Does Cheap Software Make Good Business?

In an earlier post I mentioned that IntelliCAD was now available at a price of $50 from Rolek Ltd, a reseller of DP Tech, a French IntelliCAD vendor. I ended by saying that a licensed copy of IntelliCAD was now cheaper than a cracked copy of AutoCAD.

A reseller of another IntelliCAD vendor took it a step further. They went ahead and lodged a complaint with Rolek’s web host stating that Rolek’s was selling pirated software and that the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium was in the process of initiating legal action against Rolek. Apparently, the web host bought the story and took Rolek’s web site down. Rolek claims that the ITC intervened and sorted things out with the host to get it’s web site back online again. The gory details can be found in the comments of this post on the IntelliCAD.net blog.

Personally, I am not too happy with the direction which IntelliCAD’s price is headed. Cheap CAD software may be a good thing for end users, but it makes third party developers like me lose interest in developing plug-ins for them. Our IntelliCAD plug-ins are priced at 95 Euros ($140) and that is already way lower than our plug-ins for other CAD systems. Convincing a prospective customer to buy a plug-in that costs three times his CAD system is not an easy task, unless the plug-in is going to save his job or his life.

IntelliCAD vendors can probably still make money by selling cheap but by selling more. The problem is that the market for plug-ins is quite limited and third party developers cannot drastically cut prices and hope to increase sales to make up for lost revenue. To make it worse, there are so many flavors and versions of IntelliCAD out there, with each vendor adding bells and whistles and in the bargain preventing standard IntelliCAD plug-in DLLs from loading. As a result we need to build different versions of plug-ins for different flavors of the same version of IntelliCAD. Yes, its that bad. DWGeditor and ZWCAD are two such examples which need plug-ins to be compiled using special libraries. At SYCODE, we have stopped tweaking our plug-ins to make them work with all the variants of IntelliCAD. We are now waiting for IntelliCAD 7 to be released and eventually rebuild all our old style SDS plug-ins using the new DRX SDK, and then hope that the IntelliCAD vendors do not go ahead and mess things once again.

Developing and maintaining IntelliCAD plug-ins is a hell of a job and takes too much time and resources. And the dropping price of IntelliCAD is making it less worth taking all that trouble.