The Next Version

Frequent contributor Argle (previous) is mildly famous, and not just around here. He writes:

Someone once remarked that they were jealous that I had two Wikipedia articles written about projects I created. This is about one of them.

This particular product started its life on Windows 3.11, and entered the market in an extended beta which ran for three years. Even in its pre-release state, it counted as a hit. Pre-release sales paid the bills. Computing magazines (actual printed paper magazines you had to subscribe to or buy in the book store) named it one of the best Windows programs of all times. Everyone from tech-celebrities to notorious pornographers sung their praises of this application.

Since things were going well, Argle went and constructed an API for the application which let other developers write addons, making it even more useful. Sales continued, and Argle and his business partner lived well.

And that's when Windows 95 came out. Now, Windows 95 opened up a lot of opportunities, in terms of what OS features the application could potentially leverage, but that would require a substantial effort. By this time, they had been in beta for three years, so Argle and his partner officially launched their version one release, with a big splash and fanfare. And then they quietly started work on version 2.

After the release of version 1, all those trade magazines came back, wanting to know the answer to the big question: "what's next?" As Argle's business partner was the face of the team, he was going to do a round of interviews.

"But," he asked, "what do I tell people about what's coming next?"

Argle wasn't sure, but knew what the wrong answer was: "Whatever you do, don't tell them that we're working on version 2."

"But what do I tell them?"

Argle thought about that question. "There's the addon API. Tell them that we're working on an addon package for retail."

So business partner went off to do the circuit of interviews, and Argle went off to program version 2, quietly. A few days later, they checked in.

"How'd the interviews go?" Argle asked.

"Um, good. They went good."

A few weeks later Argle saw how well they went, when every trade magazine was running headlines announcing that V2 was coming any day now.

It had been the one question everyone had: "When is version 2, and what is going to be in it?" The business partner had tried to dodge the question and hide behind the addon pack, but also had the willpower of a victim of Willy Wonka's factory. He caved in about six seconds and started sharing information about what the plans for V2 were.

There was no putting the toothpaste back in that tube. Sales dropped off a cliff, because nobody wanted to buy a product that was going to expire sometime soon. The money dried up faster than it had come in. Argle and his partner had a gigantic fight, Argle walked away from the company and that was that. Version 2 never happened, and the company vanished into the dustbin of early personal computing.

Argle writes: "It was a good run while it lasted."

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This post originally appeared on The Daily WTF.

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