MathSoft - A PC Peg in a Mac hole


[The following was written when I found out about Mathsoft's re-entry into the Mac market. They had not publicly announced discontinuing the Mac version the previous year, and instead urged people to swtich to PCs to continue using their software.]

July 31, 1995

MathSoft, Inc., is a company producing technical calculation products for the computing market. A few years ago, they were a cross-platform company, with products for the PC, Macintosh, and Unix platforms.

Unfortunately, they found the latter two markets unprofitable and stopped upgrading their Mac/Unix versions of their flagship product MathCAD.

This left many technical professionals who would rather not use a Wintel machine out in the cold. What bothers a lot of people is not Mathsoft exiting the Mac market, but rather they way they did it and their gall in telling us what type of computer to use to run their software (the famous $49 "preferred engineer/scientist" discount on MathCAD 4.0 - sent to their Mac/Unix users).

Now, they are saying that they plan to reenter the Mac market with a new version of MathCAD. My experience has been that their Mac versions have been steadily decreasing in quality - 2.X was pretty good and I still use it today, while 3.1 was extremely slow and buggy.

What does the future hold? Many of us would like some statement from Mathsoft regarding their committment to cross-platform computing. Until then, I suggest others look carefully at their previous products before making a purchase decision. If the Mac market isn't large enough for them, they are free to develop elsewhere. If they decide to leave, all we ask is that they don't come back.

Message 1 below was sent to a few people on Usenet by Allen Razdow, Chairman and CTO of MathSoft; message 2 is my reply to his email.

One more note - please do not confuse MathSoft, the makers of MathCAD, with MathWorks, the makers of Matlab, which is a different (but better) product, cross-platform, and a joy to use.

Alex Morando


Message 1


From: "razdow"
To: arm@netcom.com, *****@*****.jhu.edu, *****@metronj.org
Subject: MAC/Mathcad
Status: R

Dear Fans,

I'm sorry that you feel we "suck". We try to create quality software at good prices for a wide technical audience. Originally for DOS and Windows, Mathcad was ported to the MAC and to 6 unix platforms, but unfortunately didn't sell enough into those platforms to keep development and marketing costs covered.

We are indeed planning re-entry into the MAC platform, not because "we feel like it" but because our channels and finances now make it possible. We plan do do it well.

If you have other complaints regarding the operation or quality of Mathcad, please forward them to meor to tech support. Visit our web-site at

http://www.mathsoft.com

for updated corporate and product information.

However disappointing, thanks for your input.

Allen Razdow
Chairman and CTO
MathSoft Inc.




Message 2


To: "razdow" , *****@*****.jhu.edu, *****@metronj.org
From: arm@netcom.com
Subject: Re: MAC/Mathcad
Status: R

Mathcad was ported to the MAC and to 6 unix platforms, but unfortunately didn'tsell enough into those platforms to keep development and marketing costs covered.

As I recall, your company began to lower prices soon after the Mac version 3.1 was announced. Therefore, I don't think you can make a fair comparison between the Mac 2.X which sold for $495 versus your (subsequently) $49/$99 Windows versions. You killed the product before giving it a chance in your new pricing strategy.

As I've posted on the newsgroup before, Mac 3.1 was a step down from 2.X for two reasons: the slow speed and the ported interface (small fixed palette, DOS filenames, non-intuitive selection/dragging of equations, refresh problems). Many people on the newsgroup I have corresponded with enjoyed the floating palettes and responsiveness of the 2.X version. When the 3.1 version came out, I voiced my complaints. Unfortunately, nothing came from those calls to tech support except someone saying that only 5% of their Mathcad sales were for the Mac and that Mathsoft will no longer be upgrading the Mac version.

You should have made a public announcement of that fact, so that we could make an informed decision as the Mac market moved to the 68040 processor. Many companies do not develop for the Mac, and I don't have a problem with that, but Mathsoft had the audacity to send $49 "Preferred Scientist/Engineer Discounts" of your PC version to Mac users and tell them to "buy a PC". Unless someone was using Mathcad all the time, you cannot expect users to abandon their investment in other software.

In addition, the release of versions 4/5 for Windows caused a disruption within our cross-platform engineering work. I am echoing the disappointment of the 600 PC,Mac, and Unix users at my company. We settled for a nonoptimal solution of having to use Excel to replace your product. Calls to your sales and tech support had no effect.

We are indeed planning re-entry into the MAC platform, not because "wefeel like it" but because our channels and finances now make itpossible. We plan do do it well.

I am happy that your company is once again considering developing for the Macintosh, but the Mac/Mathcad community would like to have more information regarding your commitment to the platform (my visit to your
Web site did not exactly fill me with confidence). Mathsoft might end up imitating Lotus' failure in the Mac market. Since Mathcad files are already in ASCII, cross-platform operation should be trivial; data should be cross-platform, not the interface. I urge you to write a Macintosh application from the ground up.

Companies like Spyglass, Wolfram, Mathworks, and National Instruments have succeeded in the scientific/engineering multi-platform market. I don't see why Mathsoft cannot. The comparison with Mathworks is especially apt, since they were able to handle both the Power Macintosh and the Pentium bug successfully.

However disappointing, thanks for your input.


Did you really expect otherwise, given your track record in the Mac market?

Allen Razdow
Chairman and CTO
MathSoft Inc.


Alex Morando
Engineer