What Responsibility the Component Vendor?

I just read a disturbing post over at Robert McLaws‘ blog about ComponentOne.  Full disclosure for those of you who are unaware, I run a component reseller that sells ComponentOne’s products as well as many vendors. Our websites are located at Xtras.Net and VBxtras.

Robert was upset because he had received a free copy of ComponentOne’s tools included in the Visual Basic .NET Resource Kit distributed by Microsoft and the ComponentOne’s spell check control evidently had a bug in it. When Robert contacted ComponentOne they told him the bug had been fixed and he could purchase an update to receive the bug fix, which he found to be unacceptable.

What is disturbing to me about his post was it raised some interesting and far reaching questions: what responsibility does a component vendor have to its customers, especially if that component vendor provided its component to the customer for free?  And what about when the vendor’s business model is “subscription” where the right to receive updates is included for those that subscribe.  And when someone receives a product for free are they entitled to support and upgrades?

Right now there really are no guidelines anywhere that help both a developer and a component vendor know what should be reasonably expected. If ComponentOne’s response was reasonable, then Robert did them a disservice by blasting them on his blog. If ComponentOne’s response was not reasonable, then ComponentOne did Robert a disservice by not providing him with an update.

I think the issues raised tend to be pretty complex and are definitely not back-and-white. I’m posting this because I’d really like to start a dialog to discuss the issues and collect a large cross-section of opinions.

And BTW, just because my company resells components, don’t assume you know where I personally stand on this issue.  I am first and foremost a developer whenever my reality allows me to be. :)

So, what responsibility the component vendor?

4 Replies to “What Responsibility the Component Vendor?”

  1. So, I talked about that experience as a consumer, but now I speak as a vendor. I believe that is the vendors responsibility to take care of their customers, whatever that means. If a function in the API does not work, then a customer should be able to get the update for free, as long as it is the vendor’s fault, not the customer’s. Microsoft doesn’t charge me for bux fixes in Windows, and ComponentOne should not charge me for a bug fix either. Since the component was free, ComponentOne should have been supremely interested in earning my business, not by strong-arming me into buying it, but by doing whatever it takes to make whatever was wrong, right. THAT’s customer service.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  2. I tried a ComponentOne component once. It didn’t work. Their free trial did exactly the opposite of what it should have: it made me decide to *not* use their product. I wasn’t able to get far enough into it to bother trying to get a fix like Robert did. If I had, I would be furious and would probably not have been as nice as Robert was in his post.

    The "free" price of the component has absolutely nothing to do with this situation. The product was supposed to do something and it did not. The company realized it did not work, but realized it too late (sign number 1 of a bad company/developer: releasing a product that apparently hasn’t been tested). Warrantees on cars, etc, are totally different than on software because software doesn’t degrade in use. The component mentioned above simply didn’t work. It didn’t work on day one, it didn’t work on day 88. The manufacturer should make their promises true, period. They said "Product2k3 does X, X, X, and X", but it doesn’t. Instead of correcting that, they say "well, sorry about that, here, buy this: Product2k4 does X, X, X, and X." That is unacceptable. [And I don’t mean "anacceptable" as in "I’m going to complain about it but will accept it anyway". I mean "I refuse to accept such crap and will not do business with them in any way or encourage others to". I find that people throw "unacceptable" around a little too much.]

    I understand that you are a reseller and don’t want to upset ComponentOne, but I find it hard to believe that you are even entertaining the idea that they aren’t at fault.

  3. >> I find it hard to believe that you are even entertaining the idea that they aren’t at fault.

    Shannon, you assertion implies it is a black-and-white issues (i.e. either ComponentOne is AT FAULT or NOT AT FAULT.) I think it is far more complex than that, and will blog about it rather than comment here.

  4. Mike, it seems that C1 has made at least a few of us devs unhappy….

    I figured when I saw the "Free" stuff that it was a way for them to try and make some sales of later versions…. and that is ok *IF* the free version works ok and the developer gets a "Warm Fuzzy" from the time spent.

    and I would tell C1 and others who want to sell bits…

    The download / CD may be free, but I have to spend time testing / trying / learning the bits … that has a real cost to me as it takes away time from billable clients.

    if the cost is ballanced by happy clients and a new tool that will speed me up more as I use it then it’s worth buying….

    if it takes my time and leaves me with issues that they (the dev’s who built the part) do not resolve then I am out real money and there is no way I’ll toss more cash out the window….

    small shops seem to understand that… I have had great experinces with them.
    when they get big they tend to lose that and they lose business if they don’t figure it out.

    a case in point:
    Crystal Reports:
    upto V8.5 it was decent…
    but the whole CR.NET deal was a bad trip….
    and I have not seen / read any thing that has made me want to try the new version.
    so no renewal of my dev sub. …. they lost me.
    they had many bugs with .net that I spent time on the phone with second tier techs…. here was the killer:
    I was told that "If you buy an enterprise license we will give the bugs prioroty and fix them, but untill then we are just going to add them to the list"
    the bugs were nasty, and there was *NO WAY* I could tell the CEO to spend over 10k with them unless I had a working "Proof of concept" demo to show him.
    no bugs fixed, no demo, no sale for them….
    so they wanted us to pay them to fix what was clearly thier bug!
    thats what gets us upset…..

    I’d say many cases it’s totaly 100% clear.

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