Friday, 2 May 2008

Why neither Apex or JDeveloper are actually "free"

I've always had trouble with the word "free". Because the people who bandy it around are typically in marketing and sales (or consulting ;). And they wouldn't be in a job if they actually sold stuff for "free".

Recently PsyBlog had a well articulated blog entry describing this sales-speak: FREE! But at What Price?

This is why the marketing for Apex and JDeveloper as "free" doesn't sit well with me, and neither the zeal behind the Apex and JDev camps with the argument "but it's free!". To me free means 100% free. No conditions attached. Forever. Covers all cases for you and me and everyone else. There shouldn't be a "yeah-but" situation with free.

As such Apex strictly isn't free because the majority of users are running it on a purchased licensed Oracle database edition. Of course it's "free" if you use it on Oracle XE, but I've yet to find a single customer with a substantial Oracle install willing to downgrade to the Oracle-lite version. I'm not saying there aren't Oracle XE sites out there, but (from my subjective experience) in the scheme of things most Oracle customers aren't using Oracle XE for production purposes. The Oracle salesman already got'em.

In turn JDeveloper isn't strictly "free" either. Arguably the IDE is, but JDeveloper is coupled with ADF (not free), WebCenter (not free) and SOA (not free). If we specifically look at ADF it is "free" as long as you own an OAS license or pay a per user seat license.

A question arises though, why did Oracle bother to make these tools "free", or more specifically the marketing exercise of "free"?:

Arguably for JDeveloper it was the other competing Java IDEs, namely Eclipse and NetBeans are free, so Oracle needed to compete on the same playing field to entice those sarcastic and critical Java crowd. For Apex the reason is not so clear to me as I don't work in the Apex circles and maybe a reader can put their opinion forward. If Apex only runs on Oracle, why bother with the "free" marketing unless it's just a feel-good? Why not just say SQL and PL/SQL are also free with the database? Why did they pick Apex? To compete with JDev? I dunno.

So the next question arises, how could Oracle go about making these tools really "free" (be it a realistic dream or not)?:

For JDeveloper it's obvious. If you couple a component such as ADF with the IDE, then remove any of the OAS license caveats. Otherwise if you're going to include another part in the base download, either make it free or strip it out as a clear downloadable plug-in.

For Apex, if I use an Oracle non-XE edition (eg. SE, EE etc), and I use no features but those available to Oracle XE, and Apex, then make it free across the board, database included, regardless of edition.

Realistic: no?

Idle Friday musings?: yes.

Give you a good chuckle?: I hope so.

Oh, and I'm still waiting on Oracle to apply the same "free" marketing to Oracle Forms, be it "free" as long as you install to OAS ;)

BTW, take time to check out other articles on PsyBlog. My recent favourite: How Children Learn the Earth Isn't Flat.


Dimitri Gielis said...

I'm in the APEX camp and I just like APEX to be a non-payable "option" of the database... even nicer, from 11g onwards it's just there ;-)

I see it as:
- Do you want a complete free system and you want to have a declarative development environment: go for Oracle XE and APEX.
As you want everything for free, you probably don't care about support, nevertheless the forums can be very helpful.
- If you already have a database or need one and want to pay for it, why not take the best database there is? So you go for an Oracle DB and it happens you get a development environment free of charge with it. You don't pay anything extra for it.

As for JDeveloper I find it another story, you'll want a database (everybody needs to store it's data somewhere!) and you need an application server.

And about Forms... you can migrate them for free to APEX ;-)

Just the thoughts of an Apex Evangelist.


jotawolf said...

For me APEX make sense if you take the ACCESS base as a path to get into SQLServer. I have seen lots of ACCESS systems for small and non critical apps, for sure they must pay the M$ fee... but let's be realistic not of them know they have to pay for a license.. a friend give 'em ACCESS. As an access competence XE+APEX works fine. I made an app for a friend (5 tables!) hes quite happy, and use APEX.

Gary Myers said...

"I use no features but those available to Oracle XE, and Apex, then make it free across the board, database included, regardless of edition."
But, Apex can use any SQL feature, so you could have screens that access ASH views incurring Enterprise Edition (plus Diagnostics pack) costs.
Really, I think they just use free to differentiate it from the 'with cost' options.

"Why not just say SQL and PL/SQL are also free with the database? " They are intrinsically part of the database, whereas Apex is an option (albeit a forced one in 11g). In one way it is closer to XMLDB or Oracle Text, but with the difference that Apex can be upgraded independently of the database.

Dan said...

I didn't see SQL Developer on the list. It's labeled as "Free" and it is. It competes against products that cost thousands and even allows for connections into other DBs.

Chris Muir said...

I appreciate all the points of view. However, lets give my argument a different spin to prove my point.

The Apex, JDeveloper and SQL Developer (oh, and Oracle XE) Oracle staff are paid Oracle staff. Oracle is not a for-non-profit organisation. As soon as you pay for an Oracle license, you're paying for those staff in 1 way or another.

And as I mentioned because the majority of sites who use these tools are paid Oracle customers, you pay. I have yet to come across a site that substantially (ie. in a production environment) uses any of these products without owning at least 1 Oracle license.

Now maybe there are some lucky s*ckers out there using all free Oracle software and have never bought and Oracle license. Good for them. Meanwhile the rest of us are paying for these "free" products regardless of the marketing spin.

Simply, there's no such thing as a free lunch., regardless of how it's sold to you.