Spiceworks was founded on the idea that network administrators would embrace easy-to-use management tools. Giving those tools away was an afterthought, but one that has forced people to rethink long-held assumptions about software distribution and licensing.
Spiceworks makes money by placing ads in IT Desktop's user interface. Abel won't say exactly how much, but revenue has soared 900% in the past 12 months, while Spiceworks' user base as climbed above 200,000.
A software veteran--eight years as a developer, a stint with Apollo Computer, and seven years at NeXT--Abel admits the ad-supported model wasn't in the original plan. He and co-founders Jay Hallberg, Greg Kattawar, and Francis Sullivan set out to create tools for overworked, underserved IT administrators. Giving the software away removed any chance of being undercut on price.
Spiceworks' advertisers are an industry Who's Who: Hewlett-Packard, McAfee, Microsoft, Netgear, Symantec, and a dozen others.
Where else in business software will the ad-supported model work? It's a question Abel gets asked regularly. Two keys are that users spend time with the application and have IT purchasing power. "This is a depth-of-relationship type product," he says.
More than anything, the technology has to be good. Spiceworks has had eight software releases since the middle of last year, including last week's release of IT Desktop 2.0. Says Abel, "This model will not work if people don't love the software."
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