The current issue of Entertainment Weekly has a nice article by Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) describing how he has discovered a wonderful new book completely by accident. Stephen’s point is that he believes that the book’s publisher is doing everything possible to discourage people from buying a copy.
Now, it’s hard to believe that is the publishers intent but I understand where Steve (may I call you Steve, Mr. King?) is coming from. It reminded me of what I consider equally stupid moves in the Java application server market.
In particular I’m reminded of ATG who seems for the world to want developers to stay as far away from their products as possible. First a disclaimer, I work for a company that is a huge ATG customer so, presumably, I can have access to all the products, documentation, and support available at ATG. But I don’t want to approach this as an existing customer, I want to be a developer in a large company who would like to learn about ATG Dynamo and possibly recommend it to my management.
So, I start out by trying to learn about ATG products. The main site is just marketing fluff and tells me nothing. But – I notice way down on the bottom of the screen in a teeny tiny font a link named Developers. Yea!
Going in to the developer section requires me to register but it’s free and I don’t mind. Now, as a newly registered user, I’m qualified to request product downloads. I didn’t say I could download products I said I could request the privilege. I do so and, after some time I am given the right to download the product along with a 31 day evaluation license. Now I don’t know how you feel about these types of licenses but I hate them. Why? Because I might not have time in the next 30 days to perform an adequate evaluation of the product. How arrogant of ATG to think I have nothing else to do but look at their offerings!
Still, I’m going to jump on the opportunity to take a look at ATG’s offering. I download the product but where do I go from here? I notice a link named Product Documentation and think, Ah Ha – they must have an installation manual. Clinking the link I am informed that ATG Product Documentation is only available to existing ATG customers with an active support contract. WTF! You read that right you can evaluate an ATG product in exchange for some personal information but you have to buy the product and pay for a support contract before you can get a peek at any documentation. How stupid is this?
So now I have a product that will only work for the next 30 days and absolutely no documentation, installation or otherwise. To me this is ATG screaming, “Don’t buy this product“.
Now, just for grins, let’s compare this scenario with an evaluation of BEA System’s WebLogic. Like ATG, BEA requires a free registration to download products but, at least, I don’t have to tell them what I’d like to try and wait for my request to be approved. After registering I can download any current BEA product and give it a try. But what about the documentation that ATG reserves for paying customers? Well, BEA makes all their technical documentation available to anyone who cares to read it. You can browse it online or download a PDF to take with you.
Finally what about that 30 day license? Well BEA is smart enough to know that making tools available to developers for personal use and/or evaluation is a good way to win mind share. WebLogic may be downloaded by anyone and used for development without a license. That’s right, download, install, and use – no license required.
But wait! What prevents people from running their production web sites on WebLogic without buying a license. Ah! This is where BEA’s cleverness really shines. Without a purchased license WebLogic will only accept http connections from 5 unique IP addresses. Brilliant! This gives a developer all the rope they need but makes an unlicensed version of WebLogic useless for running a public website.
So there you have it – a Tale of Two Companies as it were. BEA who says “Play with our products for as long as you like and learn how to use them” and ATG who says, “If you aren’t a paying customer we really don’t give a crap if you learn about our products or not“.
Who would you prefer to do business with?