Monday, September 15, 2008

Why should send a chill down evey ISV's spine

Independent software vendors (ISV's) have recently been touting some of the most useful applications that I have seen in my entire career. From 37signals to GitHub to CulturedCode, the genius of these applications are simple interfaces to complex sets of requirements. That last one, CulturedCode, has a problem though. Their flagship about to launch product just got pwned by some russians.

While 37signals and GitHub are already web applications, with a service based revenue stream, CC's product is an OS X desktop application that works beautifully as a get-things-done task orginizer, with a perpetual licensing model. The aforementioned russians took every piece of this application and made it into what appears to be an almost complete equivilient of the desktop application. And if that we not bad enough, they integrated it into Google Gears for offline use.

What can CC do about this? Not much, unless they already have a huge bankroll for lawyers. And this situation should send chills down the spine of every small software shop releasing small useful tools. The very nature of these shops constrains feature creap, which in turn forces the designers and developers to squeeze the most they can out of what they have in place, which in turn makes the software simple and powerful at the same time. But it also makes these applications vulnerable to xeroxing using the web, (relatively) cheap labor pools, and robust distribution network with firewall-like immunity to legal action in the form of international borders ( "litigation-wall" ?).

Anyone want to take bets on who is next on the feed tray? My guess is a Delicious Library web clone.

So take home message is, design software that is not easily replicated, either by feature or connectivity, or realize that your app really is easy to xerox and have a large maerketing scheme to drown out any news of the enemy.

Speaking of Google, there was that little hiccup in relations related to releasing a clone 37signal's campfire with the release App Engine. And then there is Chrome+Gears, the browser-DB combination that makes web-applications even more desktop like. Not that they are alone in this, Adobe (AIR) and Microsoft (SilverLight will certainly "extend" the reach of IE) are walking the same browser-as-platform path, and trying to building their market share on the "everything should be free" web culture, and that really raises my mercury. Fucking piracy enablers.