DevExpress Newsletter 13: Message from the CTO

ctodx
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?

Commoditization

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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14 comment(s)
David Dillon
David Dillon

If the feature sets are relatively equal among vendors I would look to customer service impressions and overall corporate culture.  I remember being impressed that you produced your demos and videos in-house.  I prefer useful over slick and polished ( not that Mehul wasn't slick . . .).  People posting articles under their own names gave the impression of vested employees that might be proud of what they produced and would perhaps stick with the company for the long run - that helped seal the deal for me.

Of course, I really bought because of the shade of blue you picked for the website background.

21 October, 2009
Anonymous
Matthew Roberts

I totally agree! Not only are the DevExpress components so well designed and friendly, the support channels ARE second-to-none!

I usually get a Support Center issue response within 24 hours. I remember once waiting weeks for paid support from Microsoft to help me in an Active Directory issue.

Keep up the great work!

21 October, 2009
Steve Sharkey
Steve Sharkey

I have to say what FIRST attracted me was that you had quite a comprehensive suite - previously I had subscriptions to 3 or 4 individual suppliers and trying to make an application that didn't look like it was built by 3 or 4 people (who didn't like each other) was difficult.

I agree with comments about your excellent support but sometimes think it shouldn't have got to support - the help available should have covered something. Having said that you do provide help that isn't all the often used auto-generated style of:

"xxx.value property

read/write property that sets or reads the Value of the xxx"

Of course since then (some years ago now) things have generally just got better and better...

22 October, 2009
Anonymous
kasyoki

Hi Julian,

The company MD is just thinking of me as a genius because of the devexpress controls.

cheers for that.

what about iphone controls julian?

Happy Crafting (of controls of course).

22 October, 2009
Jeff Meyer_2
Jeff Meyer_2

I don't buy orange juice, I buy whole oranges and eat them, and compost the peels in a worm bin.  

22 October, 2009
Anonymous
Tim

I'd ask the sexy lady to show me where she got that unlabeled bottle of OJ. That's how I'd choose.

But seriously, I think Julian misunderstands "commodity".  UI components and component-suites are not pork bellies.  But apart from the bad analogy, he raises some valid points about what distinghuishes one suite from another.

I've been using DevExpress components for about 8 years. They're high quality and the support is first-rate (though I wouldn't go so far as to say "second to none" --support from one of your competitors is better; their website is much faster; and their components are better documented.  There's far too much old dry brush on the DevExpress website. You need to do a "controlled burn" and thin out the undergrowth.

Source code availability was high on my list of considerations, though I did not acquire it (not yet).  Before getting into Windows programming, I did mainframe/mini programming servicing a vertical market, and many customers in my vertical demanded source-code or source-code escrow. If MSFT would ever settle down long enough for me to finish a vertical market application before a new paradigm arrives on the horizon, rendering my just-finished application obsolescent in the eyes of my customers, maybe someday I'll need that source code license.

Oh, and all the time-savings I get from component suites is offset by the time wasted on .NET ClickOnce deployment troubleshooting.   DLL Hell hasn't really gone away.

22 October, 2009
Anonymous
Jurgen

We evaluated some vendors. After all, once you have written a lot of code, it's harder to get rid of them again :-)

So, testing the suites thoroughly, we met small problems everywhere. It's your good support at the stage that we didn't even buy yet that was decisive.

22 October, 2009
Anonymous
Mike

Julian,

It was a huge undertaking to bring your controls into my company.  Having to purchase four licenses for a control that for the most part only I would use made it very dificult to shake the money loose from the corporate tree.  I sold your windows grid control on its capabilities.  I continue to make inroads based on your support.  It is a long hard slow road to get my company to adopt and pay for a full control suite... but your excelent support is making this much easier for me and has covered my rear for putting my personal reputation on the line by reccomending your products.  I have used controls and control suites from other companies and stuck my neck out to reccomend your products based on your support reputation.  Your company has not let me down.

Mike.

22 October, 2009
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Tim: Maybe I should have defined my terms. I meant commodity as Wikipedia defines it: "A commodity is some good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market" rather than in the agricultural sense: "a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold". Of course, in choosing the Wikipedia version, I'm stretching the point: I certainly believe there is qualitative differences amongst the controls from all the vendors, and that's before you start considering all the other ancilliary things that come with controls.

Re the deadwood on the site: we've been a couple of weeks away from releasing the next website design for the past couple of months Smile. I jest, but it should be soon.

Cheers, Julian

22 October, 2009
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

All: I notice that no one has taken me up on the question I asked: what are YOU doing to make YOUR software stand out from the crowd in its market? You don't have to name names, but I wonder if you have any strategies you're using to make yourself more noticeable that you're willing to share.

Cheers, Julian

22 October, 2009
Anonymous
Michael Allen

Julian,

Your point is well made, however, I have to say that releases should never preceed up-to-date documentation and video guides, as this can affect the purchasing considerations you've mentioned. This comment is with reference to the 9.2.4 release.

From a commercial standpoint I understand the rationale for a speedy release, but from a developers point of view I don't appreciate having to spend hours hunting for a 'how do I do that' for a simple control (specifically in this case, a toolbar, which no-longer uses a Bar Manager).

So, please, don't sing your praises regarding the wonderful docs & video you provide unless it happens to be fact.

In all other aspects I am happy with my first delve into the DevExpress arena, but this kind of retoric burns me if it isn't accurate.

Mike

23 October, 2009
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Michael: Agreed, which is why we have the support team. They catch the "holes" in our documentation: what haven't we described properly or well, etc. They provide feedback to our developers and tech writers, so we know what to improve in the next release. A bit like we do with the code, in fact.

As for video production, it takes even more time than the normal textual documentation, so it's not surprising that it lags.

Cheers, Julian

23 October, 2009
Donn Edwards
Donn Edwards

If I like the look of a product I always try to look at the support pages and see what is going on there.

A trial version is also a good signal. And the support during the trial phase was even better than I could have expected. The demo videos made me feel confident enough to download the trail version.

As a customer I must say your support is as fast as the ASPxGridView, and the quality of the answers is excellent. The sample code is also extremely useful, and it has saved me hours of time and dozens of questions.

You guys are winning on all fronts in my book.

24 October, 2009
Anonymous
Dale lanz

I'm using your free controls (ASPxperience) in an internal page deployed for our company. Despite their lack of cost, your support has been very helpful. What I like best is that my webpages are useful for the data they contain and, except for the charts, the total cost for development software was $0.

27 October, 2009

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