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Two More Questions with Mark Driver

In my last blog entry, I spoke with Mark Driver, a vice president at Gartner Research focusing on the Visual Studio market. In that talk, I got Mark's view of the Visual Studio/.NET toolspace. In this blog entry, I wanted to ask him about the large component suites.

Peter Vogel: Who buys the big component suites? Why?
Mark Driver: Generally, enterprise teams and large organizations -- teams building a pipeline of ongoing applications and turning out stuff pretty consistently. They don't want to build their user interfaces bit by bit, they want to avoid the "Visual spaghetti problem." It's the difference in the question you ask. Do you say "I only need one control, I don't need 20 controls?" Or are you looking for an ongoing, consistent user experience?

While creating consistency across projects is important to these teams on the look-and-feel/styling side, the teams also look for consistency in their code base. The controls in a suite not only look the same but work the same.

Often these teams are building in several different environments. The downside in dealing with all the APIs (WinForms, WebForms, WPF, Silverlight, AJAX) is that it creates a point of confusion: "Which API should I be targeting? Is WinForms a legacy API? When should I be developing in WPF and jQuery UI?"

If you buy from a small company, that company may only support one environment: whenever I add a new API, I have to go out and buy new controls. These teams get a significant savings by licensing through upgrade paths and having one vendor who supports them across multiple environments. In some cases, the team is looking to the vendor to provide an on-ramp to the next technology.

PV: Is the suite market growing?
MD: It's growing with the overall .NET market -- but we're also seeing a shift in the ratio of big to small projects. I'm seeing growth in "stystematic" projects: more large scale, mission critical projects than was ever done in Microsoft platforms before. These projects are taking up a larger proportion of the Microsoft space than before. This is driven by a general increase in the quality of service provided by the Microsoft operating systems, Web servers, etc. That's supported by a better price/performance ratio in the Intel chips which are competing more successfully against RISC servers.

These larger projects demand better fit and finish, with an emphasis on a higher-fidelity user experience. So in addition to growth for the .NET API, I'm also seeing a larger share of the market devoted to those projects that use the component suites.

Generally, people don't change suites. There's a high threshold of pain to switch, and normally it's only done if there's a performance or a significant bug. Most companies use one suite and have used it for a long time. But a major project may encourage moving to a new suite because of dissatisfaction with the current package.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 06/02/2010

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