Jeff Largiader

Jeff Largiader, Programmer's Paradise Marketing Vice President, speaks with Rene Garcia, the president and CEO of Software FX, Inc.

Rene Garcia
Q. Some developers are expressing concerns about using third party components in their mission-critical applications; they feel vendors will go belly-up because of market conditions. Do you agree?

A. While it is true that some events have made it very difficult for some companies in our space to sustain a viable business model, this cleansing process has created a wonderful and sustainable marketplace for most vendors, including Software FX. During the past 4 years we have been focusing on the enterprise market and complementing Chart FX with niche and complex data visualization solutions. As a result, enterprise developers have found in our products a more meaningful way to connect to data sources and we have witnessed a boost in corporate and OEM licensing and purchasing.

On the marketing and sales front we are as active as we have never been before. For example, we are not only running more ads in traditional developer magazines, but we are touring user groups, increasing participation in industry-related trade shows, opening international offices and localizing products and resources in different languages; all of which are costly activities usually attributed to large organizations rather than small-sized component vendors.

We have also strengthened our relationship with partners and resellers worldwide as a primary tactic to increase exposure and generate sales. I'm happy to say, Programmer's Paradise has helped increase awareness of the Chart FX brand tremendously. In all, I have to say I'm very happy with our execution and how the market has reacted to our products and our company.

Q. What percentage of your success can you attribute to .NET?

A. In terms of sales, Chart FX for .NET has been the most successful product launch in our company history. Surprisingly, we are witnessing a large percentage of our .NET sales going to new rather than existent customers while our COM-based products still enjoy a healthy sales growth. We are also forecasting additional revenue coming from COM to .NET upgrades as well as international customers adopting .NET.

Similarly, we are working around the clock to support new .NET initiatives that we expect will bring in an influx of new customers to our company. For example, we recently went through a compatibility test with Borland C# Builder which is a superb .NET IDE.

Nevertheless, it is important I mention that while other vendors have concentrated almost exclusively in .NET, we are heavily investing in our COM offerings as well; we believe COM will continue to play a critical role in the overall computing strategy of small, mid and large organizations. In the long run, IT departments, and more specifically developers, will be faced with maintenance and updates of legacy COM applications that will end up requiring front-end analysis tools like Chart FX Internet and Chart FX Client Server.

In the end, our idea is to make customers feel comfortable knowing that they can continue investing in COM and migrate to .NET when it makes sense to them.

Q. All charting vendors seem to be pitching the same features for their products, how do you differentiate yourselves in what appears to be a highly competitive market?

A. Today, we positioned ourselves as a vendor capable of bringing true data-visualizations solutions to enterprise customers rather than adding ad-hoc features that bring little or no advantages to the majority of our customers. In the end, this featurism has caused competitors to add features in a monolithic way, making their products difficult to learn and program, slow and, in most cases, full of technical problems. As a matter of fact, this trend is slowly but surely benefiting our business model. In the end, product performance and scalability as well as support are primary areas that we focus on and ones where competitors can't easily match with price reductions or a simple product feature.

Whenever we discover a real customer need, we survey it and develop a real functional offering in the form of a Chart FX extension that can be easily plugged into our core products without affecting the rest of our user base. This has resulted in a unique product line up that serves customers in the business intelligence, mapping, real-time, mobile and financial markets, among others.

In conclusion, Software FX presents itself as a mature organization, with great products, unparalleled support and a clear business vision. This, I would say, is the main difference between Software FX and other vendors. When viewed like this, it is easy to understand why customers end up choosing Chart FX and why the competitive landscape is not as tough as it appears.

Q. I noticed you recently released Chart FX for Java, What triggered your interest in the Java market?

A. Actually, Chart FX for Java comes to fill a void in our product line many current customers have requested before. Now that many enterprise developers use Chart FX for data visualization purposes, our new Java offering makes the most sense and that's why we're stepping up to fill this gap.

I would also like to add that Java is a market we've been looking at closely for years but didn't really have the time or the organization to tap it. Today we are clearly position as the leading charting tool in the market; I believe this is the natural step for us. I know our existing customers will embrace Chart FX if they ever have the need of a Java-based data visualization solution.

Q. Who are your primary competitors in the Java space?

A. Although there are a good number of reputable organizations offering charting components in the Java space, there are really none focused on providing the kind of enterprise functionality we offer in Chart FX for Java. At the very least, we hope Java developers will give serious consideration to Chart FX for Java.

We are newcomers in the java space so it is really difficult to pinpoint the exact companies/products we’re against in the java space. As of today, all of them are potential competitors, only time will tell us which ones are the most serious ones.

Q. But, what is really the value proposition for your customers. In other words, why would they choose Chart FX for Java over another charting product?

A. Firstly, they won’t have to find themselves in an ambiguous position of selecting a different charting tool for their Java and Windows-based internet/intranet applications.

It is important to note, our Windows-based products served as the foundation for our Java version. As a matter of fact, Chart FX for Java presents the same feature set as our .NET offering; inheriting over 10 years of R&D and quickly positioning Chart FX as one of the best charting tool for Java developers. Also, we’ve made sure our sales and support organizations have the necessary tools to continue a longstanding tradition of well maintained and stable Chart FX products. To us, this was of paramount importance.

Secondly, with Chart FX for Java we have leveraged our experience and knowledge in the windows market and created a Java charting solution capable of producing native Windows output in the form of ActiveX or .NET. With Chart FX for Java, developers will be free to exploit the power and reliability of Java-based servers while providing a gratifying and dynamic experience to a Windows desktop environment. That’s an advantage no other charting tool can promise or offer.

An important aspect about Chart FX for Java is that no visual degradation occurs when a chart is loaded and displayed on the browser, whether if it’s being displayed as an image, ActiveX or .NET component. This translates into a seamless operation across the different platforms Chart FX supports.

Finally, Chart FX for Java will support all of the extensions we offer in the Windows market, making Chart FX for Java the only java charting solution capable of servicing so enterprise areas like business intelligence, financial and real-time, among others.

Q. What’s next for Software FX?

A. As our charting product line for developers consolidate, we expect to be considered as the premier data visualization solution for enterprises. We certainly have the technical foundation for it. Now, we still need to demonstrate we have the marketing force to achieve this long-term goal.

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