Re: Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package for

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg101912] Re: [mg101885] Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package for*From*: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at mac.com>*Date*: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 06:23:58 -0400 (EDT)*References*: <h41f31$rfv$1@smc.vnet.net> <200907202321.TAA26029@smc.vnet.net>

This is my take on the situation: Over the years, I have purchased any number of add-ons for Mathematica, including stuff from Wolfram and some third party packages, including David's. I've been disappointed time after time. (It wasn't *my* money most of the time, so the time saved by using the winners usually made up for the bad choices.) First, even for Wolfram applications, there is the inevitable lag between a new version of Mathematica and an update to the packages. This problem was worst with major changes, such as Mathematica 3 and 6. Many of my add-ons are still not working with Mathematica 6 or 7. This is understandable for a one person shop: the transition from Mathematica 2.x to 3 and 5.s to 6 were substantial. However, it has a serious impact on the perceived value of the add-on. Second, as the capabilities of Mathematica have improved, it is simply easier to write my own code. I am sure that this is the case with many Mathematica users. There is also enough free stuff out there that 90% of the code for any specific application is already done. Also, I would generally want to customize the code. If I did the work myself, then I'd already understand what is going on. Trying to alter an existing program is more difficult. My code might not have all the bells and whistles of a polished app, but generally, I only need a subset of the code to get the job done. If I want to send the program out to my co-workers, I cannot assume that they also have the package or add-on, so anything I want to deploy cannot have any expensive dependencies. I looked into this possibility as a source of income (and something to do) in my retirement. I came to the conclusion that there are only two viable business models: 1. Develop something and sell it to Wolfram. An example of this is the Classroom Assistant in Mathematica 7 (I'm assuming that there was some compensation involved.) 2. Develop a turnkey application using Mathematica for an application that does not require any knowledge of Mathematica. Player Pro is a delivery system for this application model. There are certain advantages to using Mathematica over developing a program in c/c++. However, this is not the type of program we are talking about here. It is easy to be wrong about this. After all I do not have any numbers about Mathematica users. Wolfram states that the number is in the millions, but I am not sure that the vast majority of these are students. I am surprised that it is hard to reach a break-even userbase of as little as 200-300 users. In many ways, using Mathematica is similar to the way it was in the 1970s, before there was any 'commercial' software. I use the Apple ] [ as an example, but it was only the first commercial PC. Mathematica takes the place of the built-in BASIC interpreters. People shared programs. There were books of programs that you could type in. (A *BIG* program at the time was 300 lines of BASIC code.) There was a lot of sharing. People were happy to show off by providing neat code examples. I missed those days. With Mathematica (and especially the newer versions), I can recapture the essence of using the computer to do mathematical things without all the overhead of learning c, Xcode, etc. I may be an aging idealistic hippie, but I think that there will always be enough people who will delight in sharing what they know that the market for paid mathematica add-one will always be undercut. The nature of Mathematica itself, and Wolfram Research's ecosystem that encourages this type of thinking. ====== So to summarize: I think that there is little market for Mathematica add-ons for the following reasons: 1. Poor support in most cases. Code that breaks with each new version of Mathematica is a poor value. 2. Free code that is 'close enough' trumps paid code unless the paid code is really exceptional. 3. The mind-set of the users who might buy mathematica add-ons is biased towards either rolling their own or finding something free. george On Jul 20, 2009, at 7:21 PM, AES wrote: > In article <h41f31$rfv$1 at smc.vnet.net>, David Reiss > <dbreiss at gmail.com> > wrote: > >> >> Sadly 3rd party application for Mathematica sell very poorly--rarely >> even beginning to recoup the cost to develop them. But I could do >> this if there were a couple of hundred users willing to purchase it. >> > > I'd welcome your thoughts (or anyone's) on _why_ this is the case? > > (I have my own ideas, but reality checks are always useful.) >

**References**:**Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package for***From:*AES <siegman@stanford.edu>

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