Swimming with the Razorfishes

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Joel Spolsky begging Micorosft for a .Net linker. He's arguing that .Net's monolithic runtime will ensure the same level of client-side success that Java has enjoyed.

"All told, for each computer I needed to run this little .NET application on, I had to download something like 70 or 80 MB (good thing we have a fast net connection) and reboot three or four times. And this is at a software company! I know how long it took, because the first time it started downloading, I put Office Space on the big screen TV, and by the time the movie was over, the installation process was almost finished. Every ten minutes during the movie I had to jump up, go to each computer, and hit OK to some stupid dialog box.

This is frustrating enough for our in-house apps. But think about our product CityDesk. Almost all of our users download a free trial version before buying the product. The download is around 9 MB and has no additional requirements. Almost none of these users has the .NET runtime yet.

If we asked our trial users, usually small organizations and home users, to go through a movie-length installation hell just to try our app, I think we'd probably lose 95% of them. These are not customers yet, they're prospects, and I can't afford to give up 95% of my prospects just to use a nicer development environment.

"But Joel," people say, "eventually enough people will have the runtime and this problem will go away."

I thought that too, then I realized that every six or twelve months Microsoft ships a new version of the runtime, and the gradually increasing number of people that have it deflates again to zero. And I'll be damned if I'm going to struggle to test my app on three different versions of the runtime just so I can get the benefit of the 1.2% of the installed base that has one of the three."

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