Intuition or Market Research
Fri 30 May 2003, 08:05 AM
by Ben Langhinrichs
One of the challenging parts of being an independent software vendor is deciding which projects or products to invest in, time wise, money wise and energy wise. Some vendors do a lot of market research, formal or otherwise, to decide what the market will bear. I do that by following many forums, answering lots and lots of questions both related and unrelated to our products, and trying to understand the pulse of the market. On the other hand, I also spend a lot of time developing technology that nobody is asking for directly, or that skirts the edge of anything anyone wants. The SmartRefs technology we just introduced is one example. While many people use the earlier automatic contextual cross-reference links, the idea of "doing stuff" to random bits of the rich text is not immediately obvious to people. My intuition tells me that this is powerful technology, but it is still a "gut feel" gamble rather than meeting a proven need. Only time will tell how well it succeeds. Another example that I am working on right now is HTML -> RT -> HTML technology in a plug in. HTML generation was another gut feel, and one that has paid off handsomely. Many, many customers of all sizes and descriptions are using our HTML generation and MIME mail sending ability, which was an offshoot. Now, I am working away furiously at improving the HTML importing side, so that we can introduce a coexistence tool that allows Notes client apps and web client apps to share rich text even if the web side chooses to use one of the fancy rich text editing tools for the web, such as eWebEditPro. Currently, sharing rich text between the web and Notes client means losing almost all the richness, but I intend to have a plug in answer for that so almost any authoring tool will coexist more smoothly. There is more obvious demand for this than for SmartRefs, but it is still a largely unproven market. My intuition says it will be a big one, but one of my closest ISV friends thinks it is a non-starter. Who is right? We'll see.
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