For those of us who build software, creating a new software product is usually fun and exciting. There are new challenges, the opportunity to use new tools and techniques, and there is a special thrill of seeing something work for the first time. But unless you have the luxury of building software solely for your own entertainment, once you've got that great new product built, you have to figure out how to get it to your customers. At Vitrium, much of the software that we build is web-based, so the issue of delivering software to our users is really just one of ensuring browser compatibility.
But if you work at a company that delivers software for the desktop, you typically have to build an installer -- a second piece of software whose job is to get your actual software successfully running on the users' machines. There is no joy in writing in installers. I've worked at companies where we had to build installers for our software, and it's amazing how much time and effort was required to build and maintain them.
The reason for that is that the installer is a piece of software whose primary responsibility is to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the millions of computers out there. Different operating systems, different utilities, firewalls, proxy servers, pieces of software that have been removed or modified by the user -- the list goes on. These are all things that could potentially cause your software not to work on a given computer. So the installer has to identify and, where possible, resolve these problems. And no matter how hard you try, there will always be a steady stream of issues that come up: combinations of software that the installer doesn't handle, configurations that have never been seen before, software versions that behave in subtly different ways, even gracefully handling upgrading from previous versions of your own software.
That's why, at Vitrium, it has always been our goal to produce software that doesn't need installers. Our applications are delivered over the web. The PDF's produced by our products use standard Adobe software that already exists on almost every computer on the planet. The result is that we have essentially no support costs related to getting our products onto people's computers. And that is good for us, and for our customers.
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