There was a great discussion over at Pocket PC Thoughts about upgrades. Upgrades are something we spend a lot of time thinking about, and since this blog is a place where we can let you see behind the curtain, I’ll share some of our upgrade thoughts with you.
There are a few basic reasons we’ll do an upgrade. They are:
- To support a new OS or an OS change.
- To add a new feature that we think will really help our customers.
- To fix a bug.
Furthermore, we also like to combine as many of these things into a single release as we can. The end result is that we just don’t release upgrades all that often. Sure we have bugs, but not many thanks to an excellent QA (quality assurance aka software testing) department. As for OS changes we stay pretty up to date on these and typically the change only affects a specific group so not everyone needs the update.
And as for features, we are really leery of ‘feature bloat.’ You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Where suddenly your favorite word processor lets you play MP3s. So when we add or change something, we do it because we think it will absolutely improve the overall product, not just ramp up the feature list.
The problem we have is that there appears to be a growing perception in the market that a failure to offer regular ’updates’ (regular meaning every 1-2 months) suggests that the company has abandoned the product. My personal theory on this is that the culture of ‘ready or not it’s out the door’ and ‘the customer is our beta team’ software release schedules has led consumers to think that software is supposed to have tons of upgrades, patches, and updates.
We also don’t like having to upgrade the software we are using if we don’t have to. That is, the software other people make that we use. You never know how an upgrade will change your favorite program. Will it alter all your data file formats forcing you to stick with the new version? Will it drastically change or eliminate some favorite feature? Will a shiny new interface mean learning the program all over again? And if the program is working fine why do I need to spend my time downloading and reinstalling the new version of the software? What has the upgrade really done for me?
Not to mention the email issue. If we don’t inform people about upgrades, even ones that won’t significantly change their experience with the product, people get upset. When we do tell people about upgrades, we get lots of “Remove me!!” emails back from folks who see the upgrade notification as spam.
The long and short of it is this. Ilium Software is here to stay. There is no end to our software development days anywhere in the foreseeable future. We’ve got a product line that we’re really proud of and that we are constantly developing and improving. When we release a product, we do so with confidence that the customer can use it without trouble and that it won’t take 3 or 4 patches to get it working properly. And we aren’t going to ask our customers to upgrade until we’ve got a product that really offers them something great that makes it worth the upgrade effort.
Although we hope to speed up our release somewhat, we plan to keep doing what we’ve done so well for the past 9 years…providing our customers with the best software they can buy, right out the door, with the features they need and stability they can count on.