Ashton-Tate Developer’s Conference Speech

Ed Esber, Ashton-Tate Developers’ Conference:
“A Meeting of the Minds II”, September 14, 1988

Ashton-Tate’s corporate mission statement is pretty clear. It states that we are to anticipate and meet customer needs with superior quality software products and tools for individuals and groups. From early 1986 through mid 1987, we seem to have lost sight of that mission. During that period we clearly didn’t anticipate your needs. We have been accused of letting the dBase franchise go stale, or worse, sitting on the laurels of our past success or our dominant market share. We let third parties, who listened better than we did, fulfill your needs with a host of products from fast clones to compilers to add-ons.

We were like the proverbial three monkeys.

Like the monkey who didn’t hear, we didn’t hear your suggestions and respond to your needs on a timely basis with Ashton-Tate products.

Like the monkey who didn’t speak, we didn’t inform you about the future of dBase and our product line, so you could plan with your customers.

And; like the monkey who didn’t see, we didn’t see and recognize your contributions to our success, and smugly – some say arrogantly – ignored you, your input and your needs.

We had only to listen, see and speak with you to jointly plan the future evolution of the dBase standard. I’m not going to apologize for our past errors or attempt to defend them. Let’s just say we’ve been to the priest and he’s just heard a long, long confessions of our past sins. He now knows, what you’ve have known for some time – YOU WERE RIGHT!!! We didn’t provide timely releases of dBase nor some of the dBase features and tools you requested.

It has been YOU, the dBase applications development community, which has played the pivotal role in making dBase a standard. You have made dBase the premier applications development environment. Without your support, dBase wouldn’t be the choice for millions of users, thousands of applications developers and hundreds of add-on products. Today we intend to earn your support for a new standard, dBase IV.

I know that you are looking for more than promises, programs and services. You want and need real tools and tangible products that will help you develop better dBase applications. You send us a message that is loud and clear—perhaps not in your words, but definitely in you actions. The majority of you have, over the past three years, adopted extended or clone technologies from third parties—because you couldn’t get the products you wanted from Ashton-Tate.

Soon, I’ll outline our actions. Actions taken specifically to better meet your needs and those of your users. These actions represent our determination to bring you back home to Ashton-Tate products. Because, in the final analysis, the question is “Will you decide to support, endorse and user our products in your future applications?” You will demonstrate with your future actions, if we did the right thing? We want you to come back to Ashton-Tate, but more importantly, Ashton-Tate is going to come back to you.