Response to my WiXAware Introduction.

Sinan Karaca of InstallAware sent me an email responding to my post about the new WiXAware because it seems that comments here still don't work, yet. Something else for me to debug. <sigh/> Anyway, he had some great points and asked that I respond publicly. First, Sinan's comments:

You mention above that "during the discussion the other InstallAware representative said something that reinforced my negative impression of InstallAware".

Walking into the meeting, I had no idea you had already formed a negative opinion on InstallAware, which was about to be reinforced. I wonder to what we owe this judgmental attitude?

I had felt you were coming across as a bit hostile during the meeting. I remember you were accusing us of copying InstallShield and doing the same wrong things that they were doing, which you repeat in this post here.

Saying InstallAware is just an InstallShield clone shows that you haven't actually spent any time with it. I remember you saying "I hate UI, I hate anything that has a GUI...I'm command line only, well except for Visual Studio because it has Intellisense." Maybe that explains why you haven't spent time with InstallAware, but for the benefit of your readers here, I have to set the record straight.

InstallAware features innovations in the Windows Installer space which are still unique and unmatched in the industry, a full three years after our debut. These include partial web deployment, LZMA compression for up to 67% space savings, and MSIcode scripting which adds branching code execution capabilities to the Windows Installer engine.

Perhaps the most important philosophical design difference between InstallAware and the rest of the install industry is that our IDE's design views automatically emit MSIcode - instead of having divorced scripting and visual portions of the IDE where the script is clueless about what the visual part does, and vice versa (this is the model that every other vendor uses). This is like Visual Basic or C# for installers, where you have automatic code generation going in the background, and two way integrated editing.

So needless to say, I am a bit disappointed by this post, but since "all publicity is good publicity" I can't complain ;) I was hoping you'd have found a bit more to appreciate in my company's efforts other than the correct spelling of WiX though.

We're the first (and so far only) vendor to support your WiX technology, and I hope this decision was not premature. We've already spent a lot of time and money building WiXAware, and we'd have appreciated a warmer welcome from the WiX project leader - or at the least, an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude.

I know you asked us to provide free support for WiX community members regarding all general WiX questions during our meeting. While we would love to, we have to see that WiXAware is a commercially viable project first - because eek!, even WiXAware has a price tag of $499. Just like Microsoft, we need to make money too.

First of all, I want to be very clear that I have been impressed with Sinan. He is passionate about his product, accepts criticism well and responds very appropriately. It is entirely possible that continued conversations with Sinan will turn around my negative impression of InstallAware.

So why do I have a negative impression of InstallAware? Two reasons. First, they repackaged redistributable packages (such as the .NET Framework) which violates the EULAs of the products. Messing with other people's stuff then redistributing your modifications without explicit permission bothers me at a philosophical level.

Second, InstallAware was served a mostly reasonable cease-and-desist letter from Macrovision to remove content on the InstallAware website that was supposedly copied from the website of one of Macrovision's acquisitions. InstallAware turned around and used that letter against Macrovision to drum up more media attention by making it a "David vs. Goliath" story. That was just a bunch of media spin instead of simply removing any copied content and getting back to competing by offering better features at better prices.

What's really interesting is that after meeting Sinan, I was actually thinking that maybe the Macrovision thing was just completely malicious like he said. Then, I saw this comment about the new WiXAware website on Christopher Painter's blog:

Hmm, the website looks like a copycat of Advanced Installer's website (www.advancedinstaller.com/). That one's been around for years so I am pretty sure "Aware" is doing the stealing.
I wonder if the product is a fraud as well...

Maybe they are all using the same designers and that explains the similarities but at the moment I don't buy it.

Getting beyond my negative impression of the company that is InstallAware, let's talk about the features of WiXAware. First, as Sinan notes above, I'm not a GUI guy. I don't use a GUI for any code generation except dialog layout (I totally agree that laying out UI by typing in x,y coordinates sucks rocks). I do love Intellisense but that's the only reason I use Visual Studio. That means I'm 100% not the target customer for a tool like WiXAware. If you want read a review by someone who believes in GUIs take a look at Christopher Painter's blog entry about WiXAware.

That said, I was impressed with the fact that there was a "two way integrated editing" experience in WiXAware. I even said so in my last blog entry. <smile/> If the other tools out there don't do this then WiXAware is definitely ahead of the game. Totally cool feature and totally the right way to do that.

Also the reason I called WiXAware an InstallShield-clone is because it looks exactly the same to my (admittedly) untrained eye. InstallShield introduced that layout a long time ago and now everyone seems to just copy it. That said, I think Sinan did a good job listing how his product is more than a straight InstallShield-clone.

Finally, Sinan's comment, "We've already spent a lot of time and money building WiXAware, and we'd have appreciated a warmer welcome from the WiX project leader - or at the least, an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude" gave me pause. I certainly was judgmental and I did not approach WiXAware with an open mind. I know that a really good GUI built on top of the WiX toolset is important for WiX to reach a wider range of developers. I also know that I'm not going to be the person to make that happen. So maybe I should have been friendlier to InstallAware the company.

However, while I appreciate that InstallAware spent time and money building the WiXAware product, they did that because there is a business opportunity here. They are selling the product for almost $500 (which seems high to me but it isn't $2,500 like InstallShield asks for... which is simply nonsensical, IMHO) because I'm sure they've found that's what the market will bear. There is nothing wrong with making money on a product people want.

Yet InstallAware the company is directly benefiting from the many, many volunteer hours people in the WiX community have put in creating, discussing, debugging, and releasing the WiX toolset. Nothing wrong with that, the license is written in such a way to enable that very thing. But I think that InstallAware is missing out on a huge opportunity by choosing not to participate in the WiX community (the very people who are most likely to want such a product) until the product proves "commercially viable". There has been absolutely no discussion about WiXAware on the wix-users mailing list.

That said, it is on my todo list to get tools that build on WiX listed on the WiX web site (WixEdit and WiXAware are the two I know about that are still active). I'll make time to do that tomorrow night in time for Wednesday morning's build.

So, I'm sure this still judgmental and not-quite-open-mind blog entry is not all that Sinan hoped for but I do hope our conversation continues. I have listed my misgivings with the InstallAware company but I think WiXAware the product is interesting for those looking for a GUI on top of the WiX toolset.

Update: Stephan Krueger just blogged about the Advanced Installer/InstallAware website similarities and he has pictures.

FireGiant provides dedicated support for the WiX toolset. Ever wish you could get your WiX questions answered immediately with the technical detail that you find in the blog posts here? You can with FireGiant!

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