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Joel Is a Man on Fire!!

I love this.  Joel is *so* pissed off by MS deciding to introduce a bug-tracking system (and content management system?) that's he is now using his influence to direct his audiences' attention toward developing for the web (where he perceives MS as weak). 

I cannot say I blame him - I'd do the same - but Joel, if you're reading this, I have to ask:  are you really surprised that this happened?  One would think that a bug-tracking system is a natural product for a company that produces Visual Studio.  Didn't you have a plan in place for when MS eventually entered your marketspace?  Did you see this coming?

Perhaps the current blitzkrieg of "webby is the way to go!" posts IS his contingency plan for surviving the onslaught?

What would you all do if MS entered your space?

Norrick
Monday, June 28, 2004

Uhh...wet my pants and surrender? :-P

Wisea**
Monday, June 28, 2004

I'd hope they'd buy me up instead of compete with me.

sid6581
Monday, June 28, 2004


I always felt that web dev was the way to go; thought it was the future; even got into the act, but after having dealt with different browsers, and html hell, I've moved into Sys Administration. Sure, you have security flaws, software compat, and patches, but heck, there will always be hardware.

Jack of all
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

> What would you all do if MS entered your space?

The problem with FogCreek is that they develop tools for one of the core MS targets: developers, developers, developers, developers.. I always thought it was a very risky strategy in the long term.

Common sense dictates that MS doesn't enter vertical markets, this might be the future for FogCreek and other ISVs who want to avoid colliding with MS in the future.

Daniel Tio
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Yes, this is what I meant in my earlier post: http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=154755&ixReplies=45

I find it hard to believe that Joel assumed that the day would never come. I'd like to believe that he isn't that foolish.

I still believe in the basis of Eric's first MSDN series (although now we know what was going on, it is seen through different eyes). There will always be room for ISVs as Microsoft will never be able to hoover up all of a market, nor would they want to.

I think that Microsoft are attempting to attack verticals. I've seen a few cases where they're entering the water, as it were. Things like insurance, especially claims management, and also accounting (though not sure how successful it was).

In general though, pretty much all verticals are too small for them, when they own the desktop.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

> What would you all do if MS entered your space?

I was part of an ISV whose product was desktop fax software (competing for example against Winfax). By the time MS eventually entered that market, we supported many more types of fax hardware than they did, *and* we had LAN server-based faxing. Our *next* release was "enterprise" faxing, involving least-cost IP routing between fax servers in different cities, which we sold to telcos.

We didn't compete against MS: when MS released software bundled with their O/S, their software defined a market niche that was now closed to us. We differentiated ourselves by having "killer" features that weren't available in te MS offering. "Sure if you only want desktop-based faxing there's the built-in MS thing; but the advantages of server-based faxing are ... plus a laundry-list of other features (administration, least-cost routing, interop with advanced hardware, interop with Lotus Notes and well as with Exchange) ... plus OEM deals with companies like Xerox and 3Com ... plus our ability and willingness to customize (including adding new features to) our product as desired by telcos."

Our employment model was perhaps similar to Joel's: low staff turnover, "dedicated" employees ... I used to feel that, by the time MS entered our market (e.g. 12 months from now, if they were lucky and focussed), by then we would have taken our feature-set to a newer level.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"by then we would have taken our feature-set to a newer level"

Doesn;t that higlight a problem with the Fog Creek approach. AFAIK Fog Creek doesn't go so much for features but focusses on polish and quality.
Now if you are doing this in e.g. the car market, you can live of selling a limited number of Mercedes S class or Ferrari's, low volume, high price. For the small software utilities, I don't know. It's too easy to just duplicate quality small products given a good example, no?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Polish and quiality at a price affordable for startups and small businesses.  Remember... the VSTS products are going to be priced in the Enterprise Developer/Enterprise Architect range - very expensive for "regular" folks.

IMHO, If FogCreek sticks to their guns on the 5-50 developer teams, maybe even selling themselves as an easy add-on to Small Business Server, they'll be just fine.

Greg Hurlman
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Maybe they did offer to buy Fog Creek and Joel said no. After all, if he wanted to work for MS, he never would have left in the first place. He seems to love being an entrepreneur.

Joe Grossberg
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

> Fog Creek doesn't go so much for features but focusses on polish and quality. ... It's too easy to just duplicate quality small products given a good example, no?

Apart from feature-set, there were perhaps four other factors that gave us an edge:

1) We interoperated with 3rd parties' products: for example with non-standard fax hardware, and for example with Lotus Notes ... whereas MS tends to provide open APIs that allow ISVs to interop with MS, but not vice versa (they make no great effort to use 3rd parties' APIs).

2) Some of our components were technically difficult to implement: we had about 5 kernel-level software device drivers, for example, and soft-real-time client/server connections ... not brain surgery, but a barrier to entry for any VB-only programming shop

3) We were able to offer customization and support, when we moved from selling shrinkwrap to selling to enterprises, OEMs, and telcos ... telcos for example were very reluctant to accept a Windows-based solution, and accepted only because we offered them extensive and continuing hands-on operational support.

4) When we were selling shrinkwrap, we had a "channel": e.g. loyal independent consultants who recommended software to lawyers' office, who liked our software for whatever reasons, and who recommended/sold it repeatedly.

Your "too easy to just duplicate" has been said before, in the context that any open source project might being able to clone it: i.e. people have suggested that an entity needn't be the size of Microsoft to compete with Fogcreek.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Microsoft has a bug tracking product?

Anyone have info on this? I'm curious about it!

?
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Yeah, they do have a bug-tracking product, it's called the New York Times.

Neat Chi
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Yes, Fog Creek does lack the important "Even bigger tailfins for 2005!" mass-market appeal in its products.

Why bother with rich desktop applications unless they were skinnable last year, had rounded window corners the year before, and offer transparent overlapping windows and dropdowns today?  Watch out, here come the faux-1950s "kidney-shaped" windows à la Jetsons.

I'm less worried about Bill trampling on my own market niche than what he might do if my niche happens to be on the underserved fringes of his space.

Drudy Mialnam
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Light a man a fire and you keep him warm for a night.

Set a man on fire and you keep him warm for the rest of his life!

Jorel on Software
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

> Interesting story, what happened next? Is the company still around?

Yes and no: the products are, and the companies aren't. The owner sold the company in the year 1999 to a multinational, whose fax hardware we supported: they wanted to own the software solution, to help sell their hardware.

The new owners put us in a division of theirs that sold equipment to telcos, and spun off the "enterprise" portion of the business (the channel and the source code, and a few sales and tech support people but no developers) to someone else (another privately held company). That someone else is still in business and still selling the software. I just visited their Web site: which announces support for integration with SAP (which didn't exist previously), and Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003, as well as Xerox, Lotus Notes, a "Distributed Enterprise" offering, and a new product that might leverage technology from the fax printer drivers ... so the product is still apparently alive there.

During 1999 through 2003, however, the dot com crash hit telco equipment vendors hard ... so our new owners closed that entire division (which now included us) ... the existing support contracts were offshored, and all the developers were let go (they had previously let go the original owner, and sales and tech support when they span off the enterprise business). I just visited one of the telco's web sites: they're still offereng their fax service, so the product is still apparently alive there too.

The original developers and sales people are scattered to the winds when they closed shop here. I and a handful of others are now working with (or for) the owner who started the previous company, now on his next venture (which is unrelated to faxing).

> How have the volumes changed? How soon after MS made the announcement did the volume start going down.

I couldn't tell you that: our target market changed every year or so, volumes went up and down for various reasons, and I was focussed on the software development (not sales or business development or finance or operations).

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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