Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads

Mike Gualtieri and I had a surprising argument about developer downloads with several vendors as we compiled our Forrester Wave: Complex Event Processing (CEP) Platforms, Q3 2009. Developers consistently tell us they want unrestricted platform downloads -- no time bombs, no forced contacts with the vendor's sales staff, no limited-function versions. The vendors in question disputed our insistence on valuing download policies that had no such limits.

We thought in this era of open source, everyone understood this point about developer downloads. Downloads are a great way to encourage developers to learn your product's ins, outs, values, and issues. But developers learn at their own pace, not on your schedule. Developers need your whole product because they will follow a variety of paths to knowledge, not just the paths that make sense to you. And developers don't want to listen to a sales rep's pitch on the wonders of your software.

Let your code do the convincing instead. With unrestricted downloads, you are betting that your product will demonstrate enough value for a bunch of developers to launch production projects based on it. You will collect revenue as serious shops come back to you for deployment support including paid licenses. Restrict your downloads and you'll just chase developers away -- to an unrestricted alternative. Are unrestricted downloads risky? Yes of course, but this is the world we live in.

What do you think? Are we missing something here?

Comments

re: Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads

Dear John:My opinion on this issue is clear: Unrestricted use for developers. Downloads, SaaS access or similar, but unrestricted.Risk for the vendor? Yes, but no risk no glory.Coming soon we will announce something interesting about this from Delta-R.Jose Gabriel García.CEO at Delta-R.

re: Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads

Well of course developers want unrestricted access. And with the increase of open-source in all application and infrastructure areas, that is becoming at least an option and putting pressure on those vendors that don't provide unrestricted access to do so.But at some point a vendor does have to make money, shareholders and all, so the key is figuring that out. Something like an unrestricted core offering but added value only for licensees/subscribers may make sense in many cases.

re: Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads

As both a provider and user of software, I can see the pros & cons to this argument. The sterotypical persona of the development community is steeped in an independent, learn-things-on-my-own mindset. I certainly subscribe to that as do all the techie's I know. So they want to learn new software products simply by downloading them and tinkering. Open source reinforced this entire model. Commerical software has been forced to follow suit (for most vendors very likely kicking and screaming).As an employee of a vendor (for my entire 20+ year career), I know all too well the demands of the business become an opposing force to this free wheeling mindset.Building development tools as part of s/w platform is extremely expensive. It's a difficult decision for vendors to simply turn around and make this freely available. Public or private a company is accountable to some entity to show revenue and profit. The sales team has quotas to fulfill and competition is often fierce. They chase after that almighty dollar relentlessly. And of course that helps pay the bills for all of us (in commerical software).So the answer to free/unrestricted downloads is just not so simple. Sure open source can do it all they want, they are accountable to no one. Commercial software, well ...

re: Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads

Let me take this reasoning boldly further. In other words, those developers who want unrestricted free platform downloads should be willing to do their development for free – hoping that their employer would find their work interesting enough to pay them for subsequent support! Or maybe they should look in the mirror, and apply the same criteria they’d like for themselves to their fellow developers who develop platforms.Move down 5 posts and read Mike Gualtieri's post about "Do Application Developers Need To Change Their Ways?".A look in the mirror is certainly something to do.