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rsrandazzo

PMDG's Position on Microsoft/ACES Layoffs

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Captains-During the past few days we have received a number of email from friends and notables within the simulation community seeking PMDG's opinion on the news that Microsoft found it necessary to lay off the ACES development staff.I've found time to chat privately with some folks, and I thought that all of you might be interested to know PMDG's view of what is taking place, and what will happen down the road.To start with, this announcement was not a surprise to PMDG. Slightly more than a year and a half ago, we were briefed-in on the commercial adaptation of Microsoft's Sim-World that became known as ESP. (Microsoft Enterprise Simulation Platform: essentially a commercial grade world simulation upon which companies like PMDG could design, build and sell simulation technologies to industries such as aviation, marine, law enforcement, etc.) At the time we were briefed-in, the expectation was that the ESP platform would become the parent project and primary development platform from which child-projects Flight Simulator and Train Simulator would spring.While the idea sounded exciting, and we were encouraged to learn that Microsoft was pouring vast resources into the development of an enterprise level simulation platform, (this could only have positive benefits for the Flight Simulator platform) I have spent enough of my time in large corporations to know that this move forward did not come without some risk. Obviously, I could not have prognosticated the total collapse of the financial system (or I'd have been short selling my own shorts and I'd be writing this from Fiji!) but at the time I had some concern that having our beloved Flight Simulator become a child-project to an enterprise level platform would increase the costs of development in the near term, invite a level of scrutiny and potentially a level of cost analysis that here-to-for had not been present.When the news broke late last week that Microsoft had made the strategic decision to shut down ESP development, it had the appearance of inevitability to PMDG. Earlier in 2008 I had spent a significant amount of time working with a large, potential ESP client and after a few months of evaluation the general feeling was that the ESP concept had merit, but was not yet ready for prime-time use by the commercial simulation industry. I know of others who were conducting similar analysis and reaching the same conclusion, and it became apparent during mid 2008 that ESP was a great concept that would allow companies like PMDG to carry our capability into the commercial training market, but that the ESP platform itself was not yet strong enough to make such products an 'easy sell' to the target audience.It would appear that Microsoft, eager to cut costs, protect earnings and save jobs reached the same conclusion.In large corporations, it is often necessary to take drastic measures quickly, even though it will be necessary to do some cleanup after the fact. At United Airlines, we used to joke that when it was necessary to conduct a slaughter, we'd wield the swords first, then lay down the plastic to keep the blood out of the carpets afterward.To put it another way: Act Quickly First and Act Correctly Second.I think that much of the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth over the past few days is indicative of how strongly many of us feel about our hobby and our chosen simulation platform. But I also think that when we look back on this event from the future, we'll discover that much of the drama was overblown and borne out of confusion and lack of understanding.Microsoft has not rendered a final death certificate on Flight Simulator. To the contrary, there have been numerous blog posts and other official and unofficial comments to the effect that the Flight Simulator franchise is very important to Microsoft. From where I stand, knowing what i do about the way large corporations move, I suspect that Flight Simulator 11 is not dead, it is simply orphaned on a temporary basis.Understand that with the advent of ESP, Flight Simulator ceased being an independently developed platform, and instead it became the child of the much larger and more developer-cost intensive ESP. When Microsoft made the strategic decision to kill ESP, they likely did so without much regard for the child projects underneath, as they would expect to clean up those details at a later date.The fact that Microsoft has been abundantly clear that TrainSim2 is dead- but has offered no such verdict on Flight Simulator is another reason to be hopeful for the future.Without getting into the logistical technicalities of brain-drain from the ACES team, potential documentary gaps, and hands-on experience with the FS code platform- I have some hope that this event, while frightening, may actually be a good breakpoint for the Flight Simulator franchise. I would suspect that it may take a year, possibly slightly longer, for Microsoft to make a determination of how it wants to proceed with Flight Simulator after the dissolution of the ESP project. This may require bringing together a whole new batch of developers, and it may involved merging new developers into a reconstituted team of historical developers, but either way- I'd anticipate new blood and new ideas.With this infusion of new vision- we COULD ultimately wind up with a version of Flight Simulator that actually exceeds our expectations and offers beneficial new technologies at the core of the simulation, rather than just slightly rewarmed older legacy technologies that are hampering forward progress and development for the franchise.If I were to head down to Vegas to place bets, my money would be on 15months until more news becomes available, and another 2 years after that before we see a new version of flight simulator.Either way- at PMDG we are not overly concerned by all of these events. We still have new proejcts coming down the approach path for you, the hobby lives on, and we intend to continue supporting the hobby because we are confident of its long term viability. None of this is going on because of perceived shortcomings with FSX- and none of this is happening because is ignorant of the popularity of this hobby. All of this is happening because of the way large corporations do business- and over time the dust will settle to reveal the "new normal."In the mean time, we have plenty of work ahead of us- and no matter what happens to our hobby- whether it be a resurgence from Microsoft or an entirely new platform upon which to build our simulations, you can count on PMDG to continue bringing you the finest airliner simulations possible given the tools available.POST EDIT: A few thoughts I intended to include but left out while writing last night... Much has been said to the effect that somehow this was related to poor sales of FSX. The market data published by various organizations who handle such information shows to the contrary that FSX has been a banner seller in the flight simulator franchise history. I think that many in our community have mistaken "Acceptance" and "Sales" as interchangeable numbers when they are not. Our community was slow to adopt FSX because of it's documented problems running high end airliner simulations, AI traffic and scenery, but this has not had an appreciable impact on the actual sales of the product. In short: Sales rates on FSX are good, and they continue to be strong- so the negative reaction from many in this community to FSX is really not a factor here. From the standpoint of a corporation the size of Microsoft, the costs associated with ESP are a much larger concern than the opinion of this very small little community of ours. (We ARE small... I know it might not seem like it- but we are!)

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Hello Robert:I'm not sure if you meant to lock this post, however while it's still unlocked, i would like to thank you for your post. I have been checking here quite regularly in the hope of seeing some comment, and i'm happy to discover that you are of a similar opinion to me. As with all things 'market forces' related, there is a slight sense of inevitability about this. There are also two sayings that spring to mind, those are of course "all good things must come to an end" and, "as one door closes, another opens". My personal feelings on the matter are much like yours, i beleive that this is likely a good thing for add-on developers in the short to medium term, as it will significantly extend the life of FS9 and FSX. Those users that were put off of FSX in hope that the old adage of, with Microsoft FS 'every other one's a winner' rang true, may now be tempted to explore it, knowing that their investment in the sim will weild a longer shelf life, and it also means that those that find a few aspects of FSX just a bit too buggy for their liking will be able to continue with FS9 safe in the knowledge that it has a couple of years in it yet.I sincerely hope that some of the developers consider hiring in some of those guy's that have left MS ACES. I'm sure that the likes of HiFiSim would be keen to get their hands on the guy (or girl) that coded the weather! And if they should, it again brings us all benefits. Certainly, if it means that i can finally fly accross the North Atlantic in my MD11 in the knowledge that the winds WILL be as predicted, i consider it a win win situation :( . It seem's that PMDG have cracked the FPS issue in X, so perhaps only a consultancy position for A.N. Other ACES guy. :( There are many among the community who are predicting the death of FS and expectant that FSX is the last in the venerable line of gaming releases that is the MSFS Franchise. I'm about 80/20 certain that it's not the case, and if considered with my business head on, killing ESP was a necessity, and although only a child project, FS has far too long a history, far too large a following and to be quite frank (although i haven't seen the balance sheet so i cannot say for certain), while it wasn't the money spinner that an O/S or Outlook would be, it would have been killed off a LONG time ago, if it wasn't positively affecting the balance book at Ch

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Thank You Robert,great to see the PMDG company keeping a cool head amongst the public chaous./Patrick/

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Robert is exactly right.There could be a silver lining in all of this. The chin up and positive attitude approach is the best approach.Things usually work out for the best in the end.Cheers,

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I would like to respond from as a flight simmer who has been virtual flying from 1990 that we still have 2 great platforms to work with.I have FSX on my desktop and FS9 on my laptop and as far as I can see they will be there for a number of years to come and I have no problem with that.I feel very badly for the crew from Microsoft getting layed off,that must be horrible to go through with the financial state of our country right now.I still believe that the flight sim community will continue to grow and we will see new products come out.I remember PMDG when they first came out with their manuals for PS1.3 a dos 747 simulator which I still have running on my laptop also BTW Robert you still have any of those manuals left?This shows that we will still be flying the virtual skies and also the real skies even if a new version of Flight Simulator does not show up for a few more years. JeffG

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Robert is exactly right.
Exactaly? Well, not exactaly...I have one nit to pick with what is an otherwise excellent summary/commentary:FS was never a "child" of ESP, and never would have been..In actual fact, ESP1 is a stripped-to-the-bone version of FSX! It was the prototype for what was to become ESP2.After the reorganization of the studio, there were FOUR separate and independent teams formed, the first of which -the Core Platform team- was to provide the basic foundation from which three CHILDREN were to be developed:ESP2TS2FSvNextIf ESP et seq. were not successful, the other two teams should not have been affected at all.Now I may not have the credibility and bona fides that others might enjoy, but I can honestly state that I was among the first who registered at the official ESP Developers Forum and actively participated. I know the names of everyone who posted there, and what was discussed, and continues to be discussed... :( http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/forums/en-US/ESP/threads/Now, all that said... I agree that FSX will continue to be a sustainable platform, as will FS9 for the next two years or longer. I know that I'm comitted to continue producing for both versions as long as there is any market at all... :(

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Bill-You are correct that ESP is a core engine version of FSX, and that FSX is not a child of ESP in that regard. I was actually speaking of all development forward of the release of ESP. The future versions of FS were planned to be child versions of ESP2, ESP3, etc that resulted from "code drop-offs" ad nauseum.I'm being choosy in my wording because most of the things I might say about ESP are, as best I can tell, still restricted under an NDA specific to that platform. PMDG was briefed into ESP months before it was discussed publicly, and even longer before the various developer groups and fora were established. The briefing was conducted in person by senior managers of the project and included very specific overviews of ESP/FS developmental relationships out to 2014 (it might have been 2020 but I'm not home to look at my notes...)So- moving forward FS was indeed a child of ESP...or- as of last week- an orphan. What is it they say about success having many fathers and failure is an orphan? Hmmmmm...

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Only my own sense of honor prevents me from saying "screw the NDA." After all, what are they gonna do now? Kick me out of the clubhouse? :(
If you did I think the forum would collapse (again) with everyone wanting to know your insights :( Mark

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This discussion about paternity and filiation reminds me of the "filioque" controversy (the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father AND the Son, not from the Father THROUGH the Son), the great thelogical dispute that led to the East-West Schism of 1054... :( Sinbad

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...whether son, child, father, step-cousin etc isn't really relevant in all this, is it ?But thank you for sharing all this interesting stuff with us. Unfortunately, to me personally, the whole ESP project sounds like something that would havehad some nice potential if further developed (but then who knows, the whole project hasn't officially been scrapped yet, has it ?) and sounds much betteropposed to the "xboxish" feeling i get when reading MS's official statement concerning the future of FS with its "Windows Live" and "flying games" mentionings.I guess at the end of the day what's really important and sad in this whole matter is that a whole team of talented people lost their jobs.The rest remains speculation at this point in time.Concerning our hobby i'm not worried at all right now: us users and the whole addon industry have not only one but two platforms to pick from, that still have such a big, almost infinite (equal to the number of airplane types around these days and in history) , potential for further addons that they could even outlive a Falcon 4.0.I mean, we've just seen with the MD11 the birth of a next generation of sophisticated addon planes...and it's only the beginning.So get back to work and get me that NGX out, so that i won't get confronted any longer with those scared faces when i'm approaching any smaller airports with my Queen ;)...and then the A320...and then the T7...and then the 747-8..and then the 787...and then the "fillintheplaneofyourliking"...and i'm sure that by the time we've got all those beauties waiting in our hangars we will have a much better idea about where FS is heading.Best RegardsThomas

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My biggest concern after the news about closing MS ACES was that PMDG could stop any further developement on new projects like the 737 NGX or even the MD11. But now that Robert has stated they would continue I am glad to hear that. My hardware is not capable of runnig FSX and MD11 with sliders to the max yet, but if it will take three or more years to come for the next version of FS, I have nothing against it. Next year with new generation of CPU

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My biggest concern after the news about closing MS ACES was that PMDG could stop any further developement on new projects like the 737 NGX or even the MD11. But now that Robert has stated they would continue I am glad to hear that. My hardware is not capable of runnig FSX and MD11 with sliders to the max yet, but if it will take three or more years to come for the next version of FS, I have nothing against it. Next year with new generation of CPU

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So yeah, we're proceeding full speed ahead on products for FS9 and FSX. :)
That's the right attitude! :( The following is written as though I had not been in a position to know any more than the public-at-large... :( Suppose we had never been told about the closing of ACES and the cancellation of a never-officially-announced FSvNext?Would we really be in any different position than we are now? All we knew was that if there was going to be an "FS11," we couldn't possibly expect to see it released until at least late Q4 of 2010.There wasn't even any "Alpha" code yet for FSvNext. A lot of pre-planning had been done, and the advances being made for TS2 were widely announced. It was likely that much of what was going to be in TS2 would have also been incorporated into any future FSvNext......but aside from that there was nothing but sheer conjecture that any FSvNext would ever be announced officially, much less released.So again I ask, how would the situation really be any different? We still don't know if - or when - any future FS will be produced.From my perspective, nothing is different at all. Freeware and Commercial modelers will continue to support FS9 and/or FSX as they see fit, irrespective of any possible future FS release.Good grief! There are still folks (admittedly few) who're producing FS98 models! :(

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It's actually somewhat of a relief to a company like us that we have known quantities for the foreseeable future as far as what platforms we're developing for. There's not going to be any second-guessing now, (ie we get into NG2 development, but then suddenly FS11 comes out and we wonder if we should drop what we've already done and move to that etc) So yeah, we're proceeding full speed ahead on products for FS9 and FSX. :)
I share your thoughts Ryan. I'm ready to settle in with FSX and let the users and 3P developers catch up and stabalize their work.If FS-11 came out, I would have to get it (Meds don't help that problem.)Then it would be useless without add-ons, then I would need hardware when the add-ons come etc. etc. etc. Same thing every couple of years.I'd like to have more than 2 PMDG products to fly before I have to upgrade. :)It will be nice knowing FSX won't end up on the bookshelf with Jet, Chuck Yeager AFT, FS3 through FS9, Fly!, Flight Assignment ATP, Pro Pilot and 2x wives. :( BobKMEM

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Robert, Thanks. I believe it is good thing for the hobby to have a PMDG's point of viewwith regard to recent Microsoft/ACES issues. Sam

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In my opinion FSX is such a good simulation it can last 4 more years... it was ahead of its time when it was released and i think most people are still far away from being able to play it with maximum grafics settings.So who needs an FS11 now or in 1 or 2 years? From an economical perspective we all should be able to play the game on maximum setting before investing in a new game which would demand too much from our computers again for the first 1 to 3 years.And if MS would stop the FS franchise forever PMDG could still hire all ex-ACES members and continue the saga on their own. The PMDG FlightSim! With some PMDG Express products for the kids and gamers out there who want to "play" and with all PMDG airplanes as Gold Edition for the enthusiasts. ^^Regards,Carsten Rau

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HyeThe best thing will be that PMDG will develop also a flight simulator !!!! and the addons !!! yeah ! will be so nice !!! regardsPatrick

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HyeThe best thing will be that PMDG will develop also a flight simulator !!!! and the addons !!! yeah ! will be so nice !!! regardsPatrick
I hope so too....!!!! Regards from Germany

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I think that one good thing that wikk come from it is that great companies like PMDG will pick FS9 back up and develop a few more great add-ons for it since there are a lot of people like myself who are just not willing to give up FS9, and re-spend all the money and time on making FSX match their copy of FS9 as far as add-ons / modifications. And, since there may not be a new FS for years to come. Randy Turner

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It's about time you change over to FSX. It's faster on most dual + core systems, and sound and graphics are much better. I would rather see more good add-ons to the flight sim community, than see developers wasting their resources on people that are mostly sticking to an old and dated version of the simulator due to stubbornness... Might sound a bit harsh, maybe it is, but it's not personal :)BTW: Microsoft are now re-hiring people to develope a flight simulator...

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Windows Vista was such a disaster that Microsoft terminated about 98 % of the Team who worked on it... Source-- Microsoft employees !When FSX was released customer's bought the product with the hope that they were buying the "next great thing,"the newest Flight Simulation software," etc. etc. But when people started using it, the reaction was the same (or worst) than when what Windows Vista has been.Now, Microsoft is developing a operating system Windows 7Now, Microsoft is closing the Flight Simulation dept....why? Well, eventhough they might have sold thousands of software (FSX), only a handful accepted the product itself-- yes, just a handful !!!Folks, let's face it (not contradict anyone), but what's good, let's call it good...What's bad..call it bad !!! No questions !!!Juan Gonzalez (John)

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"When FSX was released customer's bought the product with the hope that they were buying the "next great thing,"the newest Flight Simulation software," etc. etc. But when people started using it, the reaction was the same (or worst) than when what Windows Vista has been."FSX has been a sucsess for Microsoft, both critically and commercially. FSX had problems when it was released I've heard, but I didn't start using it after SP1, so I know very little of these problems. Could not be more happy with FSX. But it's a pity that they don't support sloped runways and ATC with SIDS & STARS, and updateable navigationdatabase... But maybe in the next version. It's always room for improvment.BTW: On friday Microsoft annonced the new postion of lead programmer on the new/next flight simulator game. It would be interesting to know why Microsoft choose to close down ACES? Maybe they just wanted to create some new dynamics within the game devision? Micorsoft seems like a quite progressive company. To bad they lack moral sense, but I guess this is a problem with any big company.

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It's about time you change over to FSX. It's faster on most dual + core systems
Just let me,... :( :( :( Sorry, had to do it.

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