VCL product subscriptions: listening to feedback

ctodx
21 June 2011

We’ve had a lot of extremely valuable feedback from my previous post about our plans for our VCL product line, both as comments to the post itself and as emails to me. I want to thank everyone who did respond: we’ve looked at and discussed all of them. And by “we”, I mean both the management of DevExpress and the VCL team, since we are all here together this week in our development offices in Russia.

Why subscriptions again?

Firstly, we feel that we didn’t communicate effectively (and by “we” here, I mean me, obviously) what our reasons were for moving to a subscription model. Let me take an aside here to explain.

As part of a license to a DevExpress product you get the right to create as many applications with that product as you want for as long as you want. Furthermore we will provide support services as part of that product for as long as you use it. We’ve delivered on that promise again and again.

However, what we have found over the past few years is that a greater and greater amount of support is being spent on version incompatibilities. We’ve tried hard in the past to provide support to people who want to use product X from a couple of versions back with the latest version of product Y, given that both X and Y use some of the same underlying codebase (simple example: using an old treelist with the latest grid, given they both use the same editors). Since this support invariably requires input from the development team, the upshot is that, overall, we are spending too many resources on issues that affect only a small proportion of our customers; resources that, frankly, we should be putting towards creating new features and new functionality. The same goes of course for the original development of new features: explicitly allowing interactions between just two different versions of our controls at the outset exponentially increases the amount of testing we have to do for a release.

If we had a system whereby customers were guaranteed to get the latest versions – were encouraged to keep up to date, if you like – we could spend more time in producing compelling updates on a regular twice yearly cycle, and less time on such cross-version issues. If we had a system whereby customers could get new minor features quickly and regularly, the less time they would have to wait for a major version update before being able to update their apps. The current system does not facilitate these goals at all, hence the idea of moving to a subscription model. Naturally a subscription model not only helps our customers budget their annual expenditures on controls, but also allows us to budget what we allocate on producing and supporting VCL products.

What should subscriptions apply to?

And so to my next point: one of the biggest complaints raised by people is that the proposed subscription packs were too coarse-grained and that the packs didn’t address their particular needs. (OK, we did briefly discuss adding a couple of new packs to try and alleviate the problem, but, to be honest, we abandoned that line of discussion pretty quickly.)

Hence, we are proposing to make the individual products subscription-based as well.

If you are buying our VCL controls new, you have the choice of purchasing a subscription pack if you require a spread of controls, or of buying the individual products you need on a subscription basis. Prices for new product purchases are the same as now, annual maintenance renewals will be 40% of original price.

If you already have licenses to some of our products, you can promote them individually to the subscription-based v2011.1 version. The price would be (essentially) 40% of the list price if your version is the current latest version; 70% if you’re one version back; 85% for two versions back; or full price any older than that. Of course, if you find that a subscription pack is more to your liking, you can promote to the same ones I discussed (and at the same prices I provided) last time. All subscriptions are renewed on an annual basis.

I will re-emphasize my first point again here, though in a different way: v2011.1 (and later) will not be “cross-version-compatible”. If you decide to promote at least one of your VCL products to v2011.1, you will have to promote them all if you want to use them in the same IDE and for the same applications. We cannot provide support for using a v2011.1 control with an earlier version of another control. The new installer will continue to remove earlier versions of controls for compatibility reasons.

Oh and by the way…

Finally, we found that we don’t really know what kinds of development you, our VCL customers, are doing. Apart from some raw sales numbers, we don’t have much relevant data. For example, we don’t know

  • whether you are maintaining legacy systems or writing new ones or thinking of moving to new platforms;
  • whether you are old-time Delphi devs or new customers using Delphi for the first time;
  • whether you are writing in-house programs or retail applications;
  • what you are planning on doing with Embarcadero’s promised new features, if anything.

Hence we will be contacting all of you individually over the next month or so to survey your environments, usage patterns, future plans, and so on. The hope here is that by knowing more about our market, the better we’ll be at satisfying that market’s future needs.

Summary

In short: products are purchased by annual subscription, upgrade options for existing product owners, same subscription packs, no cross-version code from v2011.1 onwards, surveys to come.

Apart from all that, we are altering our sales system’s business rules to support this new proposal. Once that is done and the website updated, we will release.

17 comment(s)
JUAN PEDRO LAENCINA LOPEZ
JUAN PEDRO LAENCINA LOPEZ

I think subscription plans are a good idea if this reinforces VCL products, the most of them. My vote also to bet for new product more than compatibility with older version. I'm using old treelist but it won't be difficult to fix.

I am waiting for price to updgrade and to use ASP.NET controls also. Anyway, $600 a year for a very good suite of updated products and excelent support is very interesting deal.

21 June, 2011
Matthias Schlegel
Matthias Schlegel

I would appreciate getting a final official date from DevExpress. We are almost six months from 2010’s promised roadmap date and almost a month from last beta.

I know that VCL developers’ voice nowadays does not really count, but this version has been dragging too long and it’s about time.

Matthias Schlegel

21 June, 2011
Tonis Argus
Tonis Argus

I develop a small product line. Lifecycle for this product line is planned 4-5 years. It means that in userinterface there should be no major changes. My experience says that there is a lot of users who dont like any major changes in user interfaces. Not very often at least. They need to work quickly from day to day and learning new userinterface is waste of time for them. They didnt understand why it is needed as they know every button and menuchoice of the program. For them there is no difference to make 2 or 4 clicks for required task because they simply know what to do.

Suggestion: let ask questions from support team only them who own a subscription pack. Other customers can only navigate in support pages and report bugs. Maybe ask a very limited number of questions. Want to ask something, buy a subscription, maybe only for one month.

I do not need no additional components at this moment. To get new versions from bars and grid I can spent some hundred dollars, no more. When I success with my products then I can think about new investments into software. You have more good looking components but I have no money at moment to buy them. The same is true also about Delphi. XE is for me for next upcoming years. Simply no time, no need and money to upgrade to each new version.

21 June, 2011
Raoulw
Raoulw

Julian:

Your last post said it would be delivered last week. That is about the 10th promise broken by DX personell for this delivery..

This is getting rediculous. I am a paying subscription owner and the changes that have delayed this delivery for 6 months now are not my cup of tea.

It is now almost one year since you've started putting betas out and putting blogs on the site.

I dont care that you are updating your sales business rules on your site, I already paid for this.

Just upload the * binaries.

Raoul.

21 June, 2011
Johan Petersson
Johan Petersson

I am upset about this too.. Release the products already! These delays are harder to melt than the subscription model.. At least give the VCL subscription customers access to the final installer!!

21 June, 2011
Jonina Johannsdottir
Jonina Johannsdottir

I am upset about this too.

21 June, 2011
Adamh
Adamh

I agree with Raoul and johan!!  Feels like existing VCL subscription customers are getting the raw deal here, please just give us the release!

21 June, 2011
Dave Frank
Dave Frank

Would be nice to see a release. I had anticipated it would be released at the same time as the .NET suite. I checked my memory and two of the items still in beta were blogged about with screenshots in mid August 2010. We're over ten months since both blog posts now. I think expectations were raised a little early there and a degree of fatigue has set it looking at the posts.

I have no comment on the subscription issue. I've always had one and consider it pretty inexpensive for what you get. I couldn't develop a single one of these controls for all the VCL money I've spent with DevEx since Grid 3. At least that's how I look at it. You could likely multiply it five or tenfold and I still couldn't do it. And even with slower development speed they're still the best in the market.

22 June, 2011
Rob McDonell
Rob McDonell

Thanks for the decision to have individual product subscriptions. That addresses my major concern, which was about bundling and paying for a whole bunch of stuff I didn't want.

22 June, 2011
Sergio Gomez
Sergio Gomez

I think new subscription model for individual products it's a right decision, for example, I only need ExpressBars and with packet subscription I was forced to buy components I don't need. I'm not concerned to pay a subscription every year if there are more and fast improvements.

22 June, 2011
vanilla610
vanilla610

Individual product subscriptions is good for hobby programmer.

22 June, 2011
Michael Thuma
Michael Thuma

>>Hence, we are proposing to make the individual products subscription-based as well.

Honestly, imho the packages have been enough.

I thought about the first article and one comment. Honestly Julian B. I don't what other people feel about this. Does it make sense to focus on the 64bit stuff in November 2011.2. Maybe it helps to make it available when it makes sense and not to hurry into this direction already this year. Also in case of a prosperous future Delphi will maybe face I doubt that the demand is this big. If there is a minority that requires, ok, this has to be considered - maybe there is a way to quickly check this ... I am aware that the source should be the same and devexpress will have to consider this anyway but to pin now to 2011.2... C++ is not planned according to the roadmap ... and if you start next spring ...

Mike

22 June, 2011
Eric Schreiber (CN)
Eric Schreiber (CN)

Individual product subscriptions should certainly put to rest the primary complaint I've seen in the past several discussions about this. Having been a hobbyist purchaser of some DevEx libraries in the past, I could certainly appreciate the concerns some users were voicing - if you're using just one library, upgrading to any suite-level subscription could be cost prohibitive. That should no longer be an issue.

The requirement that one updates all individual products will no doubt still present a problem for some people, but hopefully that will be a small fraction of users.

This proposed model strikes me as a pretty balanced compromise between maximizing customer happiness with the fundamental business concerns facing DevEx. I hope it means you guys will continue to produce the best VCL components for a long time to come!

Speaking of which, while I'm not as wound up about it as some of the previous posters, I also am looking forward to the new release. Hope to see it Real Soon Now!

22 June, 2011
Drazen Dodig
Drazen Dodig

can we just have product out? and then add editions or whatever heck you want... you keep saying you are delaying it for changes in sales model for more than last 6 months...

22 June, 2011
Michael Thuma
Michael Thuma

@Eric - true. The strategy of having single component + subscription increases the price for the single component imo. The underlying amount does not change. Assuming the number of Delphi component license holders stays within certain boundaries and does not explode within the next 2 years and assuming the 'amount' will stay constant.

23 June, 2011
Trusler
Trusler

The decision to allow individual product subscriptions is great news.  I only bumped up to the VCL subscription a couple weeks ago, but previously the pack-only subscription approach might have been a show-stopper, particularly if you owned Grid + Bars.

The fact that product versions much now match seems like a good compromise EXCEPT that it applies per-PC rather than per-IDE.  That is, I should be able to keep (matched) older products in older IDEs.  Some of us have to maintain apps in older IDEs, and VMs are not the greatest workaround, needed only for DevEx's sake.

It would be helpful Julian if you could spell out exactly which products are going in which packs (e.g. is Printing System in all packs? Skins?)

23 June, 2011
Jason Richards
Jason Richards

I was really excited by the release today. I always work within the last release or two depending on time we have to upgrade.

You can imagine my disappointment that the updating did not work properly and I have slent hours trying to get it all working........ still at it....

I develop in BDS 2006 and RAD 2010 and am moving to use more Devexpress controls. We have to use BDS 2006.

I see the frustration in the comments over more releases and pressure to get it delivered. We all live with that one as developers!

However, if the releases are going to become less reliable it would really worry me.

As others have said the Quantum Grid, Pivot and others are simply the best and we could never afford a team to develop half the functionality which makes the subscription good value. I see DevExpress as an extension of our team!

We use Devart DAC controls for the same reason, they are the best of breed.

So please in the haste to get releases with subscriptions don't lose the reliability and ease of implementation we have come to expect.

Personally the subscription model is good value and support from DevExpress has always been very good, even with non priority requests.

Jason

24 June, 2011

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