Press Release - Benno Fuchssteiner:
Future Perspectives of MuPAD
Dear MuPAD friend!
Recently one of our users wrote into the MuPAD visitors
"I am also crushed by your decision
to make the windows95/NT version commercial. Now yet another promising
package will be priced out of reach of the independent researcher."
Although I do not agree with the conclusion of that statement,
I can say that I am as disappointed as he is. Indeed, a part of MuPAD
goes commercial. As the one who is mainly responsible for that decision
I regard this as a serious personal defeat of the many ideas I had when
we started the project. I still believe that scientific software encapsulating
the basic methods of a science developed by so many generations of mankind
should be free. In the following I want to explain briefly what lead to
that decision and I also would like to give you a perspective of what will
survive of our ideas.
The MuPAD group was always suffering from a severe lack
of funding. However, this diet with respect to availability of resources
not only had disadvantages, but it also strengthened our survival spirit.
To give you an idea of what the situation was: until last year the extra
amount my university was contributing to the work of the MuPAD project
was far less than what the same university was spending for the Maple license.
This despite the fact that almost 90 percent of the university's own output
on the internet came from our small group which had the same standard size
as all other groups in mathematics at that institution.
Recently my university decided to contribute more to our
research and development, but this only for a limited time and under the
condition that MuPAD will be commercialized. The same story (with some
variations) holds true for other funding sources: they all pushed us towards
commercialization, scolded us for concentrating too much on unscientific
issues like interfaces (which is not justified at all because a lot of
research was done). Another line of argument was that MuPAD is such a great
success that the project should be ended, since no further development
is necessary and, therefore, no more development funds are needed.
Sometimes I regard it a wonder that under such conditions
MuPAD could prosper at all and reach such a mature state making it a nonnegligible
market force. Our success is only due to the determination of my students,
my collaborators and many outside developers. The lesson I have learned
from our experience is that in academia there is no understanding for you
if you not only strive to do scientific research but also insist to cast
that research in a form that can be easily used by others. Yet, in contrast
to many of my colleagues, I do not consider it to be a mistake to provide
a user friendly form of scientific output.
I do believe it worthwhile to spend efforts on interfaces,
documentation and internet presence - I would do it again.
Of course, I am not totally a dreamer, so I always knew
that some day we would have to commercialize something. But I was sure
that, if successful, we could keep the basic tool (MuPAD itself) free for
an indefinite period of time and that we would be able to build up a commercial
structure on peripheral products. I was hoping that such a commercial structure
would not only support the continuing development of the system but also
bring additional funds for the university which I participated in building
up over the last 25 years. But, alas, we were not given the time for that.
So last year the decision was due either to make the source code of MuPAD
freely available on the internet and finish all development in Paderborn
or to aim at a commercial structure according to the laws of a free market
society. The reasons why I decided for the latter were:
So I and my collaborators decided for commercialization provided
private investors could be found who share our vision. Such investors have
been found. Nevertheless I am still in total and unrestricted control of
decisions for the future development and market policy. I believe that
this a very fortunate situation which eventually can be used for our users
as well as for the scientific community.
- I believe such a complex piece of software as the kernel
of a computer algebra system has to be developed under efficient management
by a dedicated group of people. I was afraid that a continuing development
was not possible under the free organizational structures of the internet.
And certainly, a system whose kernel is not under constant development
is dead, surviving only a couple of years. I did not think that this should
be the fate of MuPAD.
- I also did care for the future of my collaborators, a group
to which I and our users owe a lot. We have in Paderborn a group of dedicated
people with unique know-how and I could not see what would be gained if
this group had to be dispersed. In fact, we already suffered from a severe
brain drain due to the uncertain job perspectives I could offer.
Believe me that this decision was not easy for me, since,
alas, I am not of the age anymore to be attracted by adventures. However,
I am rather confident about the future since I am sure we can build up
a strong and viable company which will always be committed to the scientific
community and will support the interest of that community. To show you
that these are not empty words: among the first projects the newly founded
company started is the development of the interface for "MuPAD light",
a product which will be freely distributed to the scientific community.
It will feature all the mathematics of the MuPAD system, so you should
not mix this up with the restricted versions you know from other systems.
At present our ideas are: there will be two versions of
MuPAD, "MuPAD pro" and "MuPAD light" which only differ in their interfaces
but have the same mathematical capabilities. Since commercialization mainly
concerns the interfaces, the name of the new company is SciFace (standing
for Scientific Interfaces). The CEO of that company is Dr. Kluge, one of
the leading MuPAD developers. SciFace will also play a leading role in
the further development of libraries and the kernel. SciFace hopefully
will provide a safe haven for the accumulated know-how of the MuPAD group.
As soon as resources permit SciFace will start the development of the next-generation-kernel
(which, I believe, will open new horizons for doing mathematics on the
The professional version of MuPAD will be licensed for
a competitive price. Since we will accelerate interface development, we
hope that most of our users will find it worthwhile to contribute to the
MuPAD development by using that version. Those who cannot afford to do
so will come to love "MuPAD light" as a powerful tool.
Of course, all these words cannot hide the sad fact that
SciFace is a commercial company following the laws of the market. I wish
good luck for the new company and I hope you do so as well. I sincerely
hope that in the future SciFace will not forget its origins and will always
feel indebted to the scientific community.