Beginners Don’t Stay Beginners Very Long

There have always been Real Studio users that have been critical of the company and their products.  I have been known to throw a fit every now and then when I get bit by a bug.  There are currently several users in the Real Software forums that seem to be overly critical of the company these days.  These users go out of their way to hijack threads and tell everyone what a crap product Real Studio is and how Real Software is screwing everyone over.

I get their anger.  I really do.  I’ve been using Real Studio for ten years now working on a commercial products for clients all over the world.  Some of those are private apps, some are vertical market commercial apps and some are mass market  commercial applications.  I have probably been bitten by a bug in nearly every release and on every project.  It sucks but thankfully I’ve been able to find workarounds to most and come up with alternatives to others.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy about bugs.  As a developer dealing with bugs is part of the job.  When I was an electrical engineer I dealt with hardware and software bugs ALL the time.  Try explaining to the client why a 1500 degree furnace stopped working because of bad firmware or why you stopped an automobile assembly line because a PLC glitch  When I was doing Visual Basic 6 development my code was a masterpiece of workarounds.  There is no excuse for bugs but they happen.  It’s part of my job to identify them and work around them.

One Real Studio user sent ME an email explaining how crappy Real Studio is.  It was reasonably intelligent email from someone who felt very passionately about the subject.  It was obvious he had a history of using Real Studio as a consultant.  I disagree with him on most every part of his email but I can sympathize.  Am I becoming to ingrained to ‘just dealing with it’?  I dunno.

Part of the problem, I feel,  is that Real Studio is geared for beginners and hobbyists.  That’s great and it’s how many long time users started.  Beginners don’t stay newbies very long if they stick with the product.  Soon enough they get past the initial learning curve and figure out how to ask the questions they couldn’t even formulate before and this is where the experience sometimes falls apart for many Real Studio users.

It feels sometimes that RS is solely interested in getting new users (and hobbyists at that).  New users are not a bad thing (in fact they are critical to any company).  However, isn’t retaining existing customers even more important?  You’ve already done the hard work in getting them to buy into the platform.  All you have to do is find the way to get them to stick with the product and ideally find ways to get them to upgrade to a higher priced product.

The Personal license is so cheap it’s practically giving it away at $99.  The Professional version is $299 so for every Professional license you have to get three Personals.  The Enterprise Edition is $995 so for every one Enterprise license you need ten Personal licenses.  Now, I don’t know what the renewal rate is among the licenses but I would suspect that Pro and Enterprise users renew more often Personal license users.  I know from a business standpoint my toolset is part of the cost of doing business so why NOT keep upgrading until I no longer use the tool?

My point is that Pro users are valuable and Enterprise users should be the most valued customers.  Instead, many of us feel abandoned for a variety of reasons.  As an Enterprise user I really like being able to use Web Edition, and use the product on all three platforms.    IDE Scripting, Build Automation are nice, but I could live without them.  I use the Profiler maybe once a year so it’s a feature that is wasted on me.  What makes the Enterprise edition worthy being an Enterprise product?  What are the compelling features for people to upgrade to Enterprise?  Not much at this point.

I’ve been doing this for ten years and I’ve been asking for the same things over and over again:  a grid component, a calendar control, date and time controls, less flickering in Windows, and finally reporting.  I lobbied hard for reporting and I feel like a fool for doing so since the reporting tool in Real Studio isn’t what I need (nor can use).  Instead I feel like I got a checkmark on a marketing page.

Granted, there are alternatives to many of the things I mentioned.  That’s not the point.  Instead of giving me the things I could use, today, in selling the product to my clients, I’m getting a new User Interface that will probably have some major bug when introduced that will make it less than ideal to use.  Did I ask for a new UI?  No.  I could think of a dozen things I’d like to see BEFORE a new UI comes down the pike.

So my hope for 2012 is some focus on features that Pro and Enterprise users need.  You can debate all day long on what those features are but the fact no one from RS has ever seriously asked me (or any other pro developer that I know of) what I need.  That says what they are focusing on instead.  Perhaps with some true Enterprise features more people would purchase Enterprise.

Well, but then again, I’m a long time Enterprise user and probably a bigger pain to support than those ten Personal licenses.  Happy coding!