On New Year's Eve I left Microsoft. This year I begin a new adventure. A couple people asked, "Where are you headed?" I am off to create a new company. A company that focuses on setup, deployment and the WiX toolset. I have a few ideas that I want to share with you since I'm curious what you think.
First and foremost, for those concerned about the fate of the WiX toolset have no fear. I will continue in my role as the benevolent dictator of the WiX toolset much as I have for the last 13.5 years. Features will be added, bugs will be fixed and weekly builds will continue. I will also continue answer questions sent to wix-users in 2-3 sentences. <smile/>
At the same time, I believe there is enough demand for the WiX toolset that a commercial entity built around it is viable. CarlD captured this idea better than I could have in a comment on my leaving Microsoft blog entry:
I hope you can make something wonderful out of WiX - it's always felt to me like it was on the edge of wonderful and I'm excited about the prospect of a small company moving it forward in the way that only a small company can - with speed, agility and intense customer focus.
Exactly! With that in mind, here some some of the service and product ideas I've had:
Providing setup and deployment expertise directly to individuals and companies is a natural fit. It's the first thing most people mention when they hear I'm starting a new company, "Are you going to do WiX toolset consulting?"
I already do a limited amount of consulting via RobMensching.com LLC. As part of this new company I definitely will be able take on more projects. However, consulting projects are usually specific to the needs of the customer. I'd like to find an option where the bulk of my effort goes towards somehow improving and/or supporting the WiX toolset.
That brings me to the next idea: support contracts.
WiX Toolset Support Contracts
Since its inception the WiX toolset has been a volunteer supported project. That works great for many of you in the community but some customers would like assurance a bug will get fixed so meet they meet their timeline.
When I was employed by Microsoft you could say I implicitly provided a support contract to the team I worked on. For example, while I was a member of the Visual Studio team, I fixed many Burn bugs in direct response to Visual Studio 2012 setup issues. That was great because those efforts directly benefited Microsoft and the WiX toolset.
With an independent company, I can provide explicit support contracts to anyone.
WiX Toolset Training
The idea of delivering in-depth training on the WiX toolset appeals to me. Constantly travelling around the world does not. There is a balance to strike if I develop a training curriculum for the WiX toolset.
Someone once suggested I hold training sessions once or twice a year on alternating coasts of the United States, like Seattle and Boston or San Diego and Atlanta. If that is successful then maybe add a training session in Europe. It was an interesting suggestion but was still predicated on organizing the material for a 2 to 3 day class.
So I'm considering it but writing code instead of curriculum is very tempting right now, which brings me to the final idea.
WiX Toolset Designer in Visual Studio
Since the WiX toolset was first released there has been a clamor for a Visual Studio designer. I shied away from creating a designer for many reasons. The primary reasons were a) I know nothing about Visual Studio integration and b) I know creating a good UI would be a lot of work.
However, to take the WiX toolset to the next level, it is clear there needs to be a designer that provides seamless integration with Visual Studio. I think it's now time to tackle the challenge.
I'm particularly excited because none of these options are mutually exclusive. I can allot different levels of time and energy in the company based on interest "with speed, agility and intense customer focus." <smile/>
So there are a few of the starting points I'm considering for the new company. Do you think one of those ideas is better than the others? Do you have another idea that you think I should consider? Feel free to leave a comment or email me: rob at robmensching.com.