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Morfik: Past, Present and Future
The recent announcement by Altium regarding its acquisition of Morfik and Aram Mirkazemi’s post in the Morfik Forums, have generated mixed responses from existing Morfik customers. Change is never easy and it is normal to feel trepidation about the future. Indeed, not feeling worried would be unusual. So we do not take any of your comments as negative. In fact it shows us that you care and we thank you for your thoughts.
To help you understand the reasons for this move and its benefits, I would like to share my view of the historical context of this decision.
I have known Aram for 38 years since Aram was only 8 years old! I was hired to teach him English (that should explain a lot of things!). So I know him better than any of you and I can assure you that financial considerations have not been the primary driver for this move.
Aram’s computing career began in the 1980’s when at the age of 19 he started his studies in Electronic Engineering at the University of Tasmania where he met a 22 year old Nick Martin and their shared passion for technology, computing, soccer and their common belief in the Baha’i faith lead to a close friendship which lasts to this day. At the time, the Electronics CAD software market was dominated by UNIX-based products running on expensive graphics workstations, with costs often exceeding $100K per seat. This was beyond the reach of most businesses, let alone individuals. Inspired by the success of trail blazers and the rise of the PC platform, Nick came up with the idea of affordable Electronic CAD software and started Protel. Later on Nick persuaded Aram to put his post graduate studies on hold and join him to further the development of the product.
The most crucial decision that they took was to re-engineer their CAD application and port it from DOS to Windows. This was at a time when Windows 3.0 was unknown to the rest of the world. The backlash that they encountered was relentless and hostile. Windows was the last thing CAD engineers would have wanted for their highly precise engineering work. Subsequently they built a whole new architecture on the Windows platform for integration of various CAD tools that proved to be a game-changer. Initially known as EDA/Client and now as DXP, this technology and architecture continues to be the number one differentiating aspect of Altium’s software platform in the market place.
Fast forward to the mid 1990’s. One day I received a phone call from Aram who invited me over to meet his friend Nick and discuss their business plans. We spent many hours sharing our visions and experiences. During discussions, Nick mentioned the internet which at the time was in its infancy and asked for my opinion. I had been an enthusiastic SysOp running an online bulletin board from the spare bedroom for many years and enjoyed a large following. Perhaps it was a subconscious fear of losing my captive audience that prevented me from realising the potential of the internet and I responded dismissively. To support my views, I even quoted the most influential person in the IT industry at the time (Bill something or another!) saying that the internet was a passing fad! Nick on the other hand could not stop enthusing about the internet and his own visions for using it.
In the months and years that followed, two interesting events took place. First, the multinational company I was working for fell on hard times, and I was laid-off in the process. This coincided with the worst economic recession in Australian history and I joined the millions of unemployed. Soon I was reduced to mustering cattle with a helicopter in the Australian outback for pittance. The second event was a very successful IPO which turned Protel into the public company we now know as Altium. I remember one night lying on the floor in my sleeping bag in a helicopter hanger in the middle of nowhere and listening to the sound of crickets, telling myself that I should have listened to Nick and Aram more carefully when they were so passionately talking about the future and the internet!
After the IPO, Nick and Aram parted ways. Aram began pursuing the Web and soon established Morfik while Nick continued with the now public company and pursued a whole new paradigm of design for smart devices.
In 2005 I was working at the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (our FAA counterpart) in air crash investigations as a system safety analyst when I received a phone call from Aram inviting me to Hobart for a business proposition. I met Aram and Shah the next day and had a look at Morfik. Aram asked me to join the company and help him with further development and marketing of the product. Having learned that there is always a method to Aram’s madness and having embraced the internet myself (after seeing the light!), I did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity and moved to Tasmania a few weeks later.
In the same year we officially launched the product at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco to great acclaim. At the time Morfik was the only fully integrated Ajax development tool on offer. Many big names of the IT industry approached us and although there was plenty of talk about acquisitions and joint ventures, Aram was largely uninterested because none of these vendors shared his vision for Morfik. Aram started Morfik in 2000 and has continued to invest in it for the last ten years and would no doubt continue to invest to pursue his vision.
Although there has been continued interest from technology companies in acquiring Morfik, none has brought to the table what Morfik needs to help fulfil its vision. That is until the opportunity to join forces (or more accurately re-join forces) with Altium came along. The biggest threat to mergers and acquisitions is the incompatibility of corporate cultures of the respective companies. As you now know Altium and Morfik are not strangers and, with the exception of me and the Kiev team, all employees of Morfik have been employees of Altium in the past and the visions of the two companies are complementary.
While Aram was developing Morfik, Altium continued to push the envelope in the electronics design tools frontier and through technology innovation, acquisition and global expansion has become a respected player in its industry. Many of Altium’s technological offerings have been credited with being first in this highly specialised domain. The emergence of Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), where the functionality of the device is no longer fixed at the time of manufacture but can be updated in the field, has created new vistas for electronics designers.
Altium is a major proponent of this “soft-hardware” approach and provides a design methodology that allows designers easy access to this technology.
This approach, along with integrated embedded software development, and rapid prototyping platforms, is targeted at helping electronics designers build next generation devices.
Nick never lost his passion for the internet and last year published a seminal paper describing a future where all devices must by necessity be designed to act as part of a device eco-system as part of the “internet of all things”.
In such a world the design process begins from the definition of the role of each device within the eco-system, whether they be personal devices (PCs, Laptops, Smartphones etc), servers, or dedicated applications-specific devices.
The glue that binds together the components of this ecosystem is the internet.
Today, Altium’s software helps electronic designers define the physical devices, along with their embedded intelligence. These design tools project the eco-system definition onto the physical hardware.
Morfik provides the design tools that are used to create the software applications that run across this “sea of internet-enabled devices”. These web-based software applications project the eco-system definition outwards across the internet.
We started 2010 by promising you that we intend to make this the year of Morfik. We started the blogs, the new forums, the rewards program, the Kiev team, Morfik Packages, Morfik wiki, and the beta cycle for Morfik 3. The more effort we put into the product the more you asked for. To deliver what our users demand (some in refreshingly blunt style!) we need to engage more resources that at this juncture money cannot buy. The Morfik rewards program has been partially successful in fostering a culture of community support and we are grateful for the generous contributions of our active members. However, we are eager to speed up the process. Joining forces with Altium which shares our vision, needs our technology, has the necessary Morfik related technical knowledge and offers human and corporate resources we need on a global scale is the most logical and safest course of action.
I recommend a bit more patience. Lots of good news is on the way.