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Vendor Profile: Avangate

[Ed. Note: while at ESWC’06 in Cambridge, U.K. in November, I got to know several people from Avangate, a ecommerce/electronic distribution company based in Europe. I asked them to put together their pitch to micro-ISVs, and here it is. Any other vendors interested in selling to micro-ISVs and willing to put the time in to tell us what exactly they have are welcome to contact me at bobw@safarisoftware.com]

Selling your software online with Avangate
By Delia Ene
Marketing Communications Manager / Avangate BV

OK, there are several eCommerce platforms specifically designed for software sales and software registration services out there. As usual, when there is a choice, you need to know how to choose between them.
This presentation is not a comparison between providers, but a brief presentation of Avangate, eCommerce platform & software registration provider. Avangate is headquartered in The Netherlands, and part of the GECAD Group of companies (the creator of RAV, Reliable Anti-Virus Technology).

Below you’ll find the main points of the Avangate eCommerce solution. There is also a special offer for microISVs.

Whos’ who – Avangate

eCommerce platform for electronic software distribution providing all the tools and expertise you need to:

  • Accept payments online
  • Optimize the online software sales and logistical process
  • Increase your website visibility on the Internet

Why choose Avangate?

eCommerce offer includes:

  • an easy to use and secure online payment system
  • additional marketing and sales tools, such as an affiliate management system, automated cross selling options

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  • software marketing services plus consultancy on how to increase software sales via the internet.

Avangate’s eCommerce platform allows you to:

  • Start selling in 24 hours
  • Accept multiple payment methods
  • Customize your Ordering Interface
  • Multilanguage, multicurrency
  • Real time Order Delivery – Key/ Code and Software Delivery
  • Cross Selling & Promotions Management Tools
  • Affiliates Program
  • Merchant & Shopper Support
  • 3-D Secure Merchant & Shopper Protection
  • Sales Reports & Statistics

We won’t go here into the nitty-gritty. Detailed information on platform features can be found on the Avangate website. Essentially, all Avangate options are easy to integrate and deploy. Software vendors are able to just click and implement a new sales mix; add straightforward licensing management system, special promotions and online sales reports.

A point worth insisting on are the software marketing services. We support you with expert advice on how to sell software online by:

  • Increasing your site’s visibility in all major search engines.
  • Distributing your product among the top ranked download sites and software directories on the Internet.
  • Better structuring your website and content, making sure you clearly present the power and benefits of your products, convincing your visitors to download and try them.

Whether you require our usability audit or software submission service, our expertise will ultimately help increase your website exposure and your software sales. Ask for our free personalized web analysis and we’ll take an expert look at your site suggesting appropriate web marketing solutions to help improve your online business.

Detailed information on Avangate software marketing services: http://www.avangate.com/ecommerce-services/

As a plus, there is also myAvangate, a web-based reseller management system specifically designed for software sales. myAvangate is still a Release Candidate – your chance to test it for free. More info on http://www.avangate.com/reseller-management-software/

Avangate’s special offer for microISVs:

-> attractive commission (two schemes you can choose from: 4.9% +1.95 EUR/2.5 USD or 8% minimum charge 1.95 EUR/2.5 USD). Fees are clearly explained on the Avangate website (go to http://www.avangate.com/start-selling).

-> three months web marketing services worth 1000 USD (SEO audit, software submission, PPC management, according to your needs)*.

*)Special conditions apply: minimum one year contract with Avangate and online sales of minimum 1000 USD per month.

Interested? Contact us. We are here to help developers sell software better and safer online. Email info@avangate.com and mention ref no: MicroISV offer BW.

[tags]Avangate, micro-ISV vendors[/tags]

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Bob WalshVendor Profile: Avangate

Making Plans for 2007 and mymicroisv.com

Having finally finished Clear Blogging (plug: available Feb. 7, recommended reading for micro-isv’s), I can start working on several stalled projects, including MyMicroISV.com. A year ago when Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality came out, I conceived of this site as a blog+resources site. The blog has worked out – mostly because of the many guest posters who’ve shared their knowledge and perspective here – but the plus part has not.

So my plan for making over MyMicroISV.com is to make it a blog + wiki, and have that wiki become the single best place new and experienced micro-isv’s can go for how to succeed information. Think of it as the FAQ of the micro-isv world. I’ve talked to 8 other micro-isv’s who’ve agreed to contribute “starter pages” on numerous subjects, but there’s two big questions in my mind still unanswered: what wiki platform to use and how to structure it so it grows as good wiki should?

As much as I enjoy MyMicroISV.com, I have other projects too, and that means I’ve got to have a wiki that needs the least amount of administering to and yet provides the best results. That makes me think a hosted solution would work best. Also, while I use Wikipedia every day, I think it’s ugly beyond words and wiki markup is geeky lame, especially as of 2007.

That said, the main contenders are MediaWiki and Wet Paint, with two other possibilities: Google Jotspot and Drupal. Wet Paint would be perfect if they simply let me pay for it instead of it being “free” with Google ads built in. Google Jotspot might be great – but Jotspot is in lock down since Oct. 31 when it was acquired by Google. Who knows when it will next see the light of day? Drupal I’ve heard from others can do just about anything – if you’re prepared to invest mega-hours.
So, what wiki platform would you suggest for MyMicroISV.com?

[tags]Wikis, wiki, mymicroisv.com[/tags]

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Bob WalshMaking Plans for 2007 and mymicroisv.com

Know your rules of engagement

by Bob Walsh

One of my favorite sites, thinkvitamin.com, just put up a post I’d recommend every micro-ISV read: Tara Hunt on The Rules of Engagement. Tara sets out to answer:

What is that magic ingredient that turns people from ‘consumers’ of your software into active and enthusiastic evangelists? The truth is that there is no single magic ingredient, but there are some underlying principles to delighting your current customers that may just lay the groundwork to creating an evangelist or two.

And does a fantastic job. If you’re wondering why and how micro-ISVs are now in the community-building business, read this post and Tara’s previous post, Why 50% isn’t Good Enough.

[tags]community-building, micro-ISV[/tags]

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Bob WalshKnow your rules of engagement

Use STRING to get programming accomplished

By Bob Walsh

My friend Matt Cornell posted a great trick that should be in every micro-ISVs bag of tricks. This technique is ideal for those lingering small code projects we all have, but just have not found the motivation to code.

Matt’s technique? Think STING:

  • S – Select one task.
  • T – Time yourself.
  • I – Ignore everything else.
  • N – No breaks.
  • G – Give yourself a reward.

Now I have to add an “R” item to make this technique a little more valuable:

  • S – Select one task.
  • T – Time yourself.
  • R – Review the Desired Outcome.
  • I – Ignore everything else.
  • N – No breaks.
  • G – Give yourself a reward.

Reviewing the desired outcome puts first and foremost what you are aiming for, but I’m quibbling here. Definitely read his post about applying STING in full.

[tags]Matt Cornell, Productivity[/tags]

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Bob WalshUse STRING to get programming accomplished
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Why Widgets mean money for micro-ISV’s

by Bob Walsh

Two recent posts have turned my mind back toward the subject of widgets and micro-ISVs. A widget is basically a mini application that runs in any number of ways — on your desktop, and Google sidebar, and Windows live, in any number of third-party applications and in both Vista and an Mac OS.

When Steve Rubel at micropersuasion.com notes something, it’s worth you noting it to. Have a look at this post by Steve, “Major Marketers Cozy Up to Widgets“. And when Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb picks up on the same trend, it’s definitely worth spending some time thinking about how this emerging trend relates to your micro-ISV.

Have a look at klipfolio.com, or pageflakes.com: widgets are growing up fast, and by their very nature don’t attract the giant software companies. No one needs or wants Adobe PhotoShop as a widget. But (see below) I could see a widget for this.

I presently say for areas widgets and micro-ISVs play together:

  • The white box widget. It’s easy to forget when you’ve got the mindset of selling directly to customers there is another entirely different way of making money: create an application (or in this case a widget), and let others brand and sell it. White box widget makers like LabPixies are selling widgets to advertisers as a way of delivering their message. Someone has to writing these widgets.
  • The advertising by other means widget. Let’s say you have a micro-ISV application like Andy Brice’s PerfectTablePlan. You could create a Windows Vista widget that would do a small part of your app’s overall functionality, feed it to the Microsoft Vista mega marketing machine and drive a hell of a lot of traffic your way.
  • The Simplify My Life widget. We all need new and better ways of dealing with the rapidly rising levels of complexity in our lives. Widgets, by their limited nature, deliver simplicity when created well. Here’s five seven widgets that I for one would buy and or be willing to install:
    • File backup. As I work away in office, this widget lets me with one click back up things as I create and change them. Notice the one click part – I see the file in say Google sidebar, click it, and I never have to worry about backing it up again.
    • The Make me a Slideshow Widget. take a bunch of shots say on our recent trip to London. Then what? I want to make a nice slideshow in PhotoShop Elements for friends and family, but don’t have the time. What if there was a widget that would let me dump in pics, and some graphically inclined human somewhere out there created the slideshow for me?
    • The CastingWords Widget. I need this one right now! Drag an interview.mp3 file to it, get the transcript back in two days.
    • Fitness/Health/Eating rightLabpixies has done a first generation of the this – give me a place where I can track my calories. The app I would buy? That widget is my online personal trainer portal – I pick the trainer at the web portal, they monitor the food I enter in the widget, the workouts I do and pump encouragement right to my desktop. If you designed this app, you could make money four ways – off of customers who need trainers, trainers who would kill for an easy to use app to manage their clients, advertising and affiliate payments to Amazon groceries/drugs. And by the way, I’ll be your first paying customer.Labpixies calorie counter
    • The Online Spending app. This widget would let me categorize on the fly my online purchases (perfect spot for SSE if Amazon and others ever adopt it).
    • The Media Tracker Widget. As my entertainment time is getting spread out between mainstream TV, podcasts and online video, it’s taking longer and longer to decide what I want. A widget that delivered 3 interesting, human edited, picks to me a day from regular TV, podcasts and video would be valuable. We could recycle all those couch potato types into productive members of society again via Amazon Mechanical Turk! :)
    • The Romantic Dinner in a kit Widget You want to make a nice meal for your Significant Other, but you’re the pan washer, not the chef in the house. Enter the Instant Romantic Dinner widget, where with one click it pre-populates my Amazon Grocery cart and emails me step by step instructions. In fact, you could run with in any number of directions…
  • The I haven’t thought of it yet Widget. Given all the talent and inventiveness in the micro-ISV community, I will bet there’s plenty of potential widgets above and beyond the present eye candy/coding example level out there. I for one am looking forward to them.

[tags]widgets, gadgets, micro-isv[/tags]

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Bob WalshWhy Widgets mean money for micro-ISV’s

The mental case for physical exercise.

By Bob Walsh

Over the years I’ve never understood why most programmers are content to rest on their (ever-growing) laurels when it comes to exercise. Maybe because I started exercising when I was a reporter in San Francisco in my pre-programmer days that I’ve always at least tried to exercise regularly.

In the past, I’ve always hectored my fellow programmers about the stress reduction, medical and physical benefits of exercise. It turns out there’s now plenty of evidence physical exercise makes you smarter as well.

Research shows that aerobic exercise actually increases brain mass by growing new capillaries, which is associated with an increase in neural activity. In addition, exercise increases levels of many brain chemicals, including norepinephrine and serotonin (linked to improved mood, self esteem, impulse control, and greater focus) and dopamine, which is the major driver of the attention center of the brain.

“There is nothing that affects brain neuroplasticity as much as exercise. It causes a rapid and persistent uptick in the factors and chemicals that enhance learning and mood. Every week, 4-8 papers are released in the neuroscience literature on the positive effects of exercise on the brain.”

The above is from Dr. Edward Hallowell (author of CrazyBusy and a leading expert in ADD in all of its forms) quoting Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey who’s upcoming book of exercise and the brain has already generated media attention.

“I’ve said for years that exercise is like Miracle-Gro for the brain,” Ratey said in a Chicago Tribune story. “But now we’re learning so much more about it, and just how much exercise causes a huge increase in the growth factors in the brain.”

So, if you feel like your brain needs an upgrade to deal with the complexities of IT today, maybe you need to start working out (again).

[tags] Brains, exercise[/tags]

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Bob WalshThe mental case for physical exercise.

The InstallAware micro-ISV pitch

[Ed. Note] Sinan Karaca is the CEO of InstallAware, a small ISV founded in 2003 by InstallShield alumni. Sinan did a great presentation at the European ShareWare Conference earlier this month. I was so impressed with how many features InstallAware included that really addressed the needs of micro-ISVs who need bulletproof installs but don’t want to spend 50% of your development time being driven insane by InstallShield, I asked him to make his pitch here to micro-ISVs.

If you try InstallAware Express, Developer, Studio or Studio Admin and like it, Sinan has made available a 10% discount to mymicroisv.com readers: enter the discount code NOHEADACHE – this takes 10% off any order.

—————

By Sinan Karaca

Do developers actually need an MSI (Windows Installer) setup?

Yes. There are various reasons for this:

  • It is required for Microsoft logo certification. You cannot get certified for the Designed for Windows XP / Vista logos unless you have an MSI installer. Getting the Designed for Windows logo makes a quality statement about your product; it is a vote of confidence in your work. It’s not hard to get this logo, you just need to follow a basic set of guidelines and have an MSI installer.
  • Most system administrators won’t even consider purchasing products that aren’t available with an MSI installer. This is because only MSI setups can be distributed silently and automatically on corporate networks with thousands of computers without paying any per-seat distribution fees that come with distribution systems for non-MSI (EXE) installers. Having an MSI installer lets you penetrate large enterprises to whom you can sell thousands of licenses – why lock yourself out of this huge customer base?

What differentiates InstallAware from other MSI authoring tools?

MSIcode Windows Installer Compiler:

InstallAware is based on a drag-drop scripting language called MSIcode:

  • MSIcode is human readable script that spells out what the installer does, and when – using simple commands such as “Install Files c:\my project\*.* to $TARGETDIR$”.
  • MSIcode is unique to InstallAware and protects you from all internal details of Windows Installer. MSI files contain:
    • Hundreds of rows of database entries in many interlinked database tables, which comprise the basic setup structure,
    • Actions and sequences, which determine the order in which setup actions are carried out,
    • Custom code that was built by skilled developers, inside custom-built DLLs that are embedded into the MSI file.
  • InstallAware protects you from all three of these evils. The moment you build an InstallAware project, the InstallAware compiler automatically populates all the necessary database tables, creates the correct sequences, and injects the necessary custom code into the MSI package. This is all without you ever knowing what is going on “under the hood”. While programming skills and a substantial investment of time are normally a must to build MSI packages, InstallAware lets even non-skilled novices to build complex, powerful setups in record time.

Visual Designers that automatically generate and maintain MSIcode:

While most setup authoring tools offer various forms scripting, there are some serious problems with those scripting environments:

  • A new scripting syntax and programming language must be learned,
  • The scripting environment is completely divorced from the visual designers,
  • Any settings that were configured visually (ex: files, registry keys, shortcuts) are practically inaccessible from the script – thus making it very hard to control or customize such actions at runtime.

InstallAware can be thought of as the Visual Basic or C# of setup authoring tools. Similar to these tools which generate code in the background as controls are dragged and dropped on top of forms, InstallAware generates MSIcode in the background as you work in the visual designers. Want to customize anything? Just switch to the MSIcode view and tweak to your heart’s content. At the MSIcode view you get to see, and update, every setup command that was created for you by the visual designers. Switch back to the visual designers, and your latest MSIcode edits are rendered for you visually. This two-way integrated editing allows for:

  • Rapid prototyping of setup projects,
  • Adding intelligence to your setup at the exact point where you need it, and
  • Easy maintenance and customization of complex projects.

Nothing is hard-coded in InstallAware – you can customize the MSIcode view as much as you like:

  • It’s very easy to build applets like CD browsers in MSIcode (sample project provided),
  • InstallAware’s Web Update capabilities were built using MSIcode, a testament to the power and flexibility of this scripting environment.

Powerful Dialog Designer:

InstallAware ships with a state-of-the-art dialog designer that lets you:

  • Use unique Flash and HTML controls as interactive progress billboards to entertain and educate your users – before your application has even installed!
  • Completely customize every aspect of your setup dialogs, to insert any kind of custom fields, graphics, or navigation (you can even consolidate multiple setup wizard screens into a single screen, like the new Microsoft installs),
  • Seamlessly collect information from the setup wizard and painlessly access that information in your MSIcode script,
  • Customize any of the 15 pre-built setup themes (including themes that look just like the Windows XP operating system installer, the Visual Studio installer), or build your own from scratch. Themes in InstallAware are a lot more than just custom colors or bitmaps!

Using the dialog designer lets you gather business intelligence from your end-users in ways not thought possible before:

  • Ask users for information in your setup wizard, not on a web form where they can walk away from a download,
  • When uninstalling, ask users why they are removing your product, right within the setup wizard,
  • Seamlessly submit any captured information as a native part of the (un)installation process.
  • InstallAware lets you engage in an active dialog with your end-users.

Painless Runtime Installations:

InstallAware lets you install many complex runtimes with a single click on a check-box in the IDE:

  • Any runtime dependencies will be automatically included for installation.
  • Troublesome runtimes such as Microsoft SQL Server Express 2005 are reliably installed – and that even includes checking for and installing a specific, named instance.
  • Most runtimes compress 50% better – all at no extra cost or effort to you (this compression benefit also applies to your main application files).
  • Runtimes can be isolated from your main setup, so they are automatically downloaded from the web, only when needed. Your main setup will still be fully functional and install your main application without forcing a web connection.
  • This is called partial web deployment, and the same idea can also be used to separate large parts of your application from your main setup download, to reduce the size of your setup.

[tags] Installers, InstallAware, MSI[/tags]

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Bob WalshThe InstallAware micro-ISV pitch

Everything you wanted to know about Graphics but were afraid to ask…

… can be found in this great post by Kathy Sierra at the Creating Passionate Users blog: Add graphics to your blog, book, or presentation.
Kathy covers:

  • tips for creating visuals that tell the story better and faster than words,
  • types of graphics to use and when,
  • how to figure out what the graphic should be in the first place.

The Creating Passionate Users bloggers are all authors of bestseller Head First books (http://www.wickedlysmart.com)–a new brain-friendly series from O’Reilly. This is a very good blog to have on your micro-ISV RSS list.

[tag] Micro-ISV, how-to graphics, blogging[/tag]

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Bob WalshEverything you wanted to know about Graphics but were afraid to ask…

Fresh ideas for micro-iSVs

By Bob Walsh

One of the things you hear over and over in this business is how hard it is to find an idea to build a micro-ISV on. True! The great thing about ideas is that lots of people have them, and some do a really good job of explaining them, like Pamela Slim at Escape from Cubicle Nation. Pamela has a great post up today –Plastics, young man! How to use market trends in your quest for the perfect business – that is a gem sitting on the pavement of life for any developer still casting about for a focus.

Pamela has a great quote by Guy Kawasaki that’s worth the click and your attention in and by itself, but her coverage of Entrepreneur Magazine’s what’s hot for 2007 is great reading, as is that MSM’s predictions.

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Bob WalshFresh ideas for micro-iSVs