Value in Abundance
Genuitec expands its MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench user base by providing affordable, feature-rich solutions.
"We're an incredible barometer when it comes to software and buying behavior. If anyone is going to pay for software, and they're going to pay for a phenomenal set of tools that are offered, they're more than likely to pay first for MyEclipse than anything else," said Maher Masri, president and cofounder of Genuitec, an Eclipse technology company that offers suites of Eclipse-based productivity tools, consulting, and training services to companies worldwide.
Genuitec's flagship MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench is a comprehensive IDE that supports Java, the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) platform, and open source technologies, giving developers a feature-rich suite of tools to develop applications and systems across the entire software development lifecycle. In addition to tools that support Java, Web services, XML, modeling, and databases, the product provides a set of application server connectors for 25 different environments to better optimize the development, deployment, testing, and portability of applications.
When it comes to the success of a product, the numbers often tell a big part of the story, and well over 200 thousand developers have downloaded the MyEclipse IDE as of summer 2006. That number could very well climb to around 300 thousand by the end of 2006.
First-time customers can download MyEclipse for a 30-day trial period, and an annual membership can be purchased for $29.95, which provides access to the tool suite download, frequent feature releases and updates, tutorials, and online support. The latest release, MyEclipse 5.0, is compatible with the Eclipse 3.2 release and the full Eclipse Callisto stack. In fact, its release coincided with the release of the Callisto project, itself a simultaneous release of 10 key Eclipse projects to ensure full compatibility among the different projects and the Eclipse 3.2 platform.
As Masri likes to emphasize again and again, one of the most critical factors behind the success of MyEclipse is the sheer abundance of features that are available to the buyer. He points out that most developers will pay the same amount as the annual membership fee for a single, commercial tool that gives them a sought-after feature also available in the MyEclipse environment. However, for the same price what they get in addition is an exhaustive list of features that include the full range of Java EE development, RAD development, database development, UML capabilities, POJO development, Ajax and Web 2.0 development, rich-client development through the Matisse4MyEclipse Java Swing Visual Designer, and many others.
"MyEclipse is much more than just a blend of solutions; it is a fully integrated development environment that provides a complete development tool out of the box," Masri said. "A lot of bundles out there take open source solutions and mash them up in such a way that installation becomes more convenient than the usability side. Our pricing model is based on a specific premise, and that is our customers would be willing to pay for any one of our features, but for the same price [as] with commercial software they get a seamless development environment."
A Simple Value Proposition
Masri said the key to a subscription-based model is a value price base that protects customers and gives them the most value in the features that they are looking for and willing to pay for. Industry research by Evans Data and Forrester, Masri said, concludes that consumers are becoming much more value aware and much more component driven in the sense of what they are looking for.
"That's really the key question when it comes to MyEclipse as much as anything else, that our customers should be willing to pay for any one of the features that we offer, whether its UML tools, Oracle database development, or database development, or Spring or Hibernate integration, and any of those capabilities. We make it such that, while it is a fully integrated, out-of-the-box experience, the user can turn on and turn off any one particular feature functionality, and then use MyEclipse features in addition to other products out in the market as plug-ins as well as any competitive solutions."
MyEclipse was first introduced into the IDE market in 2003, and the Genuitec Web site makes the claim that it was the first commercial J2EE IDE for Eclipse. There are many IDEs in the market competing for developers' attention. As Masri points out, every IDE has some capability that competes specifically within that feature's space, and there's an ideology among developers when it comes to which product they choose and why they choose it.
Masri acknowledged that if you look at Eclipse beyond the IDE—and he said that's something that took place in a conversation among Genuitec's management team before they invested resources to build the technology and committed seriously to the Eclipse Workbench—many people miss the 90 percent part of what's underneath it. To illustrate, Masri compared the earlier IDE market to the early PC market that was dominated by a closed systems architecture that was at a certain price point. He said that although there were far superior technologies available, one company came in and commoditized the underlying architecture in an open source (kind of) motherboard for the PC, and that created in the market an opportunity that at the time nobody thought would be possible to create.
According to Masri, if we think of Eclipse in a similar vein—as a motherboard for application development regardless of the type of applications—then it's much more than just an IDE and much more than a tools platform. Masri said that this way of thinking about development platforms gave rise to Genuitec authoring what he said was the first paper on Rich Client Platform. The belief at that time was that Eclipse can essentially be a lot more than the "tools arena that it plays into." That notion, Masri said, supported how the Genuitec management team looked at Eclipse specifically as a very disruptive technology that became a large-scale ecosystem and a movement with the potential to redefine the industry.
Indeed, the potential for the Eclipse ecosystem to evolve further and influence other industries was a much discussed topic at the 2006 version of EclipseCon. Masri said that Eclipse has done so very well, and it continues to have the potential to redefine many more vertical industries.
"I've worked in almost all of them [industries], and all of them could benefit from having a common platform whereby solutions talk to one another using a common implementation, desktop application, or even a framework. Any industry you can think of that spends 90 percent of their resources integrating tools from different vendors and passing data back and forth between them, Eclipse in that context will solve that problem. It's just a matter of taking that context specifically to the vertical data set or knowledge domain and applying a common framework for that industry. It's going to happen; it's just a matter of time," Masri said.
Prior to putting their resources behind MyEclipse, Genuitec was primarily a consulting company. It still maintains the consulting and support side of the business, but it is now a very selective clientele, mostly around Eclipse, and makes up a very small portion of the company's overall revenue. Nowadays, as Masri said, Genuitec is committed to servicing their worldwide user base. The company's goal is to expand that user base to one million by the end of 2007, and by all indications, the company appears to be on track.
Masri maintains that the developers using MyEclipse roughly shake out to a 50-50 split of independent developers or developers working in small groups versus those who are part of large-scale, large-enterprise, multibillion dollar corporations that are committed heavily to enterprise-scale solutions. That composite, he said, has been fairly static for the three years that MyEclipse has been available; and in targeting the large heterogeneous population of developers, the company has made it so there is no friction whatsoever in the ability for their customers to acquire the software, use it, buy it, and then continue using it.
Genuitec's short-term road map is to maintain a steady focus on supporting their growing user base indefinitely with the right feature capabilities. The company plans to add more productivity features and more visual development tools. Masri said that the combination of Ajax, Web services, and the enterprise service bus will mature to a level where a significant value set will become standard. He expects customers to adopt more of those technologies—Hibernate, Spring, and lightweight implementations on back-end solutions—and Genuitec is going to continue to support them.
"We just want to make it such that someone with a minimal amount of experience can literally build a solution in minutes rather than having to understand a million abstractions," Masri said.
Terrence O'Donnell is managing editor of Java Pro.