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?