By Tom Hoots
I’m on my lunch hour, so I’ll make this quick, but here’s a Reader’s Digest version of ECCO history:
The “Pete” that Bob Perez mentioned was Pete Polash, and I believe he can be called the guy who developed Aldus Persuasion for the Macintosh operating system. Persuasion was indeed a presentation program like Microsoft’s Powerpoint, but it used (get this) an “outline” approach to organizing the “slides.” More on that later! Bob’s history as I know it was being a Macintosh “Evangelist” for Apple. Bob and Pete were “co-creators” of ECCO, most likely with Pete doing the heavy lifting on the programming, and Bob specializing in the documentation and “help” information.
Bob and Pete considered how well the outlining metaphor would work for a PIM program, and eventually started developing ECCO. They started Arabesque Software as a company to finish the development, and to market, sell, and support the program. There were a number of other investors in the company’s launch, but there was some kind of falling-out somewhere along the line (I seem to remember in connection of Version 1.1 of early 1994 which received Best of 1993), and most of those other investors were “bought out” by the rest of the company. I virtually don’t know any more details than that about that little episode.
Terry Jeske was the main tech support guy — not really the head of the tech support section at the time, but he moved up to become “product manager” at the end of the NetManage days. The other folks at Acumen Associates are to a great extent the same folks who Bob and Pete hired from the very beginning to continue ECCO’s development. They are the true core of ECCO’s programmers.
Pete was very most definitely the Number One man behind ECCO — it must have been most of his money behind Arabesque. So, he definitely called the shots from his own hip. One very crucial decision was ECCO’s price. The “list price” was $269, I seem to recall, though the sticker on the first version boxes mentioned a price of $395. However, that sticker offered a $99 “introductory price” — let me tell you, I =RAN= to the store when I decided to buy ECCO, worried to death that I might be too late to get that $99 price!! (see also PCMag’s First Looks Ecco Review of September 14, 1993)
At any rate, ECCO was getting rave reviews, and it was selling like hotcakes at that $99 price. But, Pete thought his work was worth more than that, so he put the price back up to the “list price.” I believe sales went downhill pretty quickly at that point, and I know that some employees just pleaded on their knees to Pete to go back to the $99 price. But, that’s where the price stayed, and I believe that led to Pete’s ultimate decision: He wasn’t going to make a big fortune developing, selling, and supporting ECCO, so he might as well make that big fortune by selling the whole thing to some other software company. And, that company wound up being NetManage.
The NetManage years probably don’t need too much of a description, as basically the company gave it lackluster (or worse) development and marketing priority, and really just plain drove it into the ground. I’ll just end this little history lesson with an exchange between Pru Borland and Terry Jeske back when all of us “sysops” visited NetManage just a few months before they pulled the plug on ECCO. Pru asked Terry something along the lines of “What are the three most important things needed to get ECCO back on track?” And, this was Terry’s answer: “Get it away from Zvi Alon, get it away from Zvi Alon, and get it away from Zvi Alon.” I’m NOT kidding. About three months later, I got a phone call from Terry letting me know that Zvi had pulled the plug on ECCO’s development.
I hope that helps — let me tell you, I also visited Arabesque back in the “good old days,” and it was a GREAT group of folks! It is really quite tragic to see what NetManage did to the “magic” the Arabesque folks created!