Through WeProgram.Net and INETA, I get sent a lot of software to evaluate or experiment with; sometimes this includes a fully licensed version of the product. Vendors hope I like the product and help to generate a positive buzz for their tool.
Through TechEd 2004, INETA, or some other completely legit source I got a fully licensed Infragistics user-interface suite. I installed the product in June and explored the samples and thought “Hm, looks interesting. Next time I’m not doing a plain vanilla user-interface, I should maybe check this out.” Well, it’s November and that time is now . . . I’ve got a need for a nice numeric up-down control and Infragistics should be the magic bullet . . . but I can’t sort through the Infragistics run-time dependencies to make it work on anything besides the demo application installed many months ago.
So, instead of finding how easy and intuitive the Infragistics controls are to work with, I’m confronted with how brittle the Infragistics configuration and setup is to a new user. I find out how tough it is to get support (unless you pay for support — but since they gave this license to me free I don’t have any payment record), particularly when you don’t have the physical license key you installed the product with (remember, that was last June and the Infragistics box didn’t live through our recent office move). I find out how their Knowledge Base search doesn’t contain anything for the “Can’t Init Editor“ error message I get in the web status bar at runtime. I find out things like their web Newsgroup area isn’t FireFox compatible. Finally, I glance at the clock and realize I’ve spent 120 minutes trying to get Infragistics to run outside of their demo application and I probably could’ve coded my own numeric up-down control in that time!
You might say that beggars can’t be choosers, but if a company is after viral marketing by distributing free licenses of their tools . . . they need to make sure they have a plan for supporting those free licenses or the viral marketing could turn against them. Infragistics supports the WeProgram.Net user group and that’s great, but I’ve wasted enough energy on their complimentary copy. I’ve gotta go roll my own up-down control . . .