U2.NET – Where’s the value?

When IBM purchased a license for mv.NET to re-brand as U2.NET, I thought they were going to offer it as a free value-add benefit to their clients. OK, strip out the cross-platform capability, nail it to U2, and give people a development kit that’s a generation beyond UO.NET. That seemed like a good business move. I later found out that not only was U2.NET not evolving like mv.NET but that the pricing model was comparable. So where’s the value here?

What people are left with is an offering which isn’t even “IBM branded” anymore, now that U2 has been sold to Rocket Software. It’s an old version of another product (mv.NET) which is cross-platform, has more features, is actively enhanced, and which has a comparable price. So what is being offered that would compel someone to choose U2.NET over mv.NET?

Sure, Nebula R&D sells and supports mv.NET, so I welcome you to consider this an AD. You might even think “this guy is just being aggressively competitive”. But I’m speaking more as a consumer here. If GM took a $30k Toyota, stripped out the CD player and the back seats, and resold it as a GM product for the same $30k, I think a lot of people (including those who sell Toyota) would have something to say about it. Keeping with the metaphor, if GM had done that while Toyota offered to convert vehicles on the road to a hybrid at no cost, I think GM customers would start to question their purchase decision. If the table was turned and Toyota offered a stripped down GM product for the same price, you can bet Americans would decry the sheer nerve of a foreign importer.

Nebula R&D provides unique products and development services. We also happen to sell and support the tools that we use because I want to show that I’ll stand behind them. There’s no finger pointing to someone else if our solutions have a problem, and our clients get a single source for support – though they’re welcome to purchase connectivity licenses from anyone if they prefer. I don’t really care what tools we use, as long as they satisfy a range of needs including usefulness, quality, and affordability – and I like tools that are going to be around for the foreseeable future. While some people think of Nebula R&D as a “tool provider”, just remember that the name is Nebula “Research and Development” and not Nebula “Toolkits” – and, for what it’s worth, the commissions we receive on sales are small and often a loss considering the time invested in the sales and value-add support effort.

Why do I share such things with you? I just want to express that I am quite demanding when it comes to my tools and vendors. I chose mv.NET over PDP.NET – and I’m glad I did since Raining Data didn’t pay much attention to it and sort of lost interest in it. I chose it over ON.NET, which is actually a re-branded PDP.NET, produced by a competent colleague in Spain who understands that he may not be able to sell the software without a recognized company behind it. (… but ONware?) mv.NET is my tool of choice over QMClient, jRCS, the D3 Class Library, UO and UO.NET, jD3, FlashCONNECT, Coyote, and all of the other free and for-fee connectivity libraries – though I will use what’s suitable and required for specific jobs. I’ve chosen not to sell or support Viságe for various reasons. And I did strongly back DesignBais, but for various reasons I made the painful decision to withdraw support for that product. Yes, I’m picky about my tools, I only stand behind those I trust, and I stand behind companies that have earned my support – apply whatever value you wish.

So when IBM bought the rights to the source code for mv.NET, I figured “hmm, people will get good software, IBM backing, and free”. I honestly worried that my U2 clients would start asking why they’re paying for software that they can get for free from IBM. I was thinking I would need to add U2.NET to our list of supported products so that we could offer development services with it. Hey, it’s not a bad thing to hit the ground running as an expert for a brand new product. So after some consideration, I was initially prepared to support U2.NET – both technically and as a viable tool for anyone to use.

Who cares about my “support”? Well, I might just be a guy who blabs on about tools, but as I said above, I have been through the school of hard knocks with all of these things, so I’m hoping my support (or lack thereof) means something to people. I do the Research so that you don’t have to do it yourself – and then I use specific tools for Development. (Get the company name now?) I was thinking U2.NET would be a good platform for U2 developers, and for those who wanted cross platform development, or those who wanted more features than U2.NET provides, mv.NET would be the next step up – which is how I still see UO.NET and all of the other tools out there.

But now, I’m not concerned that my clients will want U2.NET anymore. I’m not planning to provide support for U2.NET. IBM isn’t in the picture anymore, and while Rocket Software will be considered the single provider for DBMS and related develoment tools, I and others wonder “is that really a factor anymore?” And IBM did me a competitive favor by taking the “free-vs-fee” argument off of the table.

mv.NET v4.1 will soon be released with a set of features that’s completely unique in the MultiValue industry. Labelled “Solution Objects”, mv.NET will allow developers to create business entities, which are libraries of strongly-typed classes that represent their files and business rules. This is a very big deal. It’s a free upgrade feature for anyone who has a current mv.NET support agreement, and it’s something that U2.NET will never have. This is the “free hybrid upgrade” that GM can’t provide.

So I’d hate for someone to think I’m being overly competitive by talking up mv.NET over U2.NET, but U2.NET is mv.NET, just less value at the same price. This is a statement about just another one of the products in our market – like I cover many products in this blog. And before you conclude that I’m just pursuing an agenda, consider the facts, ask yourself if anyone else is volunteering this insight, and then if you’re still considering U2.NET, ask yourself “why”, now that you know more about it. I’ll be happy to publish more information about U2.NET here and give it more of a “voice” if someone feels I’m being unfair or inaccurate.

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