DEVONtechnologies sold!

I’ve never seen one of these “strategic alliances” work out for the best for software customers and the products they have been using. Never, not in 25 years of working with software. I challenge you people to defy the norm and keep the products alive, exciting and useful with the excellent customer response that we have all come to enjoy.

This is a particuarly dangerous sort of software, because one begins to center their entire workflow around it. If it falters due to poor, buggy updates from new owners it can impact all user’s bottom lines. If new versions become unuseful because of the overloading of “features” or “improvements” in the user interface where one wants to stick with the old version then the problem of compatibility arises as operating systems change.

I almost didn’t buy DEVONthink and DEVONagent in the first place because of the issue of them being a great small software company that might be acquired. Now I see I had reasons for my concern. I wish you luck with the merger and pray that you manage to still put your software and customers first. But I don’t count on it.


DEVONtechnologies Ltd. and AgentScience Technologies, Inc., announce that they have formed a strategic alliance and open a new holding company in the USA.

In this alliance, AgentScience Technologies acquires DEVONtechnologies, and both companies together open a new holding company named DEVONtechnologies LLC in the US. AgentScience Technologies sub-licenses technology from DEVONtechnologies LLC to provide its enterprise clients with a first-of-its-kind solution designed to turn the threatening information overload into manageable knowledge.

The jargon of the communiqué is awful. I hope the guys of DEVON will soon come up with an explanation in ordinary language.

Alas, ChemBob, you’re right on the money.

‘Mergers’ of the kind apparently described by this release are almost always poison for customers and shareholders alike. My experience of them as a software and hardware consumer in the past, just like yours, has been unambiguously bad.

The appointment of the key DevonTechnology people as President and CTO of new entity – and the move of DTech headquarters to the USA – only seems to guarantee their complete distraction from the business of building and growing the DT suite in the direction dictated by current customers’ needs.

Goodbye to customer service, innovation and a maturing, focussed product and hello to ‘relationship management’, ‘re-purposing’ and ‘holistic solutions’.

Incidentally, if you thought that the Corporate-speak in the press release was a worry, take a look at the slogan-filled pabulum on the AgentScience web site and be appalled.

I bought DT and DA just yesterday because I thought it would be better (but only just a little) than my roll-your-own solutions. I would not have done that if I’d known this was coming.

What a pity. I’ll hold out hope … but against completely contrary experience.

To judge from the pictures on AgentScience’s website, the Pentagon is a big client of this company.

This is even worse than I thought. I just visited the website and imho they appear to be involved in managing the information from weapons experiments, DOD, DOE and possibly covert operations.

Notice the office locations Washington DC, Idaho, home of INL (The Idaho National Laboratory is committed to providing international nuclear leadership for the 21st Century, developing and demonstrating compelling national security technologies, and delivering excellence in science and technology as one of the Department of Energy’s multiprogram national laboratories.) and Las Vegas, home of the Nevada Test Site (Established as the Atomic Energy Commission’s on-continent proving ground, the Nevada Test Site has seen more than four decades of nuclear weapons testing. Since the nuclear weapons testing moratorium in 1992 and under the direction of the Department of Energy (DOE), test site use has diversified into many other programs such as hazardous chemical spill testing, emergency response training, conventional weapons testing, and waste management and environmental technology studies.)

I’m now very concerned about the ultimate fate of the use of the DT and DA technology, besides the fact that it is likely that this “group” will not care so much about individual users like us and will almost certainly not cater to Mac users. My guess is they just want the underlying technology to incorporate into their own secretive products. If I was a betting man I’d wager that we are seeing the last days of our use of DT and DA, at least I won’t count on more than perhaps one more upgrade.

It would be nice to hear from you DEVONthink folks about these issues.



I hadn’t run across AgentScience until a year or so ago. They appear to be an IT consulting/management/services outfit. Your speculations about their client list (and perhaps their underlying motive for acquiring DEVONtechnologies) may be on target. (Hey, I had support from the old Atomic Energy Commission for technology transfer projects many years ago.)

I remain much more optimistic about the future of DEVONthink and DEVONagent than you.

Certainly, if DEVONtechnologies had simply disappeared as an entity, and Christian, Eric and the rest of the DT crew vanished, I would see this as a black day. AgentScience’s business model doesn’t seem to have included sale of consumer, prosumer and professional software.

So the fact that DEVONtechnologies continues a corporate existence, with Eric and Christian as leaders, offers promise. The best case will emerge if the relationship with AgentScience provides the resources and technical horsepower to realize the potentials of DEVONthink and DEVONagent as mature software products, perhaps ultimately running on several platforms. DEVONtechnologies can become a good profit center. I hope that’s in the cards; it would be a good added business model for AgentScience.

Wasn’t there a company that bought a software company a few years ago? Oh yes, Apple bought NeXT. That worked out pretty well.

Here’s my bet: DEVONthink development will soon speed up, and we’ll see DT PE 2 and DT Pro 2 down the line. (Have I mentioned that I usually win at poker?) :slight_smile:

Well, this is easier to say since we have all received the email from Eric about their continued existence. My concern was because I’ve seen so many outstanding products disappear down ratholes to never be heard from again. Too many to list. I too am now more optimistic since DTech finally took the time to explain it to us. Regarding NeXT, it didn’t work out so well for the owners of NeXT computers though, did it? Certainly if they migrated to Macs they (hopefully) consider themselves better off. But there were lots of NeXT users who didn’t want anything to do with Macs. I took my Mathematica training on a NeXT computer. It was a really nice machine (for the time, no match for today’s Macs though).


Sincerly, I’m afraid.
I have receveid an justification from the company.
As european customer, I don’t be happy to see the company transforming in US society. And it’s not an anti-US reaction, it’s a software industry reaction at my point of view.
As a man (an father), I don’t consider that is a good opportunity to work with nuclear and military society. Oh no! It’s an euphemism.

I have bought at the beginning DEVONthink. Later DEVONagent and DEVONnote. I’m a beta tester for DEVONthink Pro too.
Today I must reconsider my position concerning DEVONtechnologies products. Not by pleasure, but by ethic view.
SORRY, sincerly.


Just saw the email from Eric, which is most encouraging. I was pleased to see that AgentScience only obtained a 50% share of DEVONtechnologies. The previous announcement looked like a complete sale.

Also heard from Christian, who is enthusiastic about the new resources for application development and customer support. Christian notes that he and Eric will continue to live in Europe.

Long live DEVONtechnologies. :smiley:

(I’m happily using several applications that were originally developed for NeXT computers – Create, NoteTaker and NoteBook, for example.)

Dunno. Not happy. Maybe I got no right to be - I’ve only ever got DThink, and that was fifteen months ago, so the company hasn’t made any money out of me - but I’m not happy. AgentScience’s website - that Pentagon picture, don’t like it. The appalling English in the newsflash and on their website, the usual meaningless corporate waffle. The move of the head-office to the US - why? why? And DT is a liberal company - how does their occasional campaign fit in with a US company that makes… what exactly? What does AgentScience actually make?

Will it mean I won’t buy Pro after all? Maybe, maybe not… I’m kinda locked into using the application, but definitely, I’m not happy.


i’m glad they only sold 50%, wish they’d only sold 49% though.

coming on the heels of Watson’s demise, i’m not encouraged.

hopefully they’ll realize the strongest statement they can make is not PR blather but instead the release and support of DT Pro.

keep your eyes on the ball, boys.

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in fairy tales. AgentScience is clearly a company that works for the Pentagon, and if they acquired (part of) DEVON Technologies, they did so because they want to use DEVON’s artificial intelligence resources for their own ends, and not certainly because they want the guys of DEVON to go on working for the Mac community. And if they acquired only 50%, that’s only because DEVON for the moment didn’t want to sell more.

And yes of course we’re told that everything will remain as it is, or will even become better for us: no intelligent person burns his boats immediately. But how many developers does DEVON actually have? Two? I never got the impression there were many of them. And how much time will their chiefs let them to dedicate to us ‘ordinary people’?

No, I don’t believe in fairy tales. And now I’m sure we’ll never see that thorough manual of DT which many of us desire.

We’re very sad that this deal does lead to so much frustration. I hoped that my letter clarified at least some of your worries.

Yes, AgentScience is dealing with “some” big customers, and we’re not necessarily keen on dealing with the US military or any other US government department ourselves. We try to be an ethical company and this will not change. Why should it? Hey, it’s still us.

Regarding the focus of our company: The guys at AgentScience are NOT our chiefs. It’s 50:50 and we do not intent to sell more. And: the main focus will remain on the Mac market. Why? Because they now own 50 percent of our company and the sublicensing will not be the main revenue source. It’s the Mac community and they benefit from every dollar we make from our customers, you. It’s in their own interest.

But, yes, there will be a customized DEVONthink Professional engine with APIs for their solutions, but nothing more. This is also part of the agreements. But this is not what kept us from making manuals or finishing the Pro Edition. It’s just a huge project for a small company like us, and we also need our limited resources for communicating with our users. Replying to more than fifty e-mails per day alone keeps one person busy.

I know that I cannot convince anyone who doesn’t like the deal. We still belive it’s a good move, though, Pentagon pictures on the AgentScience website or not.



If speculation and hype had any value you guys would be millionaires. I’ve never seen so much hand-ringing over what might happen in my entire life.

Regarding Apple’s takeover of NeXT, ChemBob is implying that Apple’s takeover somehow killed off the NeXT computer. In fact it was already dead - no-one was buying them. Apple bought Next to aquire it’s only valuable asset namely it’s software.

No, actually ChemBob was right, again, about Next. Users lost. The ‘reverse’ takeover of Next by Apple left anyone using NextStep more or less stranded. The Mach kernel and a lot of other stuff survived (in OS X) but you could no longer find any support for the Next version.

I’m certainly mollified by Eric’s assurances. After all, its their business what they do and it may have been really smart to capitalize their technological edge now. I hope they made a pile out of the deal.

But the 50:50 deal is a direction-changing event. 50% water and 50% scotch is no longer water (or scotch). It’s difficult even to speculate what AgentScience wants to do with the technology and they look like keeping that to themselves. But presumably they took a big slice of the company (and it’s headquarters) so they could call the shots on the direction of future efforts.

When Eric says: “Hey, it’s still us” he’s asking for room. I’m certainly willing to give him that. What it means for new users like me is a concern but no big deal. It means I’ll have to keep a very close eye on my exit strategy from DT. I want to be sure I can back out of everything I do with it from now on because, sooner or later …

I agree with the last post. And the one before that, too, actually. it is handwringing, but not without some justification.

the challenge that i see is the folks at DT are now going to have to divert resources away from solely Mac development and now support these other guys and their development of API hooks into their data library. It’s difficult for me to believe that this isn’t going to draw SOME measure of time away from developing for the mac platform.

we’ll see how things unfold. i’m fairly confident all will be well, albeit with a slower release schedule for coming updates.

I have to say I agree with all the concerns expressed in this thread. I may be a newbie to the board but I have been using DT since its very beginnings and, as for many of us, it is crucial to my workflow. But not THAT crucial… because nothing is THAT crucial. I too will be looking at my exit strategies, for two reasons.

(1) Because, like a number of other posters, my experience of using PCs since the old Sirius/Victor days is that these sort of strategic alliances invariably - yes, invariably - end up at best in the loss of the core values of the products involved, and at worst in the loss of the products altogether. Timeframe? Twelve months, in my experience.

(2) I have been looking quite closely into AgentScience and so far it is not looking like a company which I want anything of mine – let alone my years of notes, clippings etc – involved. It’s not just the intolerable corporate drivel – empty posturing and every cliché imaginable – nor is it just their (confirmed) links with the Pentagon which (and I am sorry if it upsets any American posters here) is one of the most dangerous institutions on the planet at the moment; it is that their entire vaporous, obscurantist corporate mindset (“Executives! Ignorant? Nervous? Let Us Flannel You!”) is utterly at odds with the objectives of most of us who (it seems from reading this forum) use Devon Technologies’ products.

An emotional response? Possibly. But I think any craftsman has an emotional connection with the tools he uses in his work, and, for me, DevonThink et al now have a deeply compromised feel to them which simply makes me, albeit irrationally, uncomfortable. Others can leverage their leading-edge data defense solution portal system architectures as much as they like; but count me out of the corporatist dogpile. Good luck to the developers. I hope they get rich. But for me . . . Maybe it’ll be a platform switch to Nota Bene; for the time being, the only posture is: keep a backup export in RTFD, and maintain a mournful vigilance.

And, by the way, “It’s still us” is one of the oldest ones in the book. You go into business with guys like these, the “us” changes. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illos… verb. sap., with the best intentions in the world.

You don’t like the fact that DevonTechnologies has a business arrangement with a company that does business with the Pentagon. Fine. Don’t use DT or DA and leave it at that.

I presume also that you don’t use Microsoft products (who are also suppliers to the military) or any one of the thousands of other companies that have dealings with the military both in the US and other countries. And then don’t forget that each of those companies will in turn have many more companies supplying it with goods and services. Are they also to be boycotted? And by the way I’m not American, I just think that the ridiculous posturing on this thread has got out of hand. It seems each poster is trying to outdo the last in the doom, gloom and conspiracy stakes. The term FUD comes to mind. All this negativity will serve to do nothing except put off new and recent users of the products. Doom and gloom begets doom and gloom. It’s a bit like the person who thinking there’s a run on a bank actually causes one by telling everyone there’s a run on the bank!

Let’s deal with some facts. DT is a business and as such it has made a business decision and since I have been involved in similar business situations myself I have little doubt that a great deal of time and consideration went into it. Immediately people are forecasting disaster and bemoaning the fact that DT has done this. There is no evidence that this will have a negative impact on their products or their customers but still we have people trying to make this case. At the end of the day we can moan all we want but it is extremely unlikey to make DT change their minds. They have done what they feel is best for their company (and their shareholders - if they have any) and neither you nor I have any right to criticise that because we do not have all the facts, responsibilities etc. that their decision makers are working with.

As far as planning an exit strategy goes I will just point out that no software product lasts for ever and it is always prudent to think about what you would do if a product you relied on were to become extinct. I do this all the time but neither that nor DT’s new business arrangement will stop me using the product. If you refuse to use software products because there is any doubt about it’s long term survival then you will probably wind up using very little software at all. At the moment there is no evidence whatsoever that DT’s products futures are in doubt but we have people here claiming that they know that this is the case a day or two after DT made the announcement. I wonder would any of those people mind picking a few winners for me in the next Darby. Being able to predict the future must come in very handy.

What do you think is going to happen? Do you think the Pentagon is going to make DT install spyware in their products so they can spy on your notes and clippings? Or maybe they’ll slip some subliminal messages in there to subvert your mind. Woooooo!

Oh give me a break! What utter nonsense! I have to say that based on my dealings with them, their input into these forums and the feedback of others on this forum that DT have nothing but the best regard and respect for their customers. Your comment is not just disingenuous but downright insulting to the people who work in DT.

From a rational point of view, psmyth, you are right. And of course the DEVON guys are completely free to do business with whom they like, and I sincerely do wish them all the success and all the luck of the world.

But besides the rational arguments, there are also the psychological ones. If you’re working daily with a certain application, which you love because of its many merits, then that application becomes part of your world, and perhaps even a little bit part of your personality. Then you’re going to consider that application something ‘pure’; and then you get very disappointed if this application comes into contact with something you consider ‘polluted’. From a rational point of view, this is nonsense; but from a psychological point of view, it’s perfectly understandable. And psychology reigns the world.

Personally I’m not at all anti-American as such; but yes, I do feel a profound dislike for a certain America, for the Bush America, for the Bush way of doing things, not just for ethical but also for practical reasons: a dead end street. And I know, and we all know that this dislike is shared by the vast majority of ‘thinking’ Europeans. And this dislike reflects itself in discussions like the present one. With DEVON, of course, this doesn’t have anything to do. But as I said, from a psychological point of view it’s understandable.

I’m an American, and I’m not offended.

Have I had interactions with the American defense, intelligence and nuclear establishments?

Yes. Many years ago I did research on how fungal enzymes attack lignin in wood. That research was funded by the Department of the Army.

While doing graduate work in philosophy and logic, I had a National Defense Education Act fellowship.

I participated in a number of online computer conferences with the assistance of DARPA, the defense research group that developed the precursor to the Internet. (I used s 300 baud modem back then.)

For several years I led graduate seminars on science, technology and public policy. The core group consisted of mid-career federal employees who had received awards for a year of graduate studies. The group included people from the Defense Department, the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Secret Service and various other federal agencies. They were very intelligent people. One of them became a cabinet member in the first George W. Bush administration. Also participating in these seminars were people from other governments including Germany, Norway, Israel and Egypt.

I’ve served on technical committees that included personnel from several of the national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Lab.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s I was project leader for one of the first computer-based environmental information centers, using resources from NASA, the Atomic Energy Commission and other federal agencies.

Have these contacts polluted me? Perhaps. On the other hand, while I was wearing my environmental regulatory hat, I’ve required the Army and Air Force to do some very expensive pollution cleanups.

Speaking of environmental matters, while I applaud the scientific and technical capabilities devoted to environmental management in the European Union, I’m appalled by the adoption of the precautionary principle as a primary basis for EU science, technology and environmental policy. (Don’t get me started on that. My view is that the precautionary principle is irrational and will lead to the decline of science in Europe.)

Oh. I’ve met Senator Kerry a couple of times. Before the presidential election last November, a friend who is a Democratic party official confessed to me that he thought Senator Kerry was a shallow, blithering fool. I agreed with him. I voted for Bush.

But I do like what DEVONthink does for me. Perhaps we can agree on that. :smiley: