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Last week I decided to have a sight at all my “competitors”, that is to say all other object relational mapping tools. I use the word competitor but in some way I don’t see them as competitors but more colleagues, in the way we try to make things better with data access. I remember 3 years ago when we released the first version of Data Tier Modeler for .Net, which was the first .Net commercial o/r mapping tool. Now they are about 40, and maybe even more.
What caught my attention just after we have released DTM is another tool on the .Net market, namely Pragmatier. It was using the same concept of code generation, and was a good tool in my opinion. I even exchanged some words with Mats Helander and Sebastian Ware who made this tool. But what was my surprise that their website did not exist anymore! It seems they failed at making enough money with their product and decided to distribute it for free through gotdotnet. It’s very hard to make a living with only a persistence engine. And Pragmatier is not the only example. After that I arrived of the website of the ORM.Net tool and guess what! They also left the commercial economic model to release their product as free. Them too - I suppose - had only this product to sell.
On the other side, Frans Bouma - the well known one - went from a free model to a commercial one. And it seems to work fine for him. I hope it will continue, he is a good “competitor” (in my way of competition ;) remember).
Then, if there was one thing to keep in mind it would be the importance of the business model you choose to sell your product. Concerning innovating tools, or development products, I would say the most difficult thing is to enter the market. Because there are so many tools, that people don’t have time to test everything, even more if they are expensive. That’s why Frans took the best decision IMHO: giving its tool to everyone, and then making a new commercial version. We also decided 2 years ago to change our strategy by providing the full product freely, and asking for production runtime licenses only. With this way of working, users can investigate freely with one’s tool and then decide if they take the production license or to give it away. You all know that each IT project is risky, so why taking another risk by using a tool that could cost a lot of money even if the project is not successful i.e. in production.
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