Smalltalk and Python

A SERFer steve at
Fri Dec 15 16:32:30 EST 2000

"Steve Holden" <sholden at> writes:

>James A. Robertson <jarober at> wrote in message
>news:3A395197.CB2974D5 at
>> "Russell E. Owen" wrote:
>> >
>> >
>> > My point is, that Cincom's pricing policies look self-destructive to me.
>> > I cannot in good conscience make my observatory rely on a language that
>> > I fear will continue to be a marginal player, at best.
>> >
>> How so?  We went way over our sales targets last year, and things are
>> looking pretty good for the upcoming year.  Cincom has devoted a lot of
>> resource into Smalltalk; we are committed to it.
>Unfortunately, sales targets are arbitrary numbers.  What evidence do you
>have that revenues might have been increased if you had reduced the price?
>I'm sure you can appreciate that if you sold for one-third the price and
>made six times as many sales, profits would be up.  Most sales organizations
>I've worked with don't have a model which shows profits as a function of
>The fact that I've seen two postings on this thread complaining that your
>prices are too high suggests sales would increase with lower pricing.  Of
>course the effect on profit is unknown.
>The fact that an academic version is available redeems your policy somewhat,
>but I suspect your target market may be nervous about the company's survival
>because it feels your pricing policies are unrealistic.

Indeed we are!  We keep hearing a circular argument:
1. Cincom are committed to Smalltalk in the long term.
2. We must charge these prices if Smalltalk is to survive within Cincom.

Its like a sort of quantum mechanical uncertainty thing... each statement
on its own makes sense, but put together, they are meaningless.
>> > I'm also reluctant to write an application with a "freebie" splash
>> > screen that comes up every time. And I'm reluctant to use free versions
>> > of commercial stuff we cannot afford, because it doesn't support the
>> > company and because their pricing policies are risky -- if they dump the
>> > free version we're in deep trouble.
>> If an asteroid hits the planet, you're in trouble too.  Nothing is
>> certain.  If Sun's hardware sales slip at some point, Java is uncertain
>> as well.  They aren't making money on Java itself.
>Well, that's probably why this discussion is being held on the Python group!
>Clearly Sun's demise would impact a lot of people and upset a lot of plans,
>but they do have a certain financial momentum which means a crash would
>probably be heralded by several years of poor performance.

Having done some research into Java's history, I would guess that Sun are
in fact making money from Java:  one of the motivations was to provide
a common platform and a common set of APIs for internal Sun use as well
as a product.  Even if Java had only succeeded as an internal tool, it
would have cut costs, and so made money for Sun.

>Also, Java has a number of compatible compilers, so even if Sun died the
>language would conceivably survive.  It sounds as though the degree of
>SmallTalk compatibility is lower, effectively making the Cincom
>implementation proprietary.

There is no doubt the language would survive.  Its now one of IBM's
primary tools for internal use, and IBM have written their own VMs
(such as the UVM used in VisualAge), and they are developing Java byte
code emulation tools (see the DAISY project).

>Sun's revenues are measured in the billions - they became a $1bn company in
>year six, if I remember rightly.  Whereas Cincom's web site says "And during
>the past three decades, our annual sales have grown to $185 million".  Not
>quite so impressive.
>Is there NOBODY in the company who suspects this slow growth might be due to
>overpricing?  I'm not denigrating your figures in absolute terms (I achieved
>much less in my own company), but other companies have grown much larger
>revenues in the same period, and thereby become a better long-term bet.
>> >
>> > If there were compatible implementations I'd not worry so much about the
>> > stability of one company, but I'm reluctant to hitch our star to Cincom.
>> >
>> > Smalltalk is my favorite language. However, I am the only one at the
>> > observatory who knows it and feels it is worthwhile. As I fight Python's
>> > disgusting GUI I keep wavering, and I may yet give up and switch to
>> > Smalltalk. The worst they can do is fire me. But I love my job.
>> >
>> > -- Russell
>> --
>> James A. Robertson
>> Technical Product Manager (Smalltalk), Cincom
>> jarober at
>> <Talk Small and Carry a Big Class Library>
> Steve

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