The ColdFusion Pricing Debate Revisited

Over the years there has been infrequent but ongoing discussion about ColdFusion pricing. Some feel that the price is too high and that lowering it would increase product use. Others believe that the product has been priced far too low, and that raising it would increase respect among analysts and industry experts. Some want it given away, free or open source. Others have asked for changing versioning, and including a free option. There are lots of suggestions, and lots of opinions. And contrary to what some seem to believe, we actually do spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure all of this out.
I have my own opinions on the subject, but am not going to share them here. Rather, because this subject has come up again recently (along with the assertion that the ColdFusion product team just does not get it and is making all sorts of terrible mistakes), I thought I’d share with you some of the debate and thinking that goes into this discussion.
Creating software is expensive. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, often many millions of dollars, creating and maintaining software products. So what would possess a company to take all of that time, effort, and money, and slash the price or just give it all away?
There are lots of reasons for doing so, and a long list of companies and products who have indeed done so (with varying degrees of success). But in general, the decision to give away a product falls into one of three categories:

  • A company may become uninterested in continuing to create or maintain a product. This may be because of changes in company strategy and direction, or it may be because of market changes and evolution, or it may be because the product was failing, or it may be because the product had simply outlived its usefulness. There are lots of reasons and motivations. But, at the end of the day, if a company is no longer interested in marketing a product, they may opt to just give it away (or perhaps open source it) as opposed to just dropping support for it. Doing so can help the company save face, and perhaps the product could actually thrive and be granted a new lease on life (although history has shown that in reality this seldom works). A perfect (or perhaps imperfect) example of this is Allaire Spectra, a product that started off life with one set of goals, but which then morphed into a product that was poorly positioned, terribly misunderstood, and not overly successful. When Macromedia acquired Allaire the entire product line was scrutinized, and Spectra was dropped as a product. But, there were (and still are) some customers using Spectra, and so rather than just abandon the product, Macromedia open sourced it (and then promptly totally ignored it).
  • Sometimes company and product strategy necessitates product realignment, and that often includes positioning and pricing changes. At times this is planned, other times this is in reaction to market and trend changes. Product pricing is a tough balancing act, underpricing a product can be as damaging to the product as overpricing, and so companies constantly revisit and refine pricing decisions. A great example of this is Flex which was originally created as a server and priced accordingly. And then Flex 2 was reinvented as a compiler, with supporting tooling and an optional server, and pricing and packaging changed accordingly. And pricing has been tweaked some more since then. Flex 1 was targeted at a few large organizations, and the pricing and packaging reflected that. Flex 2 became a developer centric product, targeted at the masses, and so the revised pricing and packaging changed to reflect this new strategy. Whether the original Flex strategy was correct or not can be freely debated, but is rather irrelevant. What is more relevant is that the product team made the changes that they thought necessary, changes that appear to have been exactly what was required.
  • And sometimes pricing decisions are less driven by the product itself, and more by some larger consideration. Does anyone remember Allaire ColdFusion Studio? Many do, and many still use that product. But what many don’t know is that product never made money. So why was it created and sold? Because it helped sell ColdFusion. The tool was a loss-leader, sold at a loss to help drive greater revenues in total. In the case of ColdFusion Studio, financial success of the primary product drove pricing considerations pertaining to a lesser value supporting product. Another example is BlazeDS. Previously Flash Remoting had been sold or included in other commercial products. But increased used of Flash Remoting is critical to the ongoing success of Flash as a platform, and so Flash Remoting and core messaging functionality was open sourced as BlazeDS. Here previously sold software is being given away to better solidify the core platform. And open sourcing the codebase has an additional benefit in that it helps developers better understand communication internals, and may also help in porting the code to support other back-ends. Similarly, the decision to open source Flex SDK but to charge for tooling represents a strategic decision that dictated packaging and pricing thinking. In other words, pricing can sometimes be driven by high-level strategic thinking, including completely rethinking revenue generation models.

So, everything from company direction to market trends to product strategy and more all can, and do, impact product pricing and pricing changes.
(And before I get accused of open source bashing, let me make it quite clear that I am not talking about projects or products that start life as community or open source initiatives. Those have a very different motivation, a very different life cycle, and a very different definition of success. Both open source software and commercial software have their place and legitimacy. There is value in both, and I respect the right of developer communities to build and manage their own destinies as much as respect the right for commercial software vendors to profit from their endeavors. My comments here are not about open source itself or the open source movement. What this is about is making the shift, transitioning from commercially sold product to unpaid or dramatically reduced product, including becoming open source.)
Now back to ColdFusion. Do any of the pricing motivations enumerated above apply to ColdFusion? Let’s see.
ColdFusion remains a critical product, and is a core component of Adobe’s development and RIA platforms. In fact, Adobe has demonstrated a far greater commitment to ColdFusion than Macromedia ever did! No abandonment at all here. So the first category does not apply.
But what about strategic pricing changes? Do current trends or market situations warrant price changes, either up or down? Is there a strategy change that is needed that could help the state of the business? Adobe has strict policies that prohibit the sharing of actual product specific numbers. But we have stated repeatedly that the ColdFusion numbers are really good. And former Adobe CEO, Bruce Chizen, was quoted in an interview as saying that the ColdFusion numbers are the best they’ve been since Adobe took over the product. When product sales remain solid and predictable and reliable, then pricing changes are extremely risky, and must only be considered if there is overwhelming evidence that doing so would improve the business, and not hurt it. This involves determining perhaps, as an example, whether a 50% drop in product price would result in a 100% increase in product sold, which is what would be required to match existing revenue. And both priced drops and increases must be scrutinized. Sometimes the market and environment preclude pricing changes even when they might be necessitated. As an example, ColdFusion MX cost us more to build than any other version of ColdFusion to date, but we did not raise the price then (even though we truly needed to) because the market and environment would not have tolerated the change. It works both ways. But at the end of the day, particularly in regards to lowering prices, if a product is not selling well, then pricing changes become more appealing. But ColdFusion remains a highly successful product, and so while all strategic and growth options are up for consideration, there really is not an overwhelming necessity to immediately slash ColdFusion pricing.
Which brings us to the third category, changing pricing models or high-level strategy. For example, one suggestion that has come up occasionally is to give away ColdFusion and sell an IDE. This is a compelling idea, but one that thus far has been impossible to cost justify. Assuming that a tool would sell for a 10th of the price of ColdFusion Professional (and perhaps a 50th of the price of ColdFusion Enterprise), we’d need to sell a massive number of tools to not massively harm revenue. And our research (yes, we do research this thoroughly and extensively) does not in any way suggest that this could work. At least not now. Is it an option in the future? Perhaps. As already noted, market and environment changes can absolutely impact product pricing decisions and options.
There are no shortage of options. Do we create a free entry level version of ColdFusion, and if so what would the impact on the business be (both positive and negative)? What about giving away ColdFusion Professional and making up for the revenue shortfall by raising the price of ColdFusion Enterprise? Should we do away with those two editions and create one that is priced somewhere in the middle? What about giving copies away free for education (as Flex Builder does), what would be the revenue implications of such a decision? Should the product be open sourced, and if so how would revenue be generated to be able to sustain a development team? What about the cost of the OEM technologies in ColdFusion, can they be removed to lower the cost while still maintaining product value? Can that tooling strategy be made to work? What can we do for ISVs who want to build products on top of ColdFusion, what can we do to make them successful? Lots of options. And few are inherently right or wrong, they all have pros and cons and these must be evaluated and debated clearly and unemotionally, while keeping the state of the business in mind.
And yes, I did say while keeping the business in mind. For those of us who’ve been involved in ColdFusion since the early days, there is a lot of history and emotion and passion involved. And that’s wonderful, it’s what makes the ColdFusion community such a, well, community. And part of my job has always been to create and support that community. But at the end of the day, the domain name is, not And at the risk of sounding like a pro-business capitalist pig, the other part of my job is to ensure that the ColdFusion business is a healthy one. Because if it were not so, we’d not be having this discussion at all.
No shortage of opinions. And you are free to share your opinions too. But keep these facts in mind …
It costs a lot of money to create and maintain ColdFusion. Slashing product generated revenue, or giving the product away, would likely mean that we’d not be able to afford to pay a team to build new features. Could the community take over? Perhaps, and that has to be part of any discussion.
There are individuals who are very price conscious, for whom ColdFusion’s price point becomes a real obstacle. But these individuals are a minority. Truly. Talk to our sales reps, those who actually sell ColdFusion every day, and they’ll tell you that price is just not an issue. They don’t lose sales over price, not anymore (ironically, it was more of an issue years ago). For what it’s worth, the biggest issue is when some CTO or outside “expert” mandates some new policy or decision that excludes ColdFusion. I am not dismissing those who find the price prohibitive, but they truly are the minority. And the proof of that is, as already stated, that ColdFusion is selling really well.
Having said that, there are indeed smaller organization, or contract developers who worry about the costs they pass on to their clients, who do worry more about initial cost (as opposed to total ongoing cost). Many of these are the ones advocating that we give ColdFusion away for free. Although when I ask them if they give away the work they do that is built on ColdFusion, my question is usually met with an incredulous glare. Still, we do need to accommodate these individuals. Which is why we do have the less expensive edition, and which is why we made sure that per CPU pricing allows multiple cores and multiple virtual machines, and why we’ve been providing hosting companies with very aggressive pricing options so that they can afford to offer ColdFusion at competitive prices. Although, one hosting company recently told me that even if we cut their prices they’d still charge more for ColdFusion than they do other options because they have found that they can indeed charge more and that ColdFusion customers will pay more. It’s the free market at work.
The bottom line is that all options are on the table and always are. We make price changes when appropriate, both up and down. What made sense in the past may or may not make sense in the future. And we constantly reevaluate the options available to us. And as we work our way towards “Centaur”, you can be sure that we’re having this debate all over again.

55 responses to “The ColdFusion Pricing Debate Revisited”

  1. Michael Long Avatar
    Michael Long

    The numbers may be fine now, but what composes those numbers? Are they primarily existing organizations who’re upgrading and for whom changing platforms would be a major cost? Is the base expanding significantly?
    What’s projected in the next five years, or ten years, when young developers who "grew up" with PHP and Ruby move into the business world? Are they going to embrace CF? Recommend it? Or will they recommend replacing it?
    From my perspective, I’d advocate making "Pro" free with community support, and charging for Enterprise (more the mySQL support model). All with an eye towards expanding the language base. And continuing strong integration and support for Flash/Flex/Air.

  2. Barry Crowley Avatar
    Barry Crowley

    Personally I agree with your assessment about the costs associated with ColdFusion. I have been a contract developer for six years and I have had many conversations with small businesses regarding the extra costs associated with CF. And I can say that in every case, once I have shown them what CF can do, and how much less time it will take me to develop their site, they have always agreed that it is worth the cost. I have recently started contracting with a very large company and when I recommended that they purchase two licenses of CF Enterprise at a cost of over $15,000 I was told "oh, that’s not expensive at all". That is an actual quote.

  3. jfish Avatar

    Amen, Ben. As a long-time CFer (since 2.0), I have had a few clients over the years balk at price issues ("we can get that for $19.00 / month with SoAndSo Co"), the companies that truly understand their own need for improved systems sooner than later have no trouble paying a bit for monthly server costs or up-front license costs and much less for the quick turnaround based on fewer development hours. And I have rarely been in a position to give away what I do for free … the strength of CF for me has always been the ability to quickly cover 99% of what I need to get done, and not spending time coding low-level functions.
    Glad to hear the re-enforcement of Adobe’s committment, and especially glad that you expect to continue profiting from CF. If you don’t profit, I *know* I won’t.

  4. Dan Wilson Avatar
    Dan Wilson

    I say leave ColdFusion pricing right where it is. The market is satisfied enough to continue purchasing the ColdFusion software year over year.
    Besides, the biggest hindrance at the moment in CF is the shortage of qualified developers. Maybe take some of the CF profit and put it in to select University Programs to help the pipeline of CF developers.
    In the two areas unserviced by the current pricing model, OpenBD will suffice. Adobe should make nice and support openBD. There is a lot of synergy available for those willing to see long term strategy.

  5. Marc Hughes Avatar
    Marc Hughes

    "There are individuals who are very price conscious, for whom ColdFusion’s price point becomes a real obstacle. But these individuals are a minority."
    Sure, if you ask sales guys selling to executives of largish corporations, that’s a very plausible answer.
    But think about this. I don’t know Cold Fusion. I never bothered learning it because it wasn’t free and there are great free/Free alternatives out there. I don’t know if it’s better than a Java/JSP solution, but I don’t care because I do know that the Java/JSP solution will work. I also happen to be the person at my (rather largish) corporation that would make the recommendation to use CF or not. So my company has never even considered it because I’ve never even considered it because it’s not free for me to use elsewhere. Because it’s not free, you’ll see other reasons why potential customers don’t buy… "We standardized on something else", "We’re not staffed for that", "Why should we try something new?"
    But you guys are lucky. This entire problem might have been solved by your competitor. I was planning on giving the whole Blue Dragon thing a kick in the tires. Maybe you’ll attract customers via people being introduced through that project.

  6. michael Long Avatar
    michael Long

    "Besides, the biggest hindrance at the moment in CF is the shortage of qualified developers."
    That, Dan, was my point entirely, as Marc’s post reinforces.

  7. Neil Avatar

    Thank you very much Ben for putting this issue. I am sure CF8 have better sale.
    But openBD will have effect and I am sure next version might not be as successful with high pricing tag. I would suggest to have something like annual payments or additional feature cost.
    I am talking about our use cases where we don’t need additional CF features like .Net, Exchange and openBD is well suited in our Apps, in next six months openBD will be another great alternative of CF8.
    If there are any better possibilities for lowering the cost or better offers to existing customers then I hope this will help us (as developers) and small/medium size companies to offer more Adobe-CF based solutions.
    Also pushing CF to universities will create a good demand of Adobe-CF.

  8. Rob Brooks-Bilson Avatar
    Rob Brooks-Bilson

    When you buy ColdFusion, you have the option of also purchasing annual maintenance. It’s a fraction of the cost of the full license, paid annually, and it gets you all new versions of the software during the length of the maintenance term (t

  9. Kris Brixon Avatar
    Kris Brixon

    I agree with Dan, the problem is with good developers. For a large company that has many existing ColdFusion applications, it is difficult to hire an experienced CF developer. It is sometimes easier to hire a PHP/ASP person and train them in the ways of the CF.
    This would be a larger problem if CF had a steep learning curve, but since it is easy for an experienced developer of any language to pick up, you just have to give them a week to switch over.
    It would be good to have more books for beginners. There are only a few CF books and most online blogs focus on frameworks or how to hack into Java through CF. ColdFusion books for beginners would probably be a "loss-leader", but help a lot of internal growth. I know of two-three non-programmers in my division every year that start learning ColdFusion to build some application for their department and it is hard to provide them a set of tutorials and resources that walk them through as a beginner.

  10. Brian Rinaldi Avatar
    Brian Rinaldi

    Good post Ben. As the one who started the latest flare up of this debate let me say that first, I *never* personally implied that the CF team was out of touch. I think that is clear in my post. Secondly, my argument was more about the product development and not the sales or adoption of the product. I have noticed a common refrain when discussing new features is something like "would your manager pay for that?" This is a valid question for a product that is sold as ColdFusion is but I was wondering if this was different than other languages like PHP, .Net or Ruby that don’t have the same sales model. The debate I was trying to start was more along the lines of is asking "would your manager pay for that?" negatively impacting feature decisions (and I didn’t say that it was…was pondering a hypothesis).
    Anyway, the pricing debate is a valid discussion and worth bringing up from time to time but since these seems to follow on Adam’s response to my post, I wanted to clear up that this wasn’t the intent of my post.

  11. Gary Fenton Avatar
    Gary Fenton

    Ben wrote: "Talk to our sales reps, those who actually sell ColdFusion every day, and they’ll tell you that price is just not an issue."
    Ferrari sales reps will say exactly the same about their products. People know if a Ferrari is out of their price range so they won’t even bother to talk to a sales rep to say that they can’t afford one! But if they lowered their price to make it competitive against, say, Porsche, then they’d easily quadruple their sales. (I know it’s a prestige thing with cars, so Ferrari would never consider it even if they could afford to do so. There is no similar prestige with CF.)
    Regarding free copies for education, Ben said: "What would be the revenue implications of such a decision?" Well, how many copies are sold to education at the moment? Maybe 10% of total sales? Less? Then Adobe have nothing to lose by giving it away for free. Today’s students are tomorrow’s ColdFusion developers and Adobe’s customers. We need fresh blood in the CF world, plus cheap enthusiastic coders, not just expensive, experienced veterans. Think of the future, not just today.

  12. Neil Middleton Avatar
    Neil Middleton

    Couple of things:
    1) "they have found that they can indeed charge more and that ColdFusion customers will pay more" – How many of these customers pay the CF hosting charges because they have no alternative? How many developers are there out there that can only really develop in CFML, but don’t like the hosting charges caused by the price of the product.
    2) What about developing some sort of pay-as-you-go pricing structure for CF? Make a real lightweight stripped down and blindingly fast CF server and sell it for a low price (~$500) – then sell all of the additional features (PDF, Exhchange, .NET Integration, Flex Integration etc) as add-ons for another $3-400 each (or whatever pricing works out best). Then everyone gets what they want for the price they want, without the bloat.

  13. Calvin Avatar

    I wonder how the presence of a free not-so compatible version of a CFML engine that is fairly complete will impact those market driver discussions?
    Having said that, I don’t know that CF should be free. But the lack of an IDE is a real concern!

  14. Jeff Self Avatar
    Jeff Self

    I don’t think Adobe needs to change the pricing of ColdFusion at all. It won’t make a difference. Giving it away for free won’t increase marketshare much at all. Dropping the price won’t make a difference. Lets face it. ColdFusion is somewhat of a niche product. Its not a mainstream web development platform. Its a good all-around development tool and is perfect for its target audience. Its never going to be the choice of the cutting edge open source web developers. But like I said, it has found a niche. As long as Adobe makes more money from ColdFusion than it costs to develop it, it will stick around.

  15. David McGuigan Avatar
    David McGuigan

    "Cutting-edge open source developers"? Oxymoron alert.
    The closest to a legitimate argument against the flat cost pricing model of CF standard at its current price I’ve heard is that for new projects without available funding a $1000.00+ price tag on top of the hardware and other software costs associated with starting from scratch can be overwhelming/unattainable.
    Of course a 30 day free trial can eliminate that concern for projects that are immediately lucrative. For projects that may require more time to build profitability, I think that it’d be a genius move on Adobe’s part to introduce a new, parallel to the flat fee option, time-based pricing model, allowing developers and companies to pay for a ColdFusion server license on a PER-MONTH basis.
    I’d project a reasonable price point for a per-month license would be around $100.00. A lot more developers and companies have $100.00 a month to invest at start-up than they do $1400, and, I’d imagine, would feel a lessened sense of startup risk and investment along with it, encouraging more experimentation with ColdFusion in new projects and raising the number of from-scratch initiatives that choose ColdFusion over its competitors.
    Everyone understands ROI (except for some open source junkies that prefer to talk about software as if it were politics rather than technology), and having a per-month licensing option available on top of the flat fee could be an entirely NEW selling point for ColdFusion.
    A side benefit of a per-month model (whether it replaced the flat fee option entirely or coexisted alongside it) would be that it would increase the likelihood of and encourage upgrading to the newest version, which would be a very good thing (I can’t tell you how annoying it is to hear at user group meetings or read on blogs or forums things like "What about those of us still on ColdFusion 7? Or 6.1?" — TOTALLY FRUSTRATING).
    Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think Ben. Any pros and cons of a per-month I haven’t thought of. Great post.

  16. David McGuigan Avatar
    David McGuigan

    I know, I was being whimsical.
    But really, I totally disagree, the developer edition DOES work for a centralized group of developers, AND as a demo server for a company, the sole requirement is that they’re all on the same IP (eas

  17. Maxim Porges Avatar
    Maxim Porges

    Having held a role as a technology purchasing decision-maker at both a large corporate IT shop in the past and a much smaller technology firm at present, I can state with confidence that the cost of ColdFusion presents no real barriers to acquisition. And the fact that the developer version runs freely, forever, and full-featured also means that it’s easy for new people to come to the platform if they want to learn CF from scratch.
    That being said, nobody can argue that having so many mature and license-cost-free alternatives out there today does make the option of CF less compelling than it might have been in the past. There was once an ad campaign some years ago where somebody (I think it was at Macromedia) stated that CF was the [paraphrasing] "productivity layer for J2EE application development", and at the time I agreed wholeheartedly.
    However, with the advent of platforms like JRuby and Groovy, CF is no longer the only kid on the block in this area, and it’s also one of the only ones that carries a licensing cost. I’m surprised to hear that CF sales are stronger than ever, since it seems that interest in CF is lower than ever, at least in the circles I run in. None of the people I met eight years ago through the CF community in Orlando work with CF any more; they are now developing using Java, Rails, .NET, or Flex. We’ve also seen far more interest in Flex-related topics at our local Adobe technology user group than in those on CF, and the job market for Flex seems to be heating up considerably in the south east.
    The point of my comment is not to bash CF, but to frame the following statement: for CF to be worth the money that is paid for it, it has to offer compelling options that the free alternatives do not. Five years ago, it was worth it to pay for CF as a tag-based productivity layer for my web team; in 2008, I would choose JRuby for traditional web apps, and Flex (even with the license cost for LCDS) would win hands-down for an RIA solution with Java on the back end.
    Obviously, if the ColdFusion business is stronger than ever then it would appear that I’m either in the minority or just running with a different crowd than I did in the past. I didn’t get a strong read of Adobe’s direction for the platform during the "future of CF" BOF at cf.objective() this year, so it will be interesting to see what happens with both the pricing and the product.
    To summarize, I think the future growth of the CF platform has more to do with meaningful features and ease of development for common web application use cases than with the sticker price. With the right features, the platform will sell itself like it always has done.

  18. barry.b Avatar

    1) I’m in the middle of moving a bunch of critical PHP apps to a virtual environment. Why PHP? the place swims with money so it wasn’t cost – it’s what the developers (at the time) knew. Ubiquity. Draw your own conclusions on how PHP got to that position.
    2) I don’t buy CF. my (various) bosses do. It’s relatively easy to put a case to them that what they’re buying is a turn-key solution where everything works straight out of the box. They’re basically buying an SLA… as oppose to not buying anything except a box of bits (OSS). Ever put together Ikea furnature? Wouldn’t you like the thing delivered instead?
    3) is the release cycle too close? too soon? August 8 wasn’t *that* long ago. I question why there has to be 18 month product cycles instead of perhaps 2 years with free point release inbetween. Windows NT worked like that until SP6.1a

  19. Tom Chiverton Avatar
    Tom Chiverton

    And if price really is a problem, there are two (OK, three. But Smith seems dormant) free* CFML engines – both of whom are easily ready for production use, and often need no code changes.

  20. Adam Reynolds Avatar
    Adam Reynolds

    I don’t actually have an issue with the price of CF, what I do have an issue with is the price differential between US and EU. Ignoring recent currency shifts, when CF8 came out it was cheaper to fly to America, buy a licence and fly back than buy in the UK. Even the press had a go when the new Creative Suite was released.
    I think this is the big issue with Adobe. Giving Europe (and the rest of the world) the middle finger, then wondering why CF is not as prevalent in Europe.
    Big companies have solved this international selling issue. As an example Magic Online sells boosters in US $, but charges UK VAT on purchases. I do realise this is a corporate structural issue, but it’s a big one.

  21. Kevin Roche Avatar
    Kevin Roche

    The main issue I have had in the past with CF pricing was that it was more expensive in Europe than it was in the USA. This always seemed wrong to me and was justified by the need to spend ‘extra’ on Marketing in Europe. That extra spend was never apparent in the past.
    With current exchange rates I have not compared the prices and Adobe does have an intent to spend somthing on marketing CF in Europe, even if there is no evidence yet. So I can’t say if the situation is still like that. When Flex 3 was released the price seemed the same in Europe and the USA so I was happy.
    In fact I think there is an argument that there should be some special offer pricing in Europe to encoyrage it to become as popular as it is in the USA. The situation with OEM deals could be more flexible so that smaller developers could be encouraged that way.

  22. Rachel Lehman Avatar
    Rachel Lehman

    Thanks for posting this, Ben! While all the thought and hard work that you and the rest of the CF team put into every product decision may be very familiar to you, the larger community only hears isolated snippets which often leads to faulty conclusions and speculation. Even when you can’t talk about the details, it’s worth saying something!

  23. Adam Reynolds Avatar
    Adam Reynolds

    Err unfortunately Adobe products are best in class and as such will be the recommended. I mean the fact "to photoshop" implies messing with a photo indicates it’s kinda of in the ‘psyche’ of the community (As is to google for something).
    Your problem was the HUGE (and I mean huge) amount of negative press your pricing policy has received with lots of people declaring that they are not going to upgrade. The best marketing you could do is sort out your various tax regimes, sell the online product in USD, with local taxes applied.
    Not only will this remove your pricing issues, but will completely blow out any competitors probably forcing a complete change in the pricing policies across Apple, Microsoft et al. That would be amazing marketing.
    You would still need a retail pricing policy, but those types (i.e. Buy in PC World) would not know any different. You could justify the difference in price due to the cost of printing etc.
    I’ve actually circumvented your pricing by going to a 3rd party seller in the US, buying and having it shipped to my Dad who lives in Florida, and using the serial number on my UK downloaded version. There are a lot of people doing that type of sh*t. Not because they want to, but just because they perceive what Adobe is doing to be wrong and abusive.
    Europe doesn’t need a ‘marketing budget’ injection, it just needs to be treated fairly. When you are downloading a product from, you don’t expect to pay 2 times the amount the US buyer is just to get a serial number. That’s called daylight robbery. (I was going to be ruder).
    (I think prices have come down. CS3 Web Standard Suite is $999 or £705 ($1400) but that is still a significant unjustifiable difference in price.

  24. Mark Phillips Avatar
    Mark Phillips

    Looking at the issue as an ISV, ColdFusion remains compelling from a development cost perspective and has become ever more compelling in the world of RIA’s.
    Where there seems to be room for improvement is coming up with some structure that facilitates sellling CF based apps into non-CF shops. Perhaps Adobe should look at an ISV plan that resembles the plans offered to ISP’s. Or to develop a formula for the wholesale price to ISV’s-like BD does that makes bundling cost-effective.
    Increasing the number of commercial products running in CF should also increase the availability of developers.

  25. Matt Quackenbush Avatar
    Matt Quackenbush

    I personally have no problem whatsoever with the CF pricing structure. Some argue that it is a barrier to entry for new developers, but that is a very poor argument, in my opinion. The developer edition is fully functional, and is free forever.
    As far as hosting goes, if you are just wanting a "play area" for CF, there are *plenty* of cheap hosts. If your application is truly mission-critical, then as far as I am concerned you need to pony up the $1400. If you cannot get that purchase funded, then I seriously question your definition of "mission-critical".

  26. stewart robinson Avatar
    stewart robinson

    I think Adobe should put some effort into growing the number of developers in the community. To me this is the biggest problem they should attack to help ColdFusion grow. I work for a decent sized CF web site, the CF licences are a fraction of developer salaries and we can’t find enough good CF guys that want to work in either London or New York. I don’t care too much about product price as in most businesses people are the biggest expense, not electricity or licence fees. We are mostly not Google. Perhaps my company should be more open to remote working but we don’t want simple programming people who follow specs, we want people to help grow the product together with our business. I still think you need the personal touch for that. Water cooler moments e.t.c.
    Grow the developer numbers and if it costs money to do that, add it to the product price even if it’s just the enterprise edition.

  27. Gadi Avatar

    I have always thought that ColdFusion needs a no cost to enter option. Now, there was a similar post several months back that discusssed this question.
    I have always worked in a place that paid for the licenses, so I never had to worry about that. However, it made it more difficult to continue programming outside the confines of my office, since I personally could not shell out the money for a CF license. I think adobe needs to focus on that group.
    I think by offering a completely stripped down version for free to attract new talent. So the young developers today have no barrier of entry, and when they become the ones making the decisions they will guide their corporations to go with ColdFusion.
    This version would include the basics and without monitoring, .net, pdf, encryption, exchange, and the other expensive options to integrate.
    I think open sourcing the ColdFusion would be a huge mistake.

  28. David McGuigan Avatar
    David McGuigan

    Good news Gadi,
    There is a ‘no cost to enter’ option. It’s called the Free Developer Edition, available for download here:
    Even better, it’s not stripped down at all.
    Even better, it lets you test and demo applications internally on a network, or even to a client across the world, giving you up to 3 (I think, it might be 2) IP addresses with access. (One for everyone on your Intranet and one for the client).
    So, you can actually develop an entire application and not have to pay anything until it’s ready to deploy. Voila.

  29. michael Long Avatar
    michael Long

    David, most people know about the free developer edition, and that isn’t really what people are asking for in a "not cost to entry" version. Besides, the "developer" edition is really only good for installation on a personal machine or notebook. Being restricted to two IP addresses, you really can’t put it on a server for use as a multi-user development box, and you most certainly can’t upload a page to one and send out a company-wide ‘how’s this look’ email.
    One developer I know installed the free version to a server, changed a page, asked some people to look at it, and went home. Next day, half the people were complaining that they couldn’t see the changes, and HE couldn’t even access the server, since they’d used up the two available IPs.

  30. David Avatar

    Very well written, thank you Ben. While obviously I would like ColdFusion [Enterprise] to be lower in price, I understand it needs to be balanced with product features. I thought version 8 was great value for money, with all of the new features that were included. I’m looking forward to saying the same about version 9 😉
    Personally, I would like to see the IP address limit on the "developer" edition increased so that we can use it on a shared testing/staging server. For example, 8-10 IP addresses would be good. This would reduce our overall costs for deploying CF – we essentially could test for free.
    It would be a nice gesture, but it would not be an industry standard thing to do!

  31. Simon Romanski Avatar
    Simon Romanski

    If it ain’t broke…
    For the love of CF. Please don’t do anything crazy 😉

  32. Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Tech) Avatar
    Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Tech)

    1) If PHP and other development environments can flourish while offering their core product for free, why can’t Adobe figure out how to do it? It’s obviously quite possible — and has proven to be a very succesful model. (Even BlueDragon has found a way to do it with CF, so why not Adobe?)
    2) It doesn’t matter if companies can afford to pay the license price. Companies hire individual developers — who often learn a development environment by building and hosting small websites while they are moonlighting in school or at another job. Individual developers will almost always choose a free development environment over one that costs money. So the pool of PHP, et al, developers has mushroomed, while the pool of CF developers has shriveled dramatically. So even though companies can afford the license price for CF, they cannot find developers.
    In fact, this has been going on for years, so those poor students who chose PHP over CF years ago are now IT managers and decision makers, and they are choosing PHP over CF because 1) it is what they know, 2) it is much easier to find developers — because everyone around them chose PHP, too, 3) the trend of PHP (et al.) popularity growing and CF popularity shrinking continues.
    Those poor students have become IT managers — and CEOs — at companies like Facebook, whose environments prefer PHP, which is vaulting PHP and marginalizing CF even faster.
    It’s common nowadays for an API to have sample code in JSP, PHP, .NET — and not ColdFusion, which is a shame.
    So Adobe can continue to charge for ColdFusion with a false sense of security because Adobe thinks their most important customers are happy to pay for it. But the problem is Adobe’s most important customers are not happy to pay for it — and they are marginalizing CF at an alarming rate.
    A free development server is not enough — because that poor student still needs to pay to make it live, and s/he just ain’t going to pay for it when they can do it another way for free.

  33. TJ Downes Avatar
    TJ Downes

    Hey Ben
    Thanks for opening up such a hot topic!
    Without the time to read all the responses and suggestions I am going to add my own two cents:
    1. Never have I had a client complain about the pricing of CF. Simply put, a client spending $25k-$100k isn’t going to complain about a $1300 license.
    2. I’ve not, in nearly 11 years of CF development, had a client who required Enterprise. I’ve actually encouraged clients to downgrade to Standard to save licensing costs because there was simply no need for Enterprise in their organization.
    3. I think there should be a free, limited functionality, version of CF. This would have to be stripped of many of the extra features and be core CF functionality. This would be an excellent way to attract new clients and developers to the platform who may not have or want to spend the budget on CF Standard/Enterprise. Over time, these folks might see the value in upgrading to Standard for the extras.

  34. Andrew Avatar

    A few years ago I made the move to CF for a web-based app I was responsible for building. Although some questioned the move initially, they soon came to realize that we were able to get more improvements published in a shorter period of time with fewer developers so the initial cost was well worth the ROI. I agree with a number of comments I read that not everyone needs the Enterprise version and people really need to understand their requirements before making any purchases. However, I think Adobe’s licensing model as a whole needs to be reviewed. Even if Adobe spent $1M to develop the software, at an average cost of $1200 per license (minimum) their break-even point is less than 1000 copies…easy to do. So yes, I can understand why people think it’s too expensive. In today’s downward spiraling economy, a lot of companies are going to look to cut costs and one of the first things to go after people is investment in new projects. Adobe does almost no marketing of CF and has yet to make a national campaign touting the outstanding features it has "out of the box." If that’s not fixed, the CF community will continue to be marketed only by bloggers who know and use it, and at some point the community is going to lose steam as more people look to Flex with Java as the platforms of choice. When Vista was released by MSFT there were more than 22 new publications available from day one. It took 6 months to get the first CF8 book and today there are only 3 on the market that I know of. Adobe needs to do more to get more users of CF…only then can we expect any price decreases.

  35. Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Tech) Avatar
    Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Tech)

    <<I think there should be a free, limited functionality, version of CF. This would have to be stripped of many of the extra features and be core CF functionality. This would be an excellent way to attract new clients and developers to the platform who may not have or want to spend the budget on CF Standard/Enterprise. Over time, these folks might see the value in upgrading to Standard for the extras.>>
    I strongly disagree that a free version of CF should have functionality that is limited less than the Standard version. The functionality of PHP, et al., is not limited in this way, so how would a limited version of CF attract developers over fully functional PHP?
    Even a free version of CF Standard, which is comparable to PHP, would probably not be enough to attract developers over PHP, since PHP has such momentum.
    If CF really wants to make inroads against the tide (and it is a strong tide), Adobe should make the Enterprise version free. I know that may sound crazy to some, but how else is CF going to have a competitive advantage strong enough to draw developers and companies away from other very feature-rich development environments. Making free CF "as good as" free PHP is not going to work.
    Adobe is deep pocketed. There is no reason why Adobe can’t fund a completely free CF — even just through the transition until they realize CF *can* fund itself (with support contracts, etc.), just like the other platforms. Worst case, CF can be a loss leader for many other Adobe products, which work increasingly seamlessly with CF.
    If CF were free, CF’s competitive advantage story could be:
    1) free (on par with others)
    2) more advanced functionality
    3) easier and quicker to learn
    4) faster to develop and deploy
    5) less code to maintain
    6) pre-integrated with other Adobe apps
    7) cross-platform compatible
    CF has a very strong case, but the market at large is not getting it because they stop at #1. Adobe needs to break down that barrier, and they cannot do it fast enough. Every day, thousands of new developers who drive development platform usage trends are choosing PHP, et al., and are rarely even looking at CF because it is at the back of the pack for popularity. Why jump on a deprecating train?

  36. Barry Crowley Avatar
    Barry Crowley

    Of your seven competitive advantage reasons you’ve listed the only one that is different that CF today is the first one, it’s not free. So to save $1,300 you are willing you choose a products (PHP) that;
    1) has less advanced functionality
    2) is harder and slower to learn
    3) is slower to develop and deploy
    4) has more code to maintain
    5) not integrated with other Apps
    6) is not cross-platform compatible
    Sounds like the best reasons I can think of to pony up the money for ColdFusion!

  37. Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Technologies) Avatar
    Adam Fairbanks (Tidy Technologies)

    I have been a CF user and advocate for 8 years (and a web developer for 12 years, previously working with BroadVision, Vignette, Java, PHP, and ASP). I am happy to pay CF license fees to get the benefits, which I know far exceed the costs.

  38. KS Avatar

    Maybe I haven’t used CF enough to be saying this, but Ruby on Rails is free, tons of CMSs are free. PHP/mySQL/Apache are free. Java is free. I mean, I love Adobe, and CF, and I am super thankful for a developer version, but I don’t get why it’s not freely available and open-sourced. AIR is free and it took people at Adobe a VERY long time to develop that. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Forta fan, but I gotta disagree with you on this one.

  39. Gary Fenton Avatar
    Gary Fenton

    @Adam Fiarbanks – good argument! 🙂 Perhaps a free version of CF should have certain limitations to prevent large sites running it for free. What if the license was strictly for 1 CPU or CF could attach to just 2 cores only? Functionality and IPs should

  40. David Pienta Avatar
    David Pienta

    I think has a far bigger advantage over CF – PRICE! .Net is completely free. The IDE to program with (the nice tools) are not free, nut neither are the nice tools to write CF. .Net does not require a fancy server, IIS runs the code with no problems. CF requires that we run CF Server. PHP is free, .net is free, javascript and java are free.
    My boss has made it clear that he wants us all to learn .Net so that we will be more cost effective, that it costs too much to maintain our 10 CF boxes. I am trying my best to stop him from running CF away, but how can I argue when it is in the thousands of dollars to upgrade to the latest version of CF when changing to .net is free since we already have visual studio?
    My co-worker already can code a form in .Net as quick as I can in CF. So that does not help my case!

  41. Lu Sancea Avatar
    Lu Sancea

    I agree with David, everything else is free and although openBD is around it still isn’t the full offering. I have started learning ASP.NET because of the swell of clients trying to move away from CF. It sucks when you love a language and clients decide to move to PHP or ASP.NET.

  42. David B Avatar
    David B

    Are you sure pricing is the right question? You’ve indicated that pricing is not an obstacle for the vast majority of your (current) customers. Let’s assume that leaves two segments to grow.
    Enterprise customers that can easily handle the current price or higher, but for some reason think ColdFusion is a piece of junk. How’s a pricing change going to change that perception? I don’t really accept the argument that if it’s more expensive it’ll be perceived as better. Good products are good. Bad products are bad – after the first few users they show themselves as such. Corporations try to avoid bad products, and will pay for good products up to whatever the ROI justifies. So make a solid product. Then convince/show the world you have a solid product. Then price based on what the value-add features over the competition are worth. If you can’t make a product as solid as the competition, get out of the business. If your value-add over the competition is not worth the price you want/need to charge, get out of the business. Assuming the product is solid and of value, the real question is: what can you do that’s innovative to convince enterprise customers of those things?
    The second segment is really 3 groups of customers on the other end:
    1) The ROI genuinely doesn’t justify the investment (i.e. the value-add features aren’t warranted for the price). Unfortunately, it’s hard to guess what an acceptable price point (above free) would be. Could a product be developed at a lower price that would get these customers in the door? I doubt the revenues would warrant a new product version. Perhaps a previous version of the product could be offered at a reduced price. No real added development or maintenance costs there. Unlikely to cannibalize enterprise level customers looking for the latest, greatest features and performance. However, isn’t eBay already serving this purpose. What’s ColdFuson MX 6 selling for these days?
    2) They can’t/haven’t rationally evaluated if the ROI is worth the investment. Most of the points from the enterprise segment apply, plus perhaps some basic business analysis classes.
    3) Free, free, it’s got to be free! – other software is free! This requires a totally different business model that’s probably too risky if you’re currently making good profits. Could the rewards really be that much greater to justify the risk. Some folks just love MS. Some folks love open source. Pricing won’t change that.
    I’m actually one of the cheap bastards in this second segment. Hobbyist at best. I’m actually willing to pay something for my software but not $1300. I’ve bought a fair amount of software in the sub $100 price range. In this range I really don’t care about ROI. But reality is, I’m probably not the customer segment you’re after.

  43. David Avatar

    You know, the .Net "free" thing perplexes me. I speak to .Net developers all the time, and they regularly mention that – like MS is some sort of egalitarian not-for-profit, but then I dig down a little, and get a different story.
    Windows server is anything BUT free – about $1000 for a standard license (yeah, I know it comes bundled on your NT notebook, but you’re not going to use that for a production server, are you?), and nearly $4000 for an enterprise license.
    Then there’s Studio – people tell me all the time about the "free" (express) options with coding .Net, but when you push them about it you get told "yeah, you really need professional version if you’re going to develop professionally".
    Ok, so let’s tack on $799 per developer. Oh wait…the MSDN subscription, yeah, you’re gonna need that too (apparantly!), so that bumps the price up to somewhere between $1200 and $2400 depending on the MSDN subscription. Of course, you could just buy the team version for $10k+
    So, I get this all the time – .Net is free, and I’m sure to some extent, it is, just like the fact that ColdFusion is free – if you use BlueDragon.
    The reality is, if you need to make a choice between .Net and ColdFusion, you are really choosing between .Net and J2EE as your base platform choice. You should be making that decision in that context.
    You may be able to get your feet wet with .Net for free, but making your transition to a professional development organization will cost you, no matter which solution you decide on. I think we should bear that in mind when we use the word "Free".

  44. Gary Fenton Avatar
    Gary Fenton

    I’ve just heard that Ralio will be going open source later this year. Announcement at

  45. Andy Sandefer Avatar
    Andy Sandefer

    You know what would be great? A new version of ColdFusion Studio! I’d buy it – maybe for around $199.00. This could be very lightweight (probably code-only) and it hopefully wouldn’t have all of the massive memory and resource hogging that DreamWeaver CS3 puts you through. CFEclipse is out there but to get JavaScript, Spry, CSS, CF and Database stuff all working the way you want takes a bit of gathering stuff and setup work. Software conflicts with DreamWeaver has finally got me to the point where I went back to homesite and that’s sad because it is a really old piece of software that’s not really recommended or supported. I have CFEclipse up and running and it’s great for CF stuff but when it comes to Spry, JavaScript and CSS stuff in Eclipse I’m a bit lost. I know this is a bit off topic from CF Pricing but it could be considered "a CF community issue".

  46. Brian FitzGerald Avatar
    Brian FitzGerald

    "Where the main battle is being fought — and where CF is losing the battle hand over fist — is when a developer first chooses a development environment."
    – Adam Fairbanks
    I agree with Adam on all points. Current CF clients might be happy to upgrade, but what about young developers just starting out? And what about new organizations? Which way are they leaning? That’s the only place you have to look.

  47. Calvin Avatar

    In other words, the upcoming developers don’t have the context to choose capability over price, so they choose on price. Once proficient, they stay with their chosen platform.
    Ergo, CF loses in the new mindshare proposition.

  48. Toby MacLeod Avatar
    Toby MacLeod

    A few months ago I read a post where someone said that a scaled down version of CF should be free, with a fee for features like graphing, etc..
    Not long after reading that post I received a phone call from a company looking for a CF developer. They needed an extra person to help maintain their CF apps while they transitioned them over to .NET. When I asked why they were switching the answer concerned me. They said they liked CF but it was getting harder and harder for them to find CF developers.
    Since having that conversation, the issue of CF pricing has been on the back of my mind and I happened to stumble on this post.
    I believe there are two issues here:
    1. Does CF cost to much? The answer for corporate America is no. The answer for new developers is yes.
    2. Which market is more important to Adobe? From a profit stand point corporate America is more important. To ensure future adoption and future GROWTH new developers are more important.
    I have no issue with paying for CF or with Adobe profiting from it. The issue I have is that the market for CF developers seems to be much more scarce than other alternatives.
    I am a huge supporter of CF but I think more needs to be done in terms of getting new developers on board.

  49. Mark Phillips Avatar
    Mark Phillips

    I had an interesting conversation with a medium sized company. Over 60% of their revenue comes from a CF based application but they are switching it over to .NET.
    Their reasons are a) all their other tools are part of the .NET family e.g. Windows Server, MS SQL and Sharepoint and b) they are under the impression that CF is not object oriented (and therefore getting someone else to work on the app would be a huge learning curve and that the app/language is not scalable).
    This brings out two huge issues:
    1. The importance of an eco-system of tools and products that run on CF. Its not enough that CF can play well with other platforms. Companies want some level of standardization on their tools. Windows and .NET provide that on the server side and particularly with Sharepoint. I’ve seen Sharepoint’s penetration really take off and start to drive technology decisions. For CF to thrive in this environment Adobe needs to offer *businesses* exciting tools, not just developers.
    2. More education needs to happen about the capabilities about CF. I’m not talking about nuances or neat functions like CFPDF -I’m talking about CF being OO and J2EE. There still seems to be the misconception that CF hasn’t evolved and that maintaining a CF app requires the original developers or someone who can untangle spaghetti code. There needs to be a better job explaining to the business world the power of CF and why its a worthwhile, exciting and growing platform.
    Price doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. There needs to be an investment of time in CF products and in evangelizing CF to CEO’s, COO and business owners/entrepreneurs instead of developers. Ultimately many developers I talk to really like CF but their companies have made decisions to move in a different direction. Adobe needs to get companies excited about CF -and not just developers.

  50. Joseph Swenson Avatar
    Joseph Swenson

    I think we all want to see Coldfusion grow and I think there is a little bit of Macromedia entrenched philosophy in the development community over our "CF baby".
    The reality is this. Would Acrobat (PDF) be the worldwide popular format that it is today if they didn’t make a FREE version of the reader?
    The power of FREE is the same model that Microsoft uses. We all know it isn’t really free, but once you make the core free the growth and distribution will increase so rapidly (if marketed correctly) that the Pro and Ent versions and IDE tools which cost money will easily make up the difference.
    This sadly will not happen however because Adobe doesn’t make high quality CF IDE tools (Flex yes, CF no) and this would be a paradigm shift in their development model. I’m afraid however since this won’t happen that we shall see an eventual decline in CF development until the server sales won’t balance out the cost of development and Adobe will drop it. This is too bad because it really is a great platform with a lot of potential.

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