And you may ask yourself — where does that highway go to?

It's been a while since we talked in any great detail about xTuple's roadmap for the future, and I thought this might be a good time to do so. You can always look at the near-term xTuple development plan for the next couple of releases  which will include specification links to confirmed customer-sponsored features when available.

But I'd like to take it up a notch, if I could, and talk a bit more about our general company strategy and direction. When we first launched the company back in 2001, our primary goal was to bring an enterprise-class, manufacturing-focused ERP to a larger universe of companies. We built what was then called OpenMFG on top of open source building blocks like PostgreSQL and Qt, but didn't have a free and open source offering of our own. I think of that time as "Version 1.0" of the company — and it probably won't surprise anyone to hear that the "versions" of the company basically correspond with the major version numbers of the product.

Version 2.0 came with the addition of major application-wide functionality such as integrated CRM and multicurrency, and more advanced manufacturing capabilities. There was still no free version, but we stepped up our efforts to involve customers and partners in a community of users with full access to the source code.

Everything started to accelerate in 2007 with the first release of our free and open source ERP software, PostBooks®, and the rebranding of the company and product as xTuple. This was Version 3.0  and the key enhancement to the product was support for scripted modifications and extensions. The name change also represented a decision to reach beyond manufacturing and embrace distribution, retail and professional services businesses. With several years of active community development under our belt, we did our first (admittedly cheeky) release of "xTuple's Greatest Hits," celebrating 13 major features that were developed in this new collaborative fashion.

That brings us to Version 4.0. For some time, we'd been thinking about where the world was going with the explosion of the Web and mobile devices. We'd initially been very excited about the acquisition of our desktop framework, Qt, by the mobile phone giant Nokia. But as it's been exhaustively documented elsewhere, Nokia as a company suffered an existential crisis, unwilling/unable to disrupt its legacy business of "dumb phones"  and Qt withered on the vine, stuck inside a big company and losing its community.

We plunged into an exhaustive, multi-year R&D effort which we documented here for our community quite transparently. More than a few false starts and re-starts in our quest to define the technology infrastructure and growth plan for the next ten years. The three main fruits of that effort were a Javascript-based mobile Web client, a comprehensive REST-based API (which, sadly, happened well after the mobile Web client was out the door), and what we're now calling xTupleCommerce, a customer-facing website that leverages the REST API for a real-time connection to the same ERP database used by the Qt client. Along the way, we released "xTuple's Greatest Hits Volume 2," a celebration of 13 more major new features developed with our community of customers, partners, and open source users.

And something else wonderful happened as well. The Qt group was spun out of Nokia, and re-engaged with its open source community, better and stronger than ever. Qt-based apps began to appear for Android and iOS, as well as Windows mobile  and here at xTuple, we re-engaged with Qt as well, newly confident that our primary desktop technology was now worthy of being our primary mobile technology as well. As that happened, we began the process of disentangling all the good pieces from our mobile Web experiment, and rechanneling our development energies to the API, xTupleCommerce, and — of course — Qt on the desktop and mobile devices.

That pretty much brings us to today. We've just released version 4.10, and 4.11 is right around the corner. Version 4.12 is all but locked down (I'll describe more below), and I fully expect there will be a 4.13, 4.14, and maybe more. But after all this narrative and history lesson (if you're still even reading this), you could be forgiven for asking where this is all going, or, as Talking Heads put it in 1980, "where does that highway go to?"

First — while we're (sort of) on the topic of music, of course, yes, there will be a Greatest Hits Volume 3. The marketing department is planning something really special for this, and while I won't blow the whole surprise, I can tell you this much: Double Live album.

More broadly, though, I'd like to (finally) talk about where we as a company will be going for the next few years. There are three major areas we'll be focusing on:

  1. REST API as king. We are very excited about the power and flexibility this brings us  easier integration with other systems, and better performance for all of our own client applications (Qt Desktop, Qt mobile, xTupleCommerce). Imagine a future where every single business object in your ERP/CRM system can exist discreetly, and interact with any other system you like. We call those business objects "ERPlets" — and you'll be hearing a lot more about them in the months ahead.
  2. Cloud Anywhere. With our upcoming xTuple XPRESS offering, we'll be making it orders of magnitude easier for non-technical companies to deploy quickly and easily in the cloud. And we're working behind the scenes on a number of architectural enhancements that will give even the largest companies the ability to deploy a true multi-tenant, multi-company solution in the environment of their choice - public cloud, private cloud, or onsite. xTuple customers will be able to "Bring Your Own Service" with a cutting-edge design that will grow and scale with you.
  3. Bigger... and smaller. Even as we deploy the enterprise-grade technologies described above, we also intend to add more rungs to the bottom of the ERP ladder. To that end, we will be looking at paring back some of the more advanced features in PostBooks® to make it easier to use for smaller, less complex businesses. That means most of the "vertical" manufacturing and inventory functionality in the free PostBooks® application will eventually be phased out — but don't worry, we will continue to add important horizontal features to the core free product. As an example, version 4.12 — due this fall — will include major enhancements to the integrated CRM, including an all new Campaign Management module, and significant improvements to Time and Expense tracking for service-based businesses. And of course, we will make climbing that ladder as your company grows  upgrading to a commercial edition — as simple and affordable as possible. Finally, after the rollout of xTuple XPRESS this year, we will be launching a "micro" version of the concept called xTuple Starter — an inexpensive, do-it-yourself cloud solution where users can set up PostBooks® in a single day — all online, with no consulting services required.

There's a lot of work to do up there — and we've started to map out what it will look like over the next few years. Of course, we will always be receptive to customer requests for new features (please contact xTuple Sales to discuss)  and strongly encourge anyone interested in hacking our code themselves to reach out to us to talk, once you've had a look around our various websites.

At the end of all this, of course, lies Version 5.0 — of xTuple the company, the product, and what we hope and expect to be a bigger, better, and even more energized community of software, finance, and operations professionals. Thank you for all your support — and we look forward to continuing the journey together!

Ned Lilly

President and CEO

In October 2001, Ned co-founded xTuple, originally called OpenMFG, with the aim of bringing the worlds of open platform software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) together to solve the unmet needs of small- to mid-sized manufacturers. In 1999, he was a co-founder of Great Bridge, an early business built around the PostgreSQL database which is also the core technology for xTuple today. Great Bridge was incubated inside Landmark Communications, a mid-sized media company where Ned directed corporate venture investments, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and startup activity. Prior to Landmark, Ned worked for a regional technology group in Washington D.C. and had a brief first career in political media — television, radio and a non-partisan news wire. He holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia and an M.A. from George Washington University.