Monday, November 17, 2008

A day at home

I found myself unexpectedly at home today.

This gave me lots of time to just sit and work away on various things which reminded me how much I like working at home and how productive the lack of distractions can be.

The morning was taken up with some client work - trying to find solutions to some annoying, and difficult to re-create, bugs.  But it was successful in that I found a good re-creation scenario for one of them and a solution was soon forthcoming.

This afternoon gave me some clear time to look over my own product in development.

I mentioned in a post on September 26th that I was switching development to a different product.  This has come about more through luck than anything else!

Recently, I've been developing an ActiveX component for a client to allow them to do something specific from IE in their web based applications.

Initially I was asked to find a commercial product to do this work and I did actually find and recommend one.  But the client wasn't entirely happy using a product produced by a Micro-ISV!  The question of support in the event of something happening to the developer was raised and the ISV didn't seem to have an answer acceptable to the client.

So they opted, instead, to have a budding Micro-ISV (i.e. me!) develop a solution for them.  Which I did.

The component I developed was functionally specific to the client but it did make me wonder if there was a market for a more general purpose version and, if so, was anyone doing it already.

I knew of one component, the one I initially recommended, and a web search turned up a couple of others with similar levels of functionality.

They all have wildly different pricing structures with multiple extra cost add-ons, ongoing support costs and differing core feature lists.

I did a round of market/company research too, including obtaining some publicly available company financial reports for the companies selling the products I see as competitors.  I sense-checked all the findings with some friends too, just to make sure I wasn't just seeing what I wanted to see.

In the end I decided there was space for another product in the market.  I have a slightly different feature list which will help to differentiate my product.

For the past few weeks I've been working on the prototype code.  This has gone very well and I have a prototype that has all of the functionality I want in the base product.  And it works too!

I've moved on now and have started coding the real version, carrying over the prototype code where appropriate.

Locking down the component, in terms of licensing and ActiveX security, is something I need to look at soon.  I know how I want to structure the versions of the product, but I'll need to work out how to accomplish this in an ActiveX component loaded into IE and used from JavaScript / VBScript.

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