The Drumbeat 2000 & Macromedia Saga
April 28, 2000
Mr. Michael J. Miller
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
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
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
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:
· 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:
· 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
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
Subject: RE: Unify VISION 6 & VISION Studio - New from Unify!
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 09:30:26 -0700
From: David Lowe <email@example.com>
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!
DAVID A. LOWE
Unify (Nasdaq: UNFY)
Director, Market Development
T - 916.928.6307 E- firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
cc John Dvorak
Letter to Rob Burgess