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Let’s talk about those Helix prices…

28 July 2005--Every so often, we remember that no matter how dire our situation, an effort must be made to communicate. This communiqué from the Helix front is motivated in part by the fact that serious Helix 6.0 beta testing is finally underway, and, as always, in part by the ever-present need for funding.

Software developers go through spasms over pricing that could stress out a rhinoceros. We are no exception. Yet for the customer, it isn’t always the price of an upgrade that is decisive, especially since changing an entire system is almost always more expensive. The decisive factor has more to do with how much value the product will deliver and how smooth the transition is for the individual or business that makes the change.

Still, we should talk about the Helix 6 prices. If you read our last message and reviewed the Helix 6 pricing you may have thought they looked high. Are they high? Yes. They are high, certainly when compared to recent versions, which were kept low by design. By recent, we mean the 5.1 through 5.3 upgrades. If you were to go back to the Odesta days, when Client/Server seats were priced in the neighborhood of $179 each, you might find some parallels to current numbers.

Yes, they are higher than you are used to, but even at these prices, Helix is still less expensive than the alternatives. And right now, we have to think about survival. Three years ago, we undertook a job no one would do that was going to be very difficult and should have been done years ago. In none of our worst-case-scenario thinking could we ever have anticipated that on top of the enormous task of making Helix run in macOS, Apple was going to switch processors on us. Now, we must not only raise enough money to finish the macOS conversion, but we must also prepare for the Intel-based Macs coming next year.

We’re sorry we have to do it this way. We’re not trying to get rich. We’re trying to keep Helix alive. We’re weary of having to beg for funds because of how often we have come up just a little short. We think our new pricing will allow us to work unfettered at least into next year, provided our user base responds with upgrades.

We hate to harp on the word upgrade, because we know it means we’re reaching into your wallets again, but this entire operation is focused on upgrades as its outcome. If Helix moves into macOS and doesn’t find a way to sustain itself, it will cease to exist as an alternative to all those other icky approaches to application design. Only your upgrades will prevent that from happening. We’d rather be talking about expanding the user base, but until we get the entire product line running in macOS, few will take us seriously enough to become new users. It is practically impossible to convince somebody to buy an OS 9 application today and commit to waiting for its macOS release.

What happened to "the vision thing?"
Historically, Helix has delivered some new versions that were, to be charitable, little more than bug fixes with a handful of marginal features thrown in. Some were real stinkers. But some were genuine works of vision. By creating a team that incorporated people who were not only passionate about Helix, but go back far enough to understand and appreciate that original vision, we have started to move Helix back in the right direction.

Yet in spite of those efforts, some people may look at Helix 6.0 when it ships and dismiss it as "only having a couple of new features." If there is one thing we’ve said over and over that bears repeating, it is this: All of the other features have already been delivered, donated to the past and the future as the foundation of Helix 6.0 code, available now and running on any Macintosh you can buy today, not just old Macs that boot up in OS 9.

When Helix 6.0 begins shipping, please don’t be put off or surprised to see us marketing many more than just the very newest features. You’ve been following this saga, but most Helix users have not. When they return to the fold, Helix will most likely be very different than the last version they used. To someone who has never seen or used a version of Helix beyond 5.0.2, or someone who has never seen Helix RADE 4.5.5, or someone who never saw a thing after Helix Express 4.5.1 (and we know there are still lots of you out there), Helix will look very different.

For long-time Helix users running collections on a network, Helix 6.0 will deliver the instant benefit of being able to run on a powerful G5 Server under macOS. It will also deliver the instant benefit for some, and the eventual benefit for others, that they need not concern themselves that their collection is growing larger than 2 Gigabytes. And it will enable them to do all this across the internet, allowing people in their workgroup to access their work from anywhere. And upgrading will be--for most--simply a matter of moving it to a macOS machine, running Update Collection and starting it back up (after having properly backed up, of course!).

While we are not releasing Helix RADE, Client and Engine running native in macOS yet, we are very close to doing that with Helix Server. If a collection that runs in this new Helix Server never needs to be modified, Helix Server (and the macOS native utilities) are all you need. But if you want to make Design Mode changes to that collection, you will also need Helix RADE 6.0 Classic (Helix RADE 5.3.2, while nearly identical, does not contain the slight changes required for Helix 6 compatibility).

As we move forward to having our full product line running natively in macOS, we will continue to make incremental improvements to the core code, as we have since this process began in 2002, because that is just a characteristic of the way the Helix Recovery Team operates. So even though Helix RADE 6.0 Classic is essentially the same as Helix RADE 5.3.2, there actually have been some dramatic improvements under the hood. As a result, Helix RADE 6.0 Classic is a better product than Helix RADE 5.3.2. Helix 5.3.2 marks the end of active pre-macOS development.

One Last Chance
Helix 6.0 is the point of departure for the future. And though Helix RADE 6.0 will not initialy be macOS native, it will--even before we ship a macOS RADE--enable you to design, develop, deploy, modify and support a Helix application that runs in macOS.

For a limited time we have been offering Helix 5.3.2 at prices that we promised would go up once we started selling Helix 6.0. We promised that we would not begin to pre-sell Helix 6 for at least as long as this offer generated enough money to keep us going. The response has gotten us through the last two very critical months. But that well is running dry and the window of opportunity to save is now coming to a close. We will begin taking orders for Helix 6.0 on August 15th, 2005. Our new pricing will go into effect on that day. If you are still using Helix 5.1.1 or earlier, your chance to save ends on that date.

In case we didn’t shout loud enough last time, then let’s say it again: you-can-save-money-by-upgrading-to-5.3.2-now. You’ve got two weeks left: do it now. Buy 5.3.2--even if you know you can’t possibly find the time to do the upgrade in your business, even if you have already decided not to upgrade until Helix 6.0 ships--buy it now. It will cost you less in total to upgrade to Helix 6 that way.

In case this opportunity is not clearly presented, perhaps an illustration will help: suppose you want to purchase a new Server, licensed for 4 Clients. If you buy it now, in version 5.3.2, it will cost you $760.00. Then when Helix 6.0 ships, the upgrade will cost an additional $590.00, bringing the total to $1350.00. But if you wait until we start selling Helix 6.0, the price for that same license will be $1515.00. So by purchasing now, you save $165.00. The same logic works for upgrades too.

So what does someone who hasn’t even upgraded to Helix 5.3.2 yet do? Follow Yogi Berra’s sage advice: When you come to a fork in the road, take it. You can upgrade now and save, or wait. The choice is yours. Once we start selling Helix 6.0, the price for Helix 5.3.2 will go up, and the chance to save will be gone.

For those of you who have been with us all along, who have been keeping up to date, and have been asking us for the opportunity to help by purchasing Helix 6.0, who have hung on desperately, needing to upgrade your Server hardware, your day is almost here. And for those who only use RADE, upgrade to Helix 6.0, even if it doesn’t appear all that valuable to you. You’ll get a more solid Helix and you’ll help get its macOS-native version out all the sooner. Do it now. You’ll save too!

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