows 2000.


Thank you for your interest!



Unify (Nasdaq: UNFY)

Director, Market Development

T - 916.928.6307  E- davidl@unify.com


Phone Call Message: “This is Derek Irving with Unify getting back to you on your question about Windows 2000 and our Vision Studio Product. Just wanted to let you know that I did confirm with our development group that Windows 2000 is a strategic platform for us and in the next few months we will come out with Unify Vision certified on Windows 2000. It is definitely a product that is important to us in the future and you can be looking for that in the next few months.” 

I believe that Macromedia should be compelled to at least provide (if not help with the development of) the Unify patch to Drumbeat users for free. My biggest concern now is Macromedia may just stall until June when they officially stop selling Drumbeat. At that point they can say they have no more obligation to provide a patch or any other level of service. I will be extremely interested in Macromedia’s response to my announcement of the proposed Unify patch. Will they endorse its development and provide it to customers, or try and squash it? 

The questions I would like to raise to you and your staff are what are the remedies for such a situation? Not only the short-term remedies for ten thousand Drumbeat users but also the larger question about the software industry as a whole. In reaction to this event I quickly penned a draft of a “Software Users’ Bill of Rights” which I have enclosed. I am not aware if there is anything like this out in the marketplace. If there isn’t, then this situation shows that it is needed. I would appreciate Ziff-Davis exploring this issue and helping users stake their claim to fair treatment. For example, the periodic reviews that PC Magazine does on rating hardware manufacturers for reliability, technical service, and support are extremely helpful to me as a consumer. I think that we need something similar for software. I believe it would place a greater onus of responsibility on software manufacturers. It might mean longer development cycles between products, but I would much rather see solid support from a software vendor than the sudden rush to market that puts Beta code on the street as a finished product and leaves customers abandoned when the manufacturer decides that it’s time to do an architecture shift. Your championing of a “Software Users’ Bill of Rights” could go a long way in this regard. 

I have attempted in every way possible to create an open dialogue with Macromedia to encourage them to fulfill what many of us feel are their legal and ethical responsibilities. I and about 10,000 Drumbeat users would welcome both your advice and your magazine’s examination of this issue. Given the short time span before the release of UltraDev there is not much time to explore this issue and see if there are solutions. I know that you have an extremely busy schedule, however, I and many others would greatly appreciate it if you or members of you could look into this matter and get in touch with me as soon as possible. I can be reached at the address above. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. 



Rick Curtis


cc  John Dvorak

      Bill Howard
Bill Machrone

Jim Seymour



 Letter to Rob Burgess
Macromedia’s Response from Beth Davis
My Response to Beth Davis
Drumbeat Web Pages (before April 24)
Drumbeat Web Pages (after April 24)
“Software Users’ Bill of Rights”

[1] http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/ruleroad.htm