ATTN: Neil Davidson, Co-CEO, Red Gate Software
I read, with significant disappointment, your open letter to the .NET community about the demise of the free version of Reflector.
In August 2008, when Red Gate took over the development of .NET Reflector from Lutz Roeder, it was posted on Lutz' blog that "Red Gate will continue to provide the free community version". The community was nervous about the change of control, but comforted that there was a commitment to continue to provide a free version.
Now I can recognize that Red Gate should have the opportunity to profit from its control of Reflector, provided it upholds the free version promise. Adopting a free/paid-for strategy was Red Gate's attempt to profit from Reflector and I appreciate your honesty in saying that the strategy hasn't proved to be commercially successful.
However, the failure of the free/paid-for strategy is not new. Many companies make this same mistake. To make matters worse, a common "Plan B" strategy is to expect that, by dropping the free version altogether, that a significant percentage of a large user-base will pay for the new version. History has shown that this is also a failing strategy.
I implore you to adopt a different plan.
My suggestion would be to adopt an "advertising-based" free version. Microsoft runs one of the biggest internet-based advertising services and Microsoft is clearly invested in .NET developers. Surely Microsoft would be a perfect partner to help provide an advertising income stream for Red Gate through Reflector?
Further, if Reflector becomes advertising-based then surely Red Gate can directly advertise their other products within Reflector. I have only just now looked at your site and see that you have a large number of products. Advertising through Reflector would have already exposed me to your products many times over.
In a nutshell, Reflector has a large community of users that form a highly targeted market for Red Gate's other products and can provide a revenue stream through advertising.
On the other hand, adopting a "paid-only" strategy will decimate not only the Reflector user-base, but Red Gate's own "customer-base".
Wikipedia's entry for .NET Reflector already has the following sentiment (which I suspect will be edited out in due course): "It is speculated that this decision will lead to the demise of Red Gate, given the extremely poor reception in the programming community."
Neil, please consider an alternative to the "paid-only" strategy.
After more than eight years of working on .NET Reflector, I have decided
it is time to move on and explore some new opportunities.
I have reached an agreement to have Red Gate Software continue the development of .NET Reflector.
Red Gate has a lot of experience creating tools for both .NET and SQL
Server. They have the resources necessary to work on new features, and
Reflector fits nicely with other .NET tools the company offers.
Red Gate will continue to provide the free community version and is looking for your feedback and ideas for future versions.
From: Simple-Talk Special Mailing [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, 3 February 2011 01:08
Subject: Red Gate will be charging $35 for .NET Reflector
An open letter to the .NET community
Red Gate has
announced that it will charge $35 for version 7 of .NET Reflector upon its
release in early March. Version 7 will be sold as a perpetual license, with no
time bomb or forced updates.
As many of you know, our original intention was to maintain .NET Reflector as a
free tool. But, after two-and-a-half years of providing it without charge, we
realized that we could not make the free model work. We know that this will
cause pain for some people in the .NET community, and we apologize for the
change in policy.
As a commercial company, we need to charge at least a nominal amount to keep
.NET Reflector up-to-date and relevant. Without revenue coming in, we cannot
dedicate a team of developers to ensure that Reflector remains a valuable part
of .NET developers' toolboxes.
As always, your feedback is important to Red Gate, so please contribute any
thoughts on this subject to our .NET Reflector forum.
Co-CEO, Red Gate Software