Once upon a time, there was a software firm named AppForge, Inc. This
company sold development tools for mobile platforms, allowing others to
create applications which would run on a number of different devices.
These were all proprietary tools for proprietary systems, and so wouldn't
normally be of interest on LWN. What has happened with AppForge turns out
to be worth a look, however.
It seems that AppForge went bankrupt back in March. So there will be no
support for AppForge's products going into the future. But, as it turns
worse than that:
Crossfire licensing typically works by validating a serial number
against AppForge's server before installation on any new
device. Since AppForge went dark, end users have been unable to
provision new devices with software that they thought they
It does not take much searching to find forums full of AppForge customers
looking for ways to activate the product licenses they had already bought
and paid for. In the mean time, their businesses have come to a halt
because a core component of their products has suddenly been pulled out
from underneath them.
Adding the usual sanctimonious LWN sermon on the risks of using proprietary
software seems superfluous here.
More recently, Progeny Linux Systems ceased operations. This company,
which had based its hopes on a specialized, configurable version of the
Debian distribution aimed at appliance vendors, had been quiet for some
time. Founder Ian Murdock headed off to greener pastures (first the Free
Standards Group, then Sun) a while back. Press releases and other
communications had dried up. The last repository update posted to the
mailing lists happened in October, 2006. The DCC Alliance, a Progeny-led effort
to create a standard distribution based on Debian, has had no news to offer
since 2005. Now the company's web site
states that Progeny ceased operations on April 30.
Progeny seems to have lost out in the market to others with more
interesting offerings. Ubuntu declined to join the DCC Alliance for what
looks like a clear business reason: Ubuntu is becoming the standardized,
cleaned-up version of Debian that DCC wanted to be, and with predictable
releases as a bonus. Companies like rPath
appear to be finding more success at signing up customers in the appliance
market. With no wind in its sails, Progeny was unable to bring in the
revenue to keep going.
Progeny's customers, too, will lose the support offered by the company.
There will be no distribution upgrades, no security fixes, and nobody to
answer questions. This loss will clearly be a concern for any affected
customers, but those customers are in a very different position from those
who were dependent on AppForge tools. Since they were using a free
platform, nothing prevents Progeny's customers from continuing to ship
their products. These customers can also readily find companies (or
consultants) who can continue to support the Progeny platform, should they
need that support. The cost may be unwelcome, but the core truth remains:
any Progeny customer which has a need to keep the Progeny platform secure or fix
bugs in it will be able to do so.
The nature of the technology market is such that the failure of product
lines and entire companies is not an uncommon event. When one company
depends on another company's products, the risk of this sort of failure
must be kept in mind. That risk is far lower, however, when companies base
their products on free software.
(Thanks to Scott Preece for bringing the AppForge situation to our
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