March 25, 2010

Upcoming changes

After pretty long analysis of DataObjects.Net marketing & sales strategy, we decided to make a set of dramatic  changes related to it. Today I'll list just the most important decisions and intentions.

Most of decisions described here will be implemented in Summer (starting from June). But we may decide to implement few of them ASAP (I'll explicitly mention which ones).

1. Licensing policy

Now it's obvious that our current licensing policy may lead to fiasco:
  • Commercial licenses are indistinguishable by features. So the only reason to acquire appropriate license type is legal - but it's desirable (for customers) to feel some real difference between differently priced licenses.
  • Moreover, GPL version is indistinguishable from commercial. So people evaluating the product can do this infinitely, and just one this factor significantly depreciates the product in their mind.
  • Originally we provided GPL license pursuing two goals: a) to simplify evaluation of the product when it was really crude (it is still not ideal, but now it is very close to be stable), and b) to attract more people by "freeware" nature of this license. As far as we can judge, part b) this didn't work: people that use mainly freeware products anyway distinguish between partially commercial and completely free ones; moreover, it seems presence of GPL license finally makes product less attractive for the people looking for commercial alternatives. So this license does nothing but blurring commercial positioning of the product, and that's bad.
Decisions:
  • We'll eliminate Internal license. This may be done ASAP. Presence of this license adds unnecessary complexity to relatively simple licensing model we have now.
  • GPL license must be replaced by Community / Academic Editions. They'll be limited by features, although the restrictions there must be mainly annoying (limited usage of productivity & integration related features). Or in short, restrictions there will be more relaxed in comparison to Express Edition of DataObjects.Net 3.X.
  • Enterprise, SMB and Personal licenses must also differ by features. Access to source code, nightly builds & repository, different response time limits for support requests and additional consulting hours must be main differentiating factors here. Enterprise version must further include some additional scalability-related features (e.g. something like "fine granted cache control" or "integration with memcached").
  • This implies license keys and checks are returning back. Of course, they'll work only in compile time.
  • MVC (most valuable customers) will be provided by most of benefits of Enterprise license independently of their actual license type.
  • GPL version of DataObjects.NET will be anyway available for some period, but its code base will be updated with a significant delay; moreover, its feature set will be equal to Community Edition.
To summarize above, further we will explicitly position DataObjects.Net as commercial product.

2. Pricing

Our current pricing policy is not aligned with competitors - mainly, we're providing noticeably cheaper option, taking into account we sell only company-wide licenses. So this must be fixed in June.

But the worst thing is, again, presence of freeware "GPL edition". Being same-featured, it significantly depreciates other options, so we should make this edition distinguishable by features.

And finally, we will:
  • add subscription model for any of licenses. Subscribers will pay monthly or quarterly; yearly subscription price will be ~ 15-20% higher then standard license cost, but each payment will be relatively small.
  • provide 45-day money back guarantee.
  • both these options will be available till the end of this month.
3. Support

Since the product is young, we are providing help to all the people using the product - and we'll continue to do the same. But we must:
  • Slowly bring certain differentiation in e.g. speed of free and paid support. We must finally make paid support valuable.
  • Provide something better then our support forum. As part of this, we must finally solve the issue with different logins and passwords.
  • The policy of frequent updates of installers along with nightly builds (to allow users of non-commercial versions to download the latest bugfixes) must be stopped. This completely depreciates nightly builds.
4. v4.3, v2010

Most of listed changes will be bound to release of new version of DataObjects.Net. We already pretty tired of 4.X, so the new one will be DataObjects.Net 2010, that will be a successor of planned v4.3.

5. Discount periods

There will be few discount periods before pricing and licensing model changes. The nearest one will start on this week. So if you're thinking about purchasing a commercial license, stay tuned - likely, this spring will be the best time for acquiring a commercial license.