DevExpress Newsletter 13: Message from the CTO

21 October 2009

Reprinting my Message from the CTO from the twelfth newsletter so that you may comment on my thoughts. Am I prescient or just nuts?


After the rather controversial topic of the last newsletter's Message, I promised Joe Hendricks, one of our DXperience Universal customers, on Twitter that I would talk about orange juice this time around.

OJ choices When you go to the supermarket wanting to buy orange juice, what sways your selection of which one to buy? After all, not to put too fine a point on it, orange juice is just orange juice.

Perhaps it's the brand you always buy. Perhaps you go for the one with lots of pulp, or the one with none at all. Perhaps you just choose the cheapest. Perhaps you peruse the label to see if it was reconstituted or not. Perhaps you like the added calcium variety. Perhaps you tried them all at one point in a blind tasting, and now just go for the one you liked the best. Perhaps you prefer a carton, or a bottle, be it plastic or glass. Perhaps you go for the ultra expensive juice that was fresh-squeezed on the farm during the dawn hours, with the dew still beading on the fruit.

My point is that orange juice is a commodity. One juice is very much like another, so there are other considerations you take into account before you buy. I'd venture to say that it's the same with buying UI controls: they are also commodities.

When you buy a control, say a grid, you are not just buying any old grid, you have other considerations. After all, grids are all pretty similar, when push comes to shove. So, you also consider things like your familiarity with the vendor, how long they've been in business, how often they issue updates, the documentation (in all the forms it exists), how well the technical support team deal with your questions, how open the vendor is, the ease with which you understand the API and the design, the ease with which your users enjoy using the control and find it intuitive, how flexible the design is, and so on. Maybe it's performance, or the "weight" of the grid rendered in a web page, or the availability of the source code, or a particular feature that makes you decide on a particular one.

At DevExpress, we understand this situation clearly. That's why we not only try and create the best controls you've ever seen or used (biased, me?), but we also spend a lot of time on the supporting "infrastructure" for the controls: our support team, our documentation, our videos, our skins/themes, our regular updates and upgrades, our community efforts, our desire to make software development fun, DXSquad, our evangelists, our management team, and so on. You get all of that for free when you buy any of our controls.

So, next time you need some orange juice, try DXperience.

After I wrote this, I suddenly thought that the same thing also applies to software like iPhone apps. You want a kid's game for the iPhone? There are a bazillion of them: they are in every way a commodity. Which do you choose? The rating? Recommendation from a friend? The vendor? And so on, so forth.

So, do you write commodity software? What do you do to make your software stand out from everyone else's in the same market?

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