DevExpress Newsletter 5: Message from the CTO

Here's the Message from the CTO from the fifth DevExpress Newsletter:

Being first or being best...

It's a problem to be sure. You're working on a software solution for some new problem space. You know your competitors are working on similar solutions. What do you do: produce the best solution you possibly can, or release something quickly, but not quite as high quality or not quite as full-featured, just to be first?

On the one hand, you're First. People will buy and then perhaps get "locked in" to your solution. You have the opportunity to do some of that dreaded marketing, but you also have the problem of persuading people that the problem space is worth solving.

On the other hand, you have the opportunity to see what the first guy is doing, and how it falls short. You can modify your development to target the shortcomings. Maybe it's performance, maybe it's ease-of-use, maybe it's data import/export, or reliability or stability. No matter what, you have the ability to be more measured in your release. It's not guaranteed that you'll be able to persuade customers to buy yours or switch, but you'll have a better chance should the problem space be worth solving.

Over the years DevExpress have been in the former camp and sometimes in the latter. With our WPF controls, we're firmly in the latter: we wanted to understand what people wanted (and whether the market was there) and we're almost ready to issue our first release. So expect better performance, improved ease-of-use, a more intuitive API, and all the other good things.

Next time, maybe we'll be first, and best...

It's the dichotomy we all face when writing software for sale. I'm reminded of it with the iPhone App Store, which is a place you can see this First vs. Best natural selection going on all the time. So long as the stuff you want to buy isn't "Duke Nukem Forever"...

16 comment(s)
Shabnam Sarup

Nicely put. I really like your controls one of the best that I have worked with and your support team promptly answers all questions I ask. Good work.

2 July, 2009
Sandeep

I knew that. I am dying for SL and WPF controls :)

2 July, 2009
Jerzy Rzaniak

hmmm... this dilemma isn't symmetrical. If you are carrying short contracts out better to have something than nothing to start working.

Customers don't want to wait too long.

jr

2 July, 2009
Perry van der meeren

One of the main reasons I use products from DevExpress is because of the high quality products they release and the excellent customer service. I rather wait a little for quality instead of having to change, with every update, my existing source.  

But with every business there is a moment where too late is too late. I hope DevExpress keeps track of the processes in their field of business.

2 July, 2009
Wagner

A man of words.

2 July, 2009
Aaron

There are times I wish you guys were first, then later on I'm glad you weren't...

2 July, 2009
Stephen Mills

I kind of like the model they use for Silverlight Toolkit.  They have differents "band of stability". I might not mind using a early version of your tools, knowing I will have less support, less documentation and less features.  

2 July, 2009
Jason Richards

Julian, Speaking as the MD and developer (software) of a small company in a "new space" I fully relate to your comments.  Both solutions have thier merits and pitfalls and I don't know that there is a definitive answer.  I elect to try to fit somewhere between the two.

2 July, 2009
Jason Short

The bleeding edge people who want you to be there first are also going to be the harshest critics and quickest to jump ship when your competitor finally does release.  

Is it a dash for the cash, or a marathon where slow and steady wins in the long term?

I personally will take the marathon and getting it right every time.  The pioneers also get all the arrows!

2 July, 2009
VistaDB .Net Database Blog

Entity Framework support - Be there first, or getting it right?

2 July, 2009
Crono

I am very happy you guys took that direction. I understand it was not an easy decision: after all, you could have been late on taking a huge boat.

But as it is, WPF and Silverlight are still emerging technologies. Right now, no active vendors can claim to be experts. You, however, with all the time you've put into this... are very likely to be among the most experimented XAML control developpers by the time you get on board.

Thank you for taking that risk, and keep up the good work!

3 July, 2009
Brent Ridenour

this reminds me a little bit of Microsofts general strategy.  It seems to me that Microsoft recently has taken the path of taking the time to develop a technology well up front, even if it means they are a little late to the game.  In the java world, every framework or API seems to go through several major overhauls before you get something stable, and then you end up with old deprecated API's that hang around for a long time.  In general, I would rather get a solid and stable API late than have to rewrite my code every time it changes and I can appreciate that.

On the other hand, within the last 6 months, Ive had to move to Silverlight development, and that forced me to buy a competitors component library.  I come back to the devexpress site every once in a while to see if they release a competing library, because it has been my experience in the past that the devexpress components are among the best.  (Really looking forward to a Silverlight pivot table, and hoping its on your roadmap).  I hope that devexpress being late to the game means that they release a really solid set of components.

3 July, 2009
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Stephen: You know, that methodology Microsoft use for the Silverlight Control Toolkit has a lot to recommend it. The one point that would chafe a little is that the initial band (or two bands, I forget) might introduce an API for a new control that could change drastically between releases, until it got to the "pretty much set in its ways" band. I'm not sure whether customers would go for that, and indeed I've not heard of anyone using those early-life Silverlight controls.

Worth bearing in mind, though.

Cheers, Julian

3 July, 2009
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Jason: Nice point, indeed. There's certainly a lot of angles from which you can view the issue.

I also liked your take on the subject in your blog (All: go read Jason's point on the subject here: www.vistadb.net/.../Entity-Framework-support-Be-there-first-or-getting-it-right.aspx).

Cheers, Julian

3 July, 2009
Will Martin

I would rather Dev Express focus on Silverlight controls to be honest.  :)  WPF will be an ever diminishing market share moving forward.  Silverlight on the desktop is platform independent and will be more lucrative for developers and thus for any tools developed.

With regard to development cycles, it doesn't go out my door until it has been through the ringer.  "It takes months to locate a new customer, seconds to lose one."  Our business is 75% repeat, 15% referals and 10% new so it may be different for other solution providers.

Regards,  --Will

3 July, 2009
Joe Castle

I guess most people agree that the right path is the golden middle one, the challenge is to find it :).

It also makes a big difference if you are an existent customer or not. Existent ones (happy ones) tend to come back and check out the new stuff even if they had to use from competitors because you were late. But changing technology complicates things even more, having for example only license for winform components from and buying silverlight/wpf components from competition will make me resilient converting to devex when they come. I have to be very unhappy with the current component in order to justify the new license and rewrite costs...

9 July, 2009

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