Friday, March 21, 2008

Mostly For Fun

The past weekend I worked on setting up the e-commerce bits for my ZeroBUGS Linux debugger.

While the commercial build is compiled with optimizations turned on, and has some extra UI goodies, the beta builds are still available for free.

I was doing some marketing research and I came across an interview bit where the main, revolving question was "What's so special about your product that big system vendors do not offer?"

The person being interviewed went on and on trying to explain the great virtues of his company's software, but missed the simple answer: there are classes of products where a small ISV has a much better chance to come up with good software than a large corporation.

Take my example of a debugger for the C++ language. Unlike a browser or an OS, it is designed for a relatively small yet highly specialized niche. It is not a mass consumer product; it will never be a household name. Its users are few, but extremely picky (since they are very sophisticated software developers themselves). This spells: low margin. Not what a large corporation would bet its resources on.

A big company may however assign a team to slapping something together quickly, most likely to bundle it with another product (such as a compiler) so that they can check a box in a feature list; or maybe just give it away "for free" so that they can sell you their pricey consulting services.

It is rather the kind of product a geek would do primarily just for fun, and only secondarily to make money (so that he can eat, buy more hardware, and do more of the same).

And that's why in the long run the geek's code is better.

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