Monday, July 03, 2006

Mupad 4 released

Last year I wrote quite a pessimistic piece about Mupad's problems and argued that they needed a compelling upgrade to make enough money to avoid last August's near bankruptcy but that they probably lacked the resources to produce one.

Well the upgrade is here, just in time for the summer, and I feel a little more optimistic, but not because of the upgrade.

The headline feature is "a new uniform user interface for all supported operating systems". Does this mean some backward incompatibility to try and draw users up to Mupad 4? It goes on "is platform independed [sic] and provides more formatting features" though none are explicitly listed.

On the computation side, top features listed are some new elliptic and Jacobi functions, improvements to symbolic factoring, anti-aliased screen graphics, and around 30 other changes that seem too trivial to note (eg
"The option Column of output::tableForm has been renamed to Columns.").

It's not a compelling upgrade at all, so why do I feel more optimistic for them?

Well, at the same time as launching the upgrade, they re-designed their website and it shows a different attitude than before - much more commercial. There is a new web store (though you have to buy in Euros), a big list of new international distributors, and a price list focused on using the existing user base (eg upgrades at 50% of a new license fee). The shyness about making money that was exemplified by the previous free versions of Mupad has gone.

There is also a news item "
SciFace cooperates with the university of Kassel" suggesting some new research backing, but there are no details and no mention on Kassel's site, so this may be mostly cheerleading to raise users confidence in future development.

Whether the new focus on the "bottom line" will be enough, time will tell, but at least there is fight.

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