Archive for the ‘MicroISV’ Category

Silverlight vs WPF vs WinForms

When thinking about future development plans you need to take technical as well as the market demands into account. We know that WinForms is no longer being actively developed by Microsoft and so the a long slow decline in sales of WinForms components can be expected. WPF is the new desktop story with little brother Silverlight being heavily pushed for RIA (Rich Internet Applications). Does that mean all WinForms development is now a waste of time? Should I stop developing WinForms components/controls immediately?

Far from it, just think of the existing WinForms installed base as well as the huge number of .NET developers that have achieved technical competence in that technology. Few companies can afford to rewrite applications in WPF just because it’s now flavor of the month. Besides, when it comes to line of business applications WinForms is perfectly acceptable. No doubt WPF will become more and more compelling for new projects but it has yet to become de facto for new desktop apps.

We can use the handy Good Trends service to check out the relative popularity of different keywords. If we assume there is some rough correlation between keyword searching and actual technology usage we get the following…

We can see the WPF trend moving steadily upwards as WinForms usage switches over. More interesting is the Silverlight trend. Despite being the new kid on the block we can see it’s already very popular and the upward trend is much steeper than for WPF. Of the two technologies it seems that Silverlight is where the interest and action is going to be.
Silverlight vs Flash

As Silverlight is judged to be in competition to Flash, whether Microsoft choose to admit it or not, it might be handy to compare them. Doing so gives us the following rather sobering graph…

Clearly Silverlight is not going to replace Flash in the immediate future. Then again any new technology for developing rich sites is always going to be in a minority for many years to come. I cannot imagine Facebook, MySpace, New York Times etc becoming Flash/Silverlight. I can see that any small startup is going to be tempted by the ease of outputting simple HTML pages rather than building an RIA as the first iteration. So maybe RIA is destined to be limited to business applications and niche areas.
Silverlight vs Adobe Flex

A fairer comparison might be Silverlight and the Adobe Flex environment as that truly represents the actual development competition. In that case things look a little brighter…

Things are pretty even here and it could be some time before a clear leader emerges.
Conclusion

As a component vendor what strategy can be we take away from this? First of all I think there is still some mileage in WinForms for two reasons. First is the large installed base and existing knowledge base that means many projects will continue to use it for many years to come. Second is the advantage of being a small one man vendor. A legacy development base would still provide enough income to make a respectable living for a lone wolf like myself, although it only represents executive wash room costs for the big vendors. So I intend to be actively developing Krypton for some time yet. Indeed my next major burst of coding will be adding the much delayed docking windows capability.

Long term I still need to get involved in the Silverlight/WPF market. From the above analysis it seems that targeting Silverlight should be the priority. The fact WPF uses essentially the same framework means that with care the same code base could be used to create WPF versions of the same components. I will use my limited spare time to play around with Silverlight and think about ideas for components that would add value for RIA scenarios.

There is one sales technique you rarely see in the software business, especially from components vendors, and that’s offering a sale. I have no idea is this will work but you don’t know unless you try. So for the month of April I’m offering a 25% discount on all Component Factory sales. That includes renewals as well as new purchases.

Although the sale started on the 1st April I decided to wait until the 2nd before adding a blog entry. I didn’t want people to think it was some sort of twisted April Fool’s Joke. I will post a forum message and notify my list of email subscribers in order to spread the message far and wide. I suspect the email list is where most extra sales will come from, if there are any, as it represents a large pool of developers that have not bought but expressed an interest at some point in the past

In order to make this work I need to increase the number of orders by 33% in order to cover the fact each sales is worth 25% less. Anything above 33% represents an actually benefit from having a sale. I will let you know at the end of the month how it works out.

It has been a little while since I tried any kind of new marketing effort. Yesterday I received an email from a Microsoft MVP suggesting it would be a good idea to give free copies of Krypton Suite to MVP holders. Obviously he has a vested interest but I actually agree that getting copies into the hands of such an influential group could provide real benefits.

I also think that developer blogs are another way to reach many potential customers. So I’ve decided to make an offer to both those camps in the hope it will drive greater awareness of Krypton and in the long run generate some extra sales.

If you fall into either category then please email me and we can set you up with a free copy. Here is the link to the website page describing the criteria…

Free offer criteria

If you can think of any other groups that should qualify then feel free to leave a comment.

If your interested in the business side of software, and in particular working as a MicroISV, then you need to check out this blog. It has some online videos of the excellent speakers as the October 2007 Business of Software conference. Watch the one by Eric Sink of SourceGear fame as it has some handy tips on marketing for developers.

http://blog.businessofsoftware.org/

For me the hardest part of marketing is reaching the target audience, in our case .NET WinForms application developers that might find the Krypton components of value. 

The free Krypton Toolkit is the main marketing channel for Component Factory. By offering a free library of professional controls I hope that word of mouth will spread the company name and knowledge of our commercial controls. But not all developers will stumble across the Toolkit or have it recommended by a friend.

My second channel for reaching developers is the use of Google Adwords. I have been using AdWords for over six months and it definitely helps reach developers that would otherwise never have downloaded the Toolkit. By setting up the conversion tracking I can see exactly how much it costs to get each new downloader and then compare this with the average sales value of a download. By keeping the first less than the second I know that it generates positive revenue.

This week we now have a third channel up and working, our first reseller offering the Krypton components for purchase. ComponentSource.com is the largest online reseller of developer components and will reach another group of purchasing developers that would not otherwise have heard of Krypton. You can check out my product listing by clicking this image….

By having three different ways of reaching the target audience I hope to keep expanding the already large community of developers using Krypton Toolkit in their projects.