The Hyperinflation of XMLSpy

Back in the late 1990s, when XML was still in its formativeyears (a state some would argue continues to this day), XML Spy was a verywelcome entrant to the developer tools market, bringing intuitive, GUI-based schemaand basic transformation authoring and validation to the developer’s desktop.

While some were productive and happy with just the W3C specsand a copy of emacs, many of us only used XML intermittently, building anexport, import or transformation that simply worked, promptly forgetting all ofthe nuances of DTDs versus XSDs versus XDRs, or the quickly changing XSL(T)specifications.

It was a great step forward in the uptake and quality of XMLutilization to have such an easy to use, up-to-date tool.

At the time XML Spy was basically shareware, offering afully featured 30-day trial, at worst popping up the occasional “pleaseregister me!” exhortation.

Many just registered it: it was an easy sell at $54 auser, less if you bought multiple copies. That’s almost disposable money,and was an easy pitch to most managers. It was easy enough saying “let’s get acopy for everyone in the group. Even for the guy in the cube near the washroom,anti-XML rage bursting from his trembling lips in a spray of spittle and phlegm.”

Time goes on and we all moved to different projects, divisionsand companies, often with long gaps needing little or no in-depth XML. Whenthose instances came up, we’d try to find an old licensed copy, or woulddownload the latest trial, using yet another toss away email address for thevalidation.

And XML Spy just kept getting more expensive. The companygrew and grew (note that the domain on the original link above actuallyexpired, and now sits in the hands of a domain ad purveyor), and the dollarsigns in their dreams had them imagining, apparently, of a day when millions ofinformation workers sat toiling their days away in the pure awesomeness of XMLSpy. In emacs-esque form, it had grown more and more functionality, even ifmany users never used it for anything more than creating and validating schemasand transformations.

By late 2000, the price of XML Spy had inflated to $149 a user.By the end of the next year it hit $399 auser. By late 2006 it was up to $499a user (at some point dropping the space between XML and Spy, becomingXMLSpy).

As I write this it’s up to $539 a user.

Maybe XMLSpy is developed in a poorly insulated aircraft hangarin Siberia, and thus is strongly impacted by the price of oil?

XMLSpy versus Oil -- Peak XML?

A ten-fold jump in price in about 8 years seems excessive.What was once a wonderfully priced utility is now a considerably expensivedevelopment ecosystem. What was once an easy purchase (at one workplace I justpaid for it myself rather than deal with the annoyance of a requisition form)is now a difficult to justify expenditure, requiring vendor comparisons, and negotiationswith middle managers. When the money handlers are convinced, often it’s just forpartial coverage of the development team.

You end up with the “XML guy”, rather than having a team appropriatelyequipped with a uniform set of tools.

Of course, clearly my complaints are off base. Altova obviouslydid appropriate research, and they determined that there really arepeople and groups who’ll happily pay more for an XML editor than they paid for theirentire Visual Studio suite.

But come on, Altova – bring back a, err, “Semi-Professional”version – something with XML schema and transformation authoring and validationand nothing more. No grand vision where your product is the center point of adeveloper’s existence. Put a reasonable price tag on it – like $59 – and I’msure you’ll get a lot of sales where right now you get none. I realize you probably have lots of big buildings with expensive lights, and layers and layers of bureaucracy to finance, but don’t do it all on the back of a simple little XML utility.