REAL Studio: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

REAL Software announced today that starting with REALbasic 2009 Release 2 there will be three versions of REALbasic. Here’s my take on the new REAL Studio: There’s some good, bad, and ugly news.
First, the good news is that the Personal edition isn’t changing features or pricing. The pricing for the Professional Edition is getting lowered from $500 to $300 (with a $150 upgrade). More people will be able to afford the Professional Edition than ever before.

The Studio Edition will now cost a whopping $1495 (with a $749 upgrade price) but that’s for 12 months instead of the usual 6 months and works on all three supported platforms. It comes with REAL Server with an unlimited connections license and priority technical support.

The bad news is that features are getting removed from the Professional Edition and getting moved to the Studio Edition. These features include:
  • The Profiler for optimizing code performance
  • Remote Debugging
  • IDE Scripting

I consider the announcement a mixed bag. RS obviously recognizes that they need a new product mix. I’ve long felt that REALbasic was underpriced for what I do. I understand that not everyone is like me and that this will cause some folks to move away from REALbasic which is bad news because once lose customers it’s hard to get them back.

REALbasic’s strength is cross-platform development. By removing the remote debugging from the Professional Edition they’re screwing over anyone currently using the Pro version and I just don’t get it. Because if they really want to do cross-platform applications they will now have to buy TWO (possibly three) editions at $300. That’s not a price decrease that’s a price INCREASE.

What I find an absolutely insane idea is removing features from an existing product and creating a more expensive product with not a whole lot of benefit. I use the Profiler rarely. IDE Scripting is so pathetically hard to use that it’s not a feature. The only must-have for me is Remote Debugging because it’s the only real advantage that REALbasic has. And if I have Remote Debugging having a license for all three platforms is kind of pointless except in rare situations.

REAL Server? I don’t think so. Without the same feature set as MySQL, PostGreSQL or nearly any other ODBC database I just can’t use it for my clients.

Where are the reporting tools, the grid components, IDE extensions that professional level users need, want and demand (see ARBP Dec ’08 survey results)? How about a true cross-platform web browser control? What about ActiveX controls? Those are some features that might be worthy of putting in the Studio edition.

I guarantee that Remote Debugging will be the one feature that everyone will be pissed off about losing. Some people will say that RB ‘just works’ cross-platform and I’ll call BS on that. It takes a fair amount of work to make a very good Macintosh, very good Windows, or very good Linux application and remote debugging is the only sane way to do it.

Some people are going to call this a money grab by RS but I don’t think. I believe that they will soon be flooded with cash as people rush to upgrade before the new release and have a lot of cash on hand. Will that still be true a year from now? I don’t know but I hope RS puts the money they get now in a safe bank account for when sales aren’t as good.

I believe that the feedback given to RS before this announcement has gone unheeded because I can tell you that there are some people really pissed off about it. Me, not so much because I see the need for it in the long run. I would have preferred a simple statement of something like: “We will be adding new Studio only features in the upcoming releases.” That’s all that needs to be said for me. Alas, no word (or hints) on new features.

The cynical part of me says that this might be RS’ “New Coke” moment. They do something so painful and the user-base screams so loud they relent and put remote debugging back in the Pro version. Then they’ll be heros and they’ll still have their new product mix.

How will this affect you? Other thoughts? You think I’m wrong, right, or somewhere in between?

[UPDATE] RS is now saying that the Remote Debugger will stay in the Pro Edition. Check out the announcement here.