Some Reflection on the Market for Components

Once upon a time, there was a HUGE market for ActiveX components that would work with Visual Basic. After Microsoft introduced .NET and especially .NET 2.0, a lot of the energy moved from the ActiveX component world into the .NET library world (although it should be noted that this doesn’t necessarily imply that all the money has moved as well).

This morning I was browsing through the newest edition of MSDN Magazine (dated Feb 2007) and noticed that the vast majority of the ads were for .NET 2.0 stuff. So I asked myself: “I wonder how much take-up there has been for WPF components?” I remember going to PDC events a few years back where Microsoft brought Infragistics and others on stage and talked about how wonderful the new WPF market was going to be.

I guess I must have had too much free time, because I decided to do my own very unscientific survey. I counted the number of ads that featured a particular technology. Ads that mentioned more than one technology got counted multiple times, and I didn’t count the ads that were placed by Microsoft itself – just those from paying ad customers. There were 51 ads in total. I also checked for mentions of a few other terms that were near and dear to my heart: PDF, Java, and Flex. Here are the results:

Chart of Ads per Technology in MSDN 02-2007

There were a couple of things that jumped out at me:

  • As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, it appears that components for WinForms and .NET 2.0 in general have most of the energy in the Microsoft component space.

  • PDF was mentioned quite a bit in various ads, and XPS not at all. Again, not too surprising, but its nice (for Adobe) that developer take-up of XPS is still low.

  • Java is still doing quite well, even in the heart of Microsoft-country.

  • WPF & .NET 3.0 take-up amongst developers selling to developers is quite low. Of the 3 ads found, two were actually for training and not for software you could buy. Developers seem more exciting about products around ASP.NET AJAX, which I find interesting since both technologies went final around the same time.

  • Its also interesting that trainers seem to see a richer market for WPF than for ASP.NET AJAX. Maybe that is a reflection of pent up demand for WPF, or maybe its a reflection of the increased complexity of WPF development.

Not the most earth-shattering piece of analysis work ever, but hopefully something people will find interesting.

[Update 02-12-2007] I mentioned Infragistics and its announcements of WPF components at PDC events of yore, so I thought it would only be fair to point out the news on Mike Swanson’s blog that Infragistics has posted a beta of its NetAdvantage for WPF 2007 Volume 1 set of controls, and that DevComponents has its Office 2007 UI controls for WPF in private beta. Congratulations to both companies. I look forward to seeing them both shipped as final products sometime soon – maybe the market for WPF components will materialize then.

I also wonder what the licensing story is for all of these Office UI lookalike controls – do these companies have a license from Microsoft to duplicate the stuff in the Office UI guidelines? Do companies that ship applications using these control libraries get a license as part of the purchase price? Given how scary the Office UI license is for a typical ISV legal department, it would be nice if these sorts of libraries could make those sorts of issues go away.

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~ by Andrew Shebanow on 30Jan07.

2 Responses to “Some Reflection on the Market for Components”

  1. So I hope that single WPF ad you saw (for software) was the one for that Datagrid? 😉

    [Andrew says] Yep, that was the one. Looks nice! You should do Flex components instead of wasting your time on that WPF stuff 🙂

  2. A few comments:

    – The PDF numbers compared to the XPS numbers are expected. My guess is that the XPS numbers are reflective of the adoption rate of Office 2007, which is low. Even when Office 2007 obtains higher adoption rate, I can’t imagine that XPS will improve in this area.

    – Java will always do well, because of a current installed user base, and it’s not surprizing to me to see ads for Java-based products/solutions in MSDN. I expect I would see MS-based products/solutions in Java-based publications. It’s like seeing ads on tv now for shows on other channels. Just part of marketing.

    – In the Flex/WPF arena, I think it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The advantage that Adobe has with Flex is cross-platform development (much better than Java ever had, IMO, just look at Flash, and now Flex). The advantage that MS has with WPF is the tight integration into the developer tools, as well as the ability to do more when cross-platform targeting is not a requirement. It should be said that you should not lump the .NET 3.0 and WPF numbers together. WPF is a subset of .NET 3.0, and while I am sure that all of the ads are for WPF stuff, there are other aspects of WPF (Windows Communications Foundation, for example) which don’t really factor into the WPF space. Your numbers will have a greater “oomph” factor (since the number will be lower for WPF) if you separate it out this way.

    – WPF development compared to AJAX development is definitely more complex. The designers aren’t there yet, but they will be. With AJAX (and ASP.NET) there is already an established market with players in it. I don’t expect WPF to overtake AJAX/ASP.NET, as I see them servicing different needs. For me, WPF is a way of enabling rich client-applications (which can be web-enabled), but I would never make the decision to host WPF in a browser window in an XBAP (I more partial to the smart client kind of development which WPF and Flex are competing for, and which in some way, the WinForms components contribute to, because you don’t need WPF to do smart client development).

    Overall, I’d say it’s a good look at the numbers.

    [Andrew says] I could quibble with details here and there, but I more or less agree with everything you said. I will comment on WPF being separate from .NET 3.0: the training ads were for all of .NET 3.0, not just WPF. I suspect that if and when a component market does develop for .NET 3.0, the vast majority of the components will be for WPF. Given that Xceed is the only one with a shipping WPF component, and its free, it is far too early to tell whether or not this market will ever mature.

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