By Bob Walsh
Over at the Business of Software today, MCJ posted a very interesting question:

Would you pay for a widget?

I think there’s a lot of potential in widgets for micro-ISVs in a couple of ways:
As connectors to micro-nitche web services. See http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/28326 – old radio shows (old radio shows?? – hey, I like them!) There’s a widget for the 3% of the world that use Macs and zip for the rest of us. I’d pay $15 on the spot for this widget/service for a year.
As connectors to your own product. Let me pick on Andy Brice here for a moment. I could see him writing a Google or Vista widget that automatically tracks when people RSVP. He adds it as a extra item that he sells with PerfectTablePlan, and gives a way a lite version that brings him a lot of attention.
The deeper development question is, what kind of widget?:

  • Google Sidebar
  • Vista
  • Windows Live
  • Yahoo
  • Mac
  • Who know what else…

I think you need a development strategy that answers yes to as many of these as possible, and a multi-headed marketing strategy that at the least gives each community its own landing page on your web site.
There’s an even deeper issue here micro-ISVs can benefit from: the demassification of attention. Just as television has gone from <100 channels to >100,000 on the net, the number of “channels” into the average person’s PC or Mac is exploding. Widgets up to recently have been in the “what do I do with them” category. But, in my opinion, a well designed family of widgets across platforms, with as much of a shared codebase as possible, with a shared “marketingbase” as well, offers micro-ISVs some excellent opportunities.

1 Comment

  1. You’re right on that there seems to be an explosion of opportunity here. At least two major challenges are 1) will more users pay for smaller bits of software 2) The success of any particular widget/platform/market-segment is tough to predict.
    The second issue is best tackled with clairvoyance. Or if you’re like me, you don’t have that — another suggestion is a product portfolio approach where you don’t bet on just one widget, but size the work right to have several going. That’s the approach I’m taking with leancode — think “lean manufacturing” and “set based design”.
    The first issue has always been a running one with software. But we do have an explosion of need for useful widgets. With large numbers of users and some kind of donation/share/demoware model, the 1% rule often applies to free vs. paying customers, in addition to content readers/creators. The strategy to leverage that is — always have a free version, and know that’s where 99% of your users will be.

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