A chat with Browsium founder Matt Heller about IE6 on Win7 (and how we got into this whole mess)

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Everyone knows that Internet Explorer 6 is still causing headaches for IT Pros everywhere. It was so new and radical when it came out with Windows XP ten years ago, and many companies scrambled to rewrite their apps to support it.

Everyone knows that Internet Explorer 6 is still causing headaches for IT Pros everywhere. It was so new and radical when it came out with Windows XP ten years ago, and many companies scrambled to rewrite their apps to support it. Unfortunately the world quickly realized that IE6 had a bunch of fundamental security flaws, but by this point it was too late. There were tons of web applications that would only run in IE6.

And this still persists today. If you have apps that require IE6, you only have a few choices: You can keep your users on Windows XP with that ten year old browser, you can install Windows XP with IE6 in a VM, or you can virtualize IE6 and deliver it via something like ThinApp or App-V (although this is technically against Microsoft's licensing rules). Now there's a fourth option, thanks to a company called Browsium.

Browsium is an Internet Explorer plug-in that allows individual tabs within IE to use different rendering engines and browser settings. (Tim Mangan first wrote about them on BrianMadden.com about nine months ago.) So you can have IE9 on Windows 7, but with a rule that says, "Use the IE6 rendering engine when visiting this site, or use Java 1.4 instead of Java 1.6 when visiting that site." Browsium is not application virtualization, rather, it takes the original DLLs from Microsoft and bundles them into a plugin for IE.

I had a chance to sit down today with Browsium founder and CEO Matt Heller. Matt explained how Browsium works and how the company got started. And he explained their long term vision--a world where the browser and the rendering engine are 100% separate. So if you want to use Google Chrome, but your company needs you to use IE, that won't be a problem. You can use Chrome with IE's rendering.

Of course I'm skipping most of the detail that we talked about, so if you're interested, click the play button in the audio player above, or download the MP3 of the interview via our RSS feed.


Brian: So this is Brian Madden.  I’m sitting in San Francisco office, and I’ve got Matt Heller here.

Matt: Howdy.

Brian: Hey, thanks for coming.  You’re from D.C.?

Matt: Yeah.  Born and raised, a strange combo there in D.C., most people tend to migrate in politically.

Brian: And you are CEO of a company called –

Matt: Browsium.

Brian: Browsium.  And most people know you – know Browsium as a company that makes IE6 apps work on non-IE6 platforms.

Matt: Yeah, we are designed to help companies migrate away from a legacy app platform need to a latest, greatest browser, and do that in a native way right on the OS, no virtualization, tab by tab selections.  It’s a completely seamless process.  

Brian: And so your software is sold to – it’s a software company, you sell it to end-user customers who maybe have some IE6 applications.

Matt: Yeah, and actually that’s a great couple of questions all tied into one.  So our typical customers – when I started this – little bit of backstory – I spent about seven, eight years working essentially as a subject matter expert on browser space for Microsoft, and working with all their customers.  And so I was seeing the need for this type of product and some other things that were going to be coming out with that weren’t coming down the pike there, so I started the company, and then that’s what Browsium was initially kicked off for, really thinking our target companies were going to be the five to fifty-thousand seat large enterprises.  What’s really been interesting is the number of hundred, two hundred thousand person companies that are out there, the loads of doctors’ smaller businesses that are stuck on these legacy applications.  So their problem set is really the same as the large enterprise, and really what that is at the end of the day is they’ve got these legacy applications.  

Ten years ago they invested in some infrastructure, some software application whether it’s billing or client management stuff, and they built an entire platform on it with the premise from Microsoft that the web is the future and IE6 is the platform, and ninety something percent of the market on IE6 at the time, everybody believed that was the way to go.  This was back in the days of active desktop and all that greatness that is now seen to be either a security problem or just very, very limited and closed architecture.  And so as people have tried to move forward, they’ve just stumbled through it.  So they look at going to either a later version of IE, they look at going a different browser – Chrome or Firefox – and there’s just a lot of incompatibility issues, and so we’re trying to give them the ability to mix and match what they want to do, move forward, and really get the best in class for the application they need as opposed to having to deal with the lowest common denominator of here’s a browser with a set of requirements across the entire platform of the browser.

Brian: Oh, so like if there was a website written for IE6, it really needs IE6 for it to function 100 percent?

Matt: Right, and absolutely, there are websites out there that were either written for IE6 or written for more often not the security model of IE6 which was an insecure model.

Brian: What is that – what do you mean secure, what’s different about the browser?

Matt: With IE6 there weren’t limitations about reading and writing from the file system, there weren’t limitations because the threats weren’t there, it wasn’t short-sided view –

Brian: Yeah, we didn’t know any better.

Matt: Right, exactly.  

Brian: Blissfully ignorant.

Matt: Yeah.  And it was great because from a developer standpoint – not a web developer as we think of them today, but an app developer, they go, “Oh, yeah, I can move my stuff from this heavy client window stuff, I can put it in the web, it’s much more serviceable, I can still read and write to the file system, I can still do all the stuff that I would normally do, get access to system values and system properties that we could do before, but I can totally do on the web and it’s a great thing, I can build ActiveX controls and I can have com objects that I can call and really have the full power of Windows at the same time that I’ve migrated to this great new web platform.

Brian: And we didn’t realize that letting anyone arbitrarily run code on our computer, which is what you did when you went to a website with IE6 – 

Matt: Yeah.

Brian: We didn’t realize that might be bad.

Matt: Right.  The idea then was, “Hey, it’s all goodness and you can do cool things.”  The interesting balance that when why I’d never want to make a browser from the ground up, you can’t build a browser for consumers and build a browser that works equally well for businesses.  They’re diametrically opposed and always will be.  And so as a browser vendor, there’s an untenable problem of trying to balance that, and that’s actually what I think we solve best for everybody, is taking essentially a consumer product and putting the controls and the mechanisms in place to equip it for businesses, and Internet Explorer has lots of group policy management, you can really control it, and that’s why it’s a preferred browser in the enterprise space, not just because it comes with Windows, but it is controllable, and so what we’re trying to do is wrap that type of control at a very granular level then tie it to an application and say, “Here’s my application, here’s what I need, and this is what I want the environment to be like, so I can manage the security, I can manage the features and I don’t have to worry about any of this other stuff that’s evolving and could potentially cause harm later on.”  

Brian: Now, can we back up for a sec?  Like, how did this happen?  So I follow what you’re saying about how Microsoft pushed the web, they used IE6 as a way to do that, because they basically said, “Hey, now you can do everything you can do in fat apps on the web,” so that’s how we got there, and then with IE7 and beyond, they were like, “Oh, shit, that was actually really bad,” so they stopped that, but now it’s like the smoke was out of the bottle already and people had apps for IE6 and –

Matt: Yeah.  That’s exactly what it was, there was an initial design with IE6 and after – it’s hard to go back to 2001 and that time period and really think about what life was like at Microsoft, what life was like outside.  You know, Netscape was not really a player.  They were trying to make inroads, but part of the introduction of IE6 and all those other issues really left Microsoft in a really commanding position to dictate what that market was.

Brian: Were you at Microsoft at this point, by the way?

Matt: No, no, I was running a search marketing company.

Brian: This was not you that was personally doing this at Microsoft?

Matt: No, I was on the total other side of the world building consumer websites.

Brian: Okay.  

Matt: And powering the goodness of marketing.  And so as things started to evolve, get to 2003, 2004 and alternative browsers really had viability and they’re offering good stuff and they’re moving forward, and Microsoft has not orphaned the IE6 platform, but they really kind of said, “Hey, we innovated, we got IE6 out there,” and they were sitting on top of the hill, and they really dealing with a lot of other big problems.  XP SP2 did a great job of locking down system-level stuff in XP that were security problems, so there was a lot of focus – that was a very sort of dark time at Microsoft I believe.

Brian: Were you there then or no?

Matt: No, I came after the release of XP SP2, and to try to help bolster the security image.  I had spent a bunch of years running a security consulting company and so it was really about to try to help tell the story of, “Hey, things were bad in the past, yes, absolutely you’re right, but here’s all the goodness, here’s how we’re locking things down, here’s how we’re ratcheting things up.”  And the story was real and the picture was true, but what started to also happen was that as you – some people say that XP SP2 actually broke the web, and that’s a commitment Microsoft has tried to make again and again to not break the web, but it’s a hard problem.  They ratchet up security, you break compatibility, and it’s always this position piece, and that was part of the challenge there, and I think one of the reasons that people got frustrated in addition to IE6 not evolving technologically into adopting new features, but there was this whole sort of security comp ability problem so other browsers were able to get a foothold in, and they were good products, and that was a big part of that, is that they could launch into it.

Brian: Especially maybe do you think that the other browsers were more geared towards consumers, so they didn’t – like, me, as an end-user, they could say it was Firefox at the time, or Mozilla, or whatever, they say Mozilla comes out and look at this as all secure and maybe that security would break a lot of enterprise applications who were relying on it not being secure, but I didn’t know that, so they got this foothold, forty percent overnight or whatever, in the consumer space of people that didn’t care about –

Matt: Yeah, they definitely came in – and sure, look at Mozilla Firefox, it’s a weird curve on the transition there between as to how they evolved into that – but they came in and initially it was the influential and the tech folks that were very sort of fed up with the IE6 problem and Microsoft, and were almost looking for anything else that was viable.  And it was good, and so they not only wanted it, but then they stood up on the mountaintops and spouted the virtues of it, and got a lot of consumer adoption, and it really was a good, viable product, and Microsoft definitely stood up and too notice and said, “Hey, wait, there were problems with IE6, and let’s go back to the drawing board,” and that was kind of when I started working with them, and it was very attractive to me because they were passionate about this. The problems in IE6, we’re not going to repeat those, we’re going to move to a more standards approach, and that was the goal of IE7.  So IE7 broke the web again for a lot of people because the stuff that was designed for IE6 didn’t really work.  And IE7 also came out at a time when Vista was delayed and delayed but coming, and there wasn’t a drive in the enterprise space to adopt IE7, so the problems of IE7 never really exposed the IE6 problem, and there were definitely companies – and we’ll get to that later – that actually did go to IE7 and now they’re dealing with the IE7 problem.

Brian: Oh, it’s the same thing?

Matt: It’s the same thing, and we’ll talk about how it really is, regardless of IE, Firefox, Chrome, whatever it is – but the evolution then beyond IE7 into IE8 and Microsoft saying, “You know, IE7 was somewhat standards compliant, but certainly more so than IE6.”  IE8, really, we’re starting with full CSS2 compliance, we’re really going to make this a standards browser, and it’s going to be faster, it’s going to be secure and really drive to the competitive threat they’re getting.  At the time, really, Firefox and just starting to come up with Chrome, and you know, IE8 is a couple of years out, you have an IE9 that’s coming up on six months roughly, you know, fully standards complaint.  They’ve really shifted completely away, if you amusingly think about it, IE6 is non-standards compliant; you flip that over, you get a nine and you get a fully standards compliant browser.  So you know, it would be interesting if they would rotate the IE logo as a result, but they won’t.  And it’s really a great product, but every time they move forward and rectify the problems of the past in terms of the rendering engine and the compatibility, they distance themselves further and further from IE6, so I mentioned before IE7 and Vista weren’t a driver for the business enterprise to do this.  

Now you look at Windows 7 which ships with IE8 but you can put IE9 on there as well.  There’s a reason to move forward.  There’s also a very big ticking clock of the end of life of XP.  It’s still 2014, little less than 1,000 days, but it’s not a long time in corporate life.  And so they need to be moving on it now, and Microsoft has historically offered custom support agreements to companies and there are people I know out there in companies and in the world paying millions of dollars every year to keep custom support agreements for Windows NT.  They don’t want to move off NT, it works, let’s leave it.  And we’re starting to hear from Microsoft that, no, that’s not the case in Windows XP, which from a technological standpoint, it’s absolutely the right thing to do because if you let people pay for it, then they’ll consume it.  But that’s not good for Microsoft’s business.  The problem is businesses need something out there, so we’re trying to, from a browser standpoint, enable that so you can still keep that compatibility, you can still do it, but we’re locking it away to where you need it and enable you to move forward and giving them that balance.

Brian: So before we get into Browsium, you can we are doing that, like, Browsium?

Matt: Browsium, yeah.

Brian: So before we get into Browsium, what’s Microsoft’s sort of official PR public – what are they telling people to do about IE6?

Matt: So they have the IE6 countdown site, they’re trying to –

Brian: Does IE6 expire on the same day as XP?

Matt: Yeah.  I think it’s April 8th, 2014.

Brian: April 8th, yeah.

Matt: And actually, that’s not even true, because there’s a version of IE6 – not the same one – that ships in Server 2003 which end of life’s shortly after XP, and so that’s part of the answer, so it’s important to know that.

Brian: Terminal server in 2003, right, with IE6?

Matt: Right, and so what Microsoft is saying, they published some guidance, but there’s really – there’s a short hard and fast answer that comes out from an engineering perspective, the right thing to do, re-write your apps from scratch, take them down to the bare metal, and re-write them.  The problem is, it’s going to take you millions of dollars, years to do it, and at the end of it, you’re exactly where you were today in terms of functionality and you’ve spent all that time, you’ve lost this, that, and the other.  If you talk about, say, “Well, great, if we’re going to re-write it, let’s just go ahead and replace it.”  Well, that’s a five year, more millions of dollars, and you don’t have that time.  So companies that are looking at solutions –

Brian: So is Microsoft saying, like, Med-V or XP Mode?

Matt: So XP Mode’s good for lawyers and doctors I was talking about before because it’s not manageable.  It’s a virtual system, right there on your local machine, system resource problem, but it’s not an enterprise solution.  Med-V is the enterprise version of that, so it’s manageable, but it’s hugely cost intensive and resource intensive.

Brian: And website here and there.

Matt: Right.  So you have that or you have terminal services, but all of those have the same end of life.  You’re not really solving the problem, you’re just shifting the deck chairs.

Brian: Right.  That’s a good point.  So it would be the same thing.  I guess you can’t put it in App-V because then –

Matt: Right, well App-V and virtualization are prohibited by Microsoft.  So you can’t use App-V, you can’t use –

Brian: But they’re doing it though, right?  That’s in place of – so you recognize that you are poking the beehive?

Matt: Yeah, that’s one of our sort of core principals is that we’re running native code, we’re not virtualizing, so we’re not trying to be very clear about that.  But you know, our recommendation and when we work with customers as well is if you don’t need the IE6 engine, don’t use it.  A lot of times the problems that we run into – and sort of shifting the conversation a little bit – the problems aren’t the need of the IE6 rendering engine and Java script engine, it’s those security settings we were talking about, the design of the web back then had no security parameters back to it, and today’s browsers do, so in order to turn off those security features, you open up your system again.  That’s a bad idea.  We enable you to tweak those security parameters per tab and it’s a rule based system, so you can say, “When I go to this website, I want the system to look like this, and my tab right next to it that I’m going to Twitter or Facebook or some other extranet site that’s using HTML5, that ought to be locked down and secured and I need that.”  

Brian: So before we get into Browsium too much, cause you’re talking about what Browsium can do – so we have this landscape, Microsoft kind of over corrects almost, they go their direction with getting into IE9, but you’re at Microsoft throughout IE6, seven, eight, nine?

Matt: Into nine, yeah.

Brian: So what are you doing?  So you’re at Microsoft and you leave to do this, or –

Matt: Yeah, so it was – there’s a sort of ramp up to IE9 and the team that I was working with had shifted around a little bit, brought in some new people to really integrate the business, and great, great people, know a lot about what they’re doing, bringing in different perspectives, and as we’re sort of putting all this together, looking at things and trying to figure out what my role’s going to be and it wasn’t clear that what I wanted to do next was something that was going to match very well with them, and I just saw that there was a need for what we were doing and I could definitely see with the Microsoft business, they couldn’t go in the direction that I thought would be a great way to go for companies, just that wouldn’t match very well with their long-term plans.  So I had this idea, sketched it down on a napkin and put it all together, and actually our CTO who was also at Microsoft for a while on the IE engineering team was writing the book on IE development and I met up with him in, and so the story goes, in Portland, he was working on it, and I brought him a bacon donut from Voodoo Donuts and that was the kicker for him.  The idea was intriguing and challenging, but the bacon donut was the key.  And so that’s where we owe our premise.  And so once we got to that, it was very clear, and started the company literally the next day.

Brian: And to build a company that helps people deal with all these incompatibilities of different websites and different web browsers.

Matt: Yeah, and our genesis in the first product and really getting –

Brian: When is this?  

Matt: This is May/June of 2010.  

Brian: So a year and a half ago?

Matt: Year and a half ago, yeah.  And we have – the company was official formed in July of 2010.  The genesis of what we wanted to do was focus around the IE6 who had problems.  We knew there was an IE7, IE8, IE9 compat problem, Firefox compat problem, we know those are out there, but it’s very hard to get people to pay attention to something they don’t see today, so we can deal with the acute pain problem and show people what it’s about.  Then there’s – as we move forward, there’s a lot of other ideas about what is missing today in enterprise support and management tools in the browser space, and we’ll get to those as we go out through the next year.  We’ve got a bunch of stuff in Alpha and some peripheral concept pieces that we think are very, very cool, and as we talk to people about them, they really get excited for what we’ve got.  

Brian: Yeah, so let’s dig into Browsium itself now.  Browsium is the company and the product is called –

Matt: The first product is called UniBrowse.  We tried to go with the play on things, and a little bit about why Browsium, obviously it’s the browsers and the –ium is an interesting ending, but I grew up with two Ph.D. chemistry parents, so it’s always – chemistry and science has always been in our sort of DNA at home, and so it just made sense to me, and I try to use that as a theme throughout things.  And so in our logos are chemical symbols and structures are part of the – DNA structure is part of the logo.  So it’s part of us to be in that.

Brian: So you take the DNA of IE6 and – 

Matt: And mix and match it, exactly.  We are the Watson and Crick of the browser space if you want to think about it.

Brian: I’ll pretend I know what that means.  And so okay, so Browsium – so Unibrowse is the product.

Matt: Yeah.

Brian: And a lot of people who are kind of familiar – I’m kind of vaguely familiar with it – it makes it so that IE can have certain tabs – I can have IE9 installed, but certain tabs behave like IE6?

Matt: Yeah.  

Brian: Even though I don’t really have IE6 installed.

Matt: Correct.  So you have to think back to the abstracted view of what Unibrowse really does, is it lets you take any browser, rendering engine, JavaScript engine, in any settings and put that in a tab in IE.  We’ll get to other browsers later on in our product life, but you can take – you have an application that needs the IE6 engine, certain security settings, certain group policy settings, you need system environment variables that have changed from XP to Windows 7, 64 bit to 32 bit, any of that.

Brian: This version of Java and this.

Matt: Exactly.  And you get to the add-on model is really where it gets super interesting for companies because many times they’re stuck with we’ve got really old Java stuff and we can’t re-compile it under the newest version of Java because we don’t have source code or it doesn’t work, depreciated features, stuff like that –

Brian: And you can’t have two versions of Java installed side-by-side on a regular computer, right?

Matt: Well, you could, it just – IEs design is to call Java, and when it calls Java, it calls the most recent version that’s installed, and so to get it to call the older versions requires a bunch of code changing, if you can do that, and many times they don’t have access to it.  Or it just becomes impossible to really make that happen.  And so we’re able to provide a buffer in the way that we call Java, and say, “Okay, you want to call this older version, so we’ll interrupt that call and load the proper one for you.”  And whether it’s Java or some Siebel controls like Oracle owning every ERP system on the planet, we see all those all the time with Hyperion and SAP and Oracle, Siebel, and there’s very specific things that they need.  We see a lot of custom applications where they’ve written stuff in-house, customized stuff in-house, and we need to call it in a certain way in order to make it work.

Brian: And I can set, as an administrator using Browsium, I can configure all sorts of things.  So I can do, like, regular expression to website URL if you’re on this, if you see this thing in a website, render with this browser engine instead.  You see this thing in a website and render with this browser engine instead.  Or if it calls this version of Java, really replace with this version of Java, or if it’s trying to do this –

Matt: Yeah, our system is based – at its nuclear level, the science theme – the browser and rendering engine, and then we wrap that and call that a profile, so we take the engine itself, and all the settings, we call that a profile, and then profiles are triggered by rules, and so rules can be as simple as if it contains this word, or it can be exact matching, expressions, all kinds of unique parameters to do rule matching, but it’s essentially an opt-in system for that reason, so if something doesn’t match – and this is where it’s a very secure system – if something doesn’t match, it just doesn’t happen, and we’ll pass through down to the install browser, be it IE8 or IE9, and the administrator will configure that profile, go ahead and say, “I need this version of Java, I need these settings, I need this rendering engine,” and it triggers based on this rule or this priority, and they save that out, we apply rules through group policy, you can do local file system stuff if you want to do flat file deployment.  We are – I strongly believe in being very, very light touch.  I believe this compatibility problem is a browser problem, we want to solve it at the browser level.  There’s no server infrastructure, there’s no administrative overhead, it’s a client software that runs on the administrator side to set the configuration, and it’s a browser helper project that you install on the client and then it reads the rules and the policies from the group policy settings.  And so it’s very, very easy to install, configure, and deploy, and it doesn’t require this massive overhead and administrative burden.

Brian: And then so how does it actually work?  Did you write your own browser?

Matt: We didn’t write our own browser, and part of that’s an important call.  You know, we are using the original .dlls and we’re running all native stuff on Windows 7.  

Brian: Do I have those?  Like, if I’m buying a Unibrowse product and install it, you’re putting .dlls in my system from IE6?

Matt: Right.  So when the administrator starts up with Unibrowse, there’s a preparation tool, and so that preparation tool – we’ll talk a little bit more about our version two solution – but in the version one that’s shipping today, you download them one by one or version two we’ve optimized that a little bit, but you – it reaches out to the Microsoft download center, we get the files that are needed directly from Microsoft –

Brian: So you can’t distribute Microsoft .dlls or whatever?

Matt: Right, but between not being able to distribute them but also wanting to make sure that A, they’re legitimate – you shouldn’t – I mean, I think everyone should trust us, but you shouldn’t trust anybody to give you .dlls that aren’t theirs – so you get them directly from Microsoft.  They’re official and they’re real.  And also, that way, they’re the right version and they’re up to date, and so if Microsoft does update stuff on a regular basis even though IE6 is very old, if there’s something there, we can make sure that it’s pulled up.  That then gets bundled together on your system as part of the client setup package and gets put down.

Brian: And so these – you mentioned earlier something that this was legal because it wasn’t virtulizing anything?

Matt: Right.

Brian: So what’s that mean?

Matt: So Microsoft has been very clear on their website and in customer guidance of the issues around IE6 compatibility, you can’t virtualize IE or parts of the operating system without having the entire operating system, that’s why Med-V’s okay –

Brian: And why is that?  Like, they’re just being dicks, right?

Matt: Well, they’re doing it because if you try to pull out – this kind of gets back to the history in 2001 – IE was part of the operating system, and one of the changes that came into XP SP2 as an example was separating Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, because they used to actually be –

Brian: Is that like that Department of Justice thing that they had, or is that something else?

Matt: That is that, yeah.  And without opening that whole can of things – so as they start to remove IE from being tied into the operating system, there’s still a lot of hooks.  Now, the business strategy issues and legal stuff aside, as a developer it’s great because you can build through the platform, and you know you’ve got a rendering engine, you know you’ve got all these resources without having to plug them in yourself.  So there’s a lot of value to that.  But when you start to extract those, you obviously can cause some problems, and that’s where Microsoft’s concern is, and what happens when you virtualize that, because many of the virtualization solutions are trying to just take the core components that they need of the operating system and they’re sitting in the middle of a lot of calls, and that can cause some instability.  And I totally get that.  So from our standpoint, because we’re just running those .dlls on your current system and on your legitimate real system, not virtual system, those calls are arbited by Windows 7, and we’re dealing with the real operating system that you’ve got.  We also have an approach that because of the way that we are parking – I don’t want to say parking – off  to the side of the other components, it doesn’t ever change or impact the core Windows systems, we don’t cause any instability, we’re a browser helper object that’s sitting in the middle of those transactions just like an EBay toolbar or any others, so turning us off too is very easy.  We haven’t reached in and changed anything.

Brian: But you don’t literally replace .dlls or anything like that –

Matt: Correct.

Brian: And if – what’s it called – like the rule set or the policy for a certain website is not there to make it use the Browsium .dlls or product or whatever, then it’s just going to be native IE, whatever you have.

Matt: Exactly.  And it’s – we’re also – we’re looking at the problem and solving it in a very different way that virtualization.  Virtualization is just saying, “Hey, let’s take that system and just stand it up right next to it,” and we’re really integrating it, so there’s a lot of other important distinctions between why a virtualization approach could be bad.  There’s – I don’t want to answer for Microsoft as to why they’re doing that, but I could see some valid business reasons that they wouldn’t want to rip components out in the way that virtualization is doing and put it in.  If nothing else, they’re extracting a layer between Microsoft and the product, and our approach has always been it’s completely part of the browser, so we’re completely embedded into the Microsoft stack and we’re not extracting and trying to have a Browsium layer that’s out there, so we’re not competing with Microsoft, we’re trying to enable them. 

Brian: Which also means, like you says, it’s just a tab.  It’s a tab by tab basis, so it’s not like I have Browser A for IE6 stuff and Browser B for anything else.

Matt: Right.

Brian: So literally, like, your bookmarks are the same across all browsers –

Matt: Bookmarks, cookies, session data, so I mean, one of the cool things that we’ve done in our 1.0 and are adding some, I think, very cool approaches to how we’re going to solve that in 2.0 – if from the session management standpoint, we’ll be able to share information between an IE6, IE8, IE9 tabs back and forth.  You know, you mentioned with virtualization you have browser A for one thing and browser B for everything else.  What we actually see is that it’s Browser A for Application A, Browser B which has a very different environment for Application B.  And we ran into one company where they had nine virtualized browsers plus the host browser.  So you know, just imagine how hard it is to do your job every day when, “Oh, wait, hang on, I’m in the wrong browser, I have to switch back, it’s not going to work.”  Even with redirection, that’s just massive system overload.

Brian: And it’s a redirect, redirect back, click on a link from the next – yeah, I saw a blog post on Quest Software talking about how they were doing that different browser versions and virtual packages, and they had bi-direction, redirection, and it just seemed like a giant cluster fuck.

Matt: And yeah, so from our standpoint, we redirect, but we redirect because we’re evaluating URLs as you’re clicking on them.  So we’re not redirecting in that we’re switching you between environments, we’re just directing the traffic in that when I click on this link, I’m going to render it using sort of our process or we’re just going to pass it through and let IE render it.  There isn’t a context switch for the user, they just – like you click on a link today in your browser, and then the next page loads, it’s exactly the same way.

Brian: So you mentioned a couple of times that your browser helper object.  I’m not a developer, so is that like a plugin?  

Matt: Yeah, it’s like an add-on.  The most common types of browser helper objects are toolbars and things like that.  We’re just not showing our toolbar, if you want to think about it that way.  It lets us be part of the IE stack and reach in and look at pages.  It’s – my developers are going to kill me for using this kind of context, but I think it visualizes well – if you think about Skype, Skype’s got a toolbar, and they look at the page, and any phone number they’ll put their little buzzer there, and so we sort of have the same type of capabilities, we can look at what’s going on whether it’s in page or –

Brian: Right, so it has this call with CSS and you know in your native browser that renders something invisible so you can intercept that and route it through this other .dll and –

Matt: Yeah, and –

Brian: Or is it more the site level?

Matt: It’s more – we deal with it at the site level.  We’re looking at the navigation request, so if you click on a link, IE will then say, “Okay, I need to get this URL,” and before it hands it off to the WinINet stack and translation and all that stuff, we’re going to look at it and say, “Is this something we should be taking over for or not?”  And if it is, we’ll tell IE, “Okay, we got it, you just sit there for a minute.  We’ll render it and we’ll project our rendering into the tab”

Brian: Okay, so you’re not line by line by line, HTML, Java, CSS, fixing things, rather you’re just saying that this URL, the admin has set this URL, I need to make render with this – with this profile –

Matt: Correct.  We talked about that as we started looking at other products too and looked at what either could be thought of as the assessment space, the app DNA which is now part of Citrix, change-based which is now part of Quest – and even Microsoft has their own tool.  That problem is so hard to solve, because the variables of it are untenable.  I mean, you just – 

Brian: Well, look at the people trying to create wine or something like that.  It would be as hard as that.

Matt: Yeah, and every – I mean, just looking at IE6 as an example, you know, because it was non-standard, there are 15 different ways a menuing system could break between CSS elements depending on if you structure it with divs or tables, or tables inside of divs or divs inside of tables.  And if you use hover, if you use overflow, so we’ve got a bunch of examples on our demo website, and you know, the AppDNA base change guys are very, very smart guys, we work with them a lot, and we’ve known them for a long time, but their tools can’t detect a bunch of this stuff that we’ve got on our demo site because it’s just –

Brian: You’re running your own browser at that point if you’re trying to fix all of that stuff.

Matt: Well, and the other problem you’ve got is not only are you running your own browser, but every page is going to take 15 minutes to load, because you’ve got to think through this entire tree, and you know, it’s easy enough for a very qualified IE developer or a guy who literally developed on the IE team - and years ago I, with Microsoft, wrote a document on how to debug problems like the IE team – so it’s easy enough to triage and troubleshoot that down and say, “Okay, here’s the problem,” but if that takes 15 to 20 minutes for a guy who knows exactly what’s broken, think of the number of cases out there that are variations on that.

Brian: So at this point, you’re like, “You know what man, I don’t even care what the problem is.  I know it works on IE6 or it works on IE7 with Java, so bam, we’re giving you this environment.”

Matt: And that’s, as a business person, that’s what I look at and say, “That’s the right answer.  I don’t need to solve something that works today because I have other business problems to solve.  I want to move my platform forward.”  What I also think we enable is the ability to say, “Great, I’m not hung up anymore that I need to have the lowest common denominator for that ERP system because I want to adopt SharePoint 2010, which doesn’t work on IE6,” and I want to go in a different way.  You know, we’re giving you the ability to become platform agnostic at a browser level and not get caught up in the weeds.  From an engineering perspective, I absolutely believe the right thing to do is rewrite it, but that’s just the wrong thing for a business to waste their time on.  There’s no value add at all at the end of the day.  You just keep it running.  And I point back to those companies running Windows NT still today.  Why should their do that?  The core of their business could break, there’s too much risk.  Just leave it be and move forward.

Brian: So if you’re like – whenever Browsium comes up in conversation, the next question is, is it legal?

Matt: Right.

Brian: Is Microsoft gonna squash you, are you sort of putting the risk on the customers?

Matt: You know, it’s – we obviously have our view of it.  We’ve spent a long time working with our lawyers, we’ve had many, many communications with Microsoft, and we believe that what we’re doing is in compliance with both the letter and spirit of their recommendations.  Now, that all being said, our primary goal here is to move people off of IE6, which is really their goal too, and so when we can, we work with customers to not even need the IE6 pieces.  So it’s kind of a red herring, and as we evolve our process and as customers work more closely with us, we will do a proof of concept for our jumpstart program.  And we’ll show them, oftentimes very quickly of, “Hey, you know what, because we let you change the settings of the environment, you can actually use the IE7 rendering engine and it works.  But you need this setting.”  And to break off for a second, you know, I had mentioned before IE7 kind of broke the web and the IE6 pieces, so IE8 has compatibility view, IE9 has compatibility view, and you can change the rendering engine, JavaScript engine, but you still have the settings of the browser itself, so it’s great for lots of public websites where the compatibility view can solve all those problems, and we get this question a lot of, “So how is it different?  How is Browsium different than if we’re able to use the IE7 rendering and do it,” and it’s because we can bundle up those settings and configurations and put a little box around them to secure that and not change the entire configuration of your browser.  We can do that, and we’re educating customers and we’re influencing them that that’s actually the better way to do it.  Don’t keep the IE6 stuff around if you don’t need it.  What this is really about is web application compatibility.  It was an important talking point for us to get IE6 compatibility out there as what everybody would do to pay attention to us, but we’re not at all trying to say, “Just use the IE6 engine and park it off in the corner.”  If at all possible – and most of the time between our settings and the different rendering engines we can bring to the table – we’re able to solve problems without the IE6 engine.

Brian: Because presumably Microsoft is going to cut off access to those .dlls, right?  When those disappear from Microsoft.com, doesn’t that –

Matt: It’s possible, and that’s certainly a question to be dealt with down the road.  What we’re looking at is today Windows 2000, which is not only end of life, but clearly out of support and all the other pieces, you can still download – and there’s a company out there as their virtualization solution you download IE6 for Windows 2000, install it on Windows 2000, use Firefox with IE tab, and virtualize that.  

Brian: Oh, interesting.

Matt: So that’s sort of how they’re getting around the problem, but also it’s out there forever.  People know – I haven’t looked to see if there’s any Windows ME patches on download center, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Brian: DOS is still on MSDN, right?

Matt: Yeah, and there are valid reasons as to why.

Brian: Does – so getting back into the legal thing, has Microsoft ever gone after you guys or any of your customers?

Matt: No, Microsoft has – we’ve tried to work very, very closely with them at any point we can, and the request that they had very early on from us was don’t redistribute the .dlls, and part of that we talked about before, is them wanting to make sure that it’s the right stuff.  It’s – I don’t want to spend too much time on that, but we believe we’re doing things the proper way.  We’ve gone through this with customers before, and come out on the proper end of that.

Brian: So all this conversation – so you didn’t answer the question right?  Has Microsoft gone after any customer for using Browsium?

Matt: No, they’ve not, and you know, what we’ve talked to with our customers and what we’ve sort of been told is it’s really a question of support, and the concern that we have to make – that Microsoft has expressed – and not through lawyers – but that Microsoft has expressed to make clear to our customers is they don’t support our solution, and they don’t support it in that they don’t sell it, they don’t endorse it, but at the same time, they don’t’ provide technical support for it.  So if a customer’s running our solution and they have a problem with some site that’s running inside of our rendering process, then people call us, and we get that.  That’s why we have a support team.

Brian: Right.

Matt: If there’s something going on that makes their IE8 or IE9 installation unstable, our first recommendation, and Microsoft would tell them if they called their support team is, “Well, disable all your add-ons.”  And if there’s a problem there, then that’s Microsoft’s problem to worry about support for.  If it goes away when you disable our add-on, again, come back to us.  So we know that that’s where we need to stand up and support it.

Brian: To be honest, if I’ve got a problem with IE6 rendering, I probably want to call you anyway instead of calling someone at Microsoft.  Personally.

Matt: Right, I appreciate that.  And there’s an additional layer of complication in that, and we haven’t had this really happen with a customer yet, but we’re run through the scenario internally of something works natively in IE6 and doesn’t work in our process running inside of IE8 or IE9, and so a customer – we sort of simulate the idea that a customer calls and says, “This works,” and if it’s that it works in native IE6 and not us, that’s our problem, but if it doesn’t work in IE6 running natively on Windows XP, that’s Microsoft’s problem.  It’s a complicated scenario.  The bar at this point for Microsoft to fix a bug – not a security problem, but a bug in IE6 – I don’t –

Brian: It’s not happening.

Matt: I don’t think that it’s ever going to reach that level that they would say yes.  Even a security problem at this point in IE6 is a very high bar for them, and it should be because it’s a lot of work for them to go back and figure that out.

Brian: Now, so you kind of led into the next question that people ask about sort of the future of Browsium, the company, because I always thought of you as a company fixing IE6 issues in current, modern browsers, but it sounds like maybe that’s like, the biggest problem today, but it’s not like once – there’s a future, when all applications are fixed, right?  You don’t have IE6 issues anymore.

Matt: Correct.

Brian: Does Browsium still exist in that world?

Matt: Yes, absolutely, and we exist in the – in an iteration of our current product in that there’s the IE7 problem, the IE8, IE9 problem, the Firefox problem, the Chrome problem.  Even as recently as Friday we got a call from a major bank.  They had migrated to IE7 years ago – they actually went to Vista in ’97 – and God bless them – and they cannot move to Windows 7 and IE8 or IE9 because it breaks.  Even with compatibility view.  It’s environmental problems between those two platforms.  So they’re stuck there.  They’re not the only ones, and as people look at IE8 and IE9, compatibility view kind of touched on this before.  It solves some problems.  It’s really designed for layout and rendering pieces that are lightweight, Web 2.0 kind of things.

Brian: Like this menu should be behind something instead of –

Matt: Right, or those kinds of scenarios.  They’re not end-to-end applications that way.  I mean, Twitter’s what, two pages as a website, that’s really all they are.  They’re not a multi-page transactional site in that way, and it’s a totally different type of problem to solve.  You look at Firefox as a great example.  Their six week iteration cycle – I think they just released Firefox 8 – couple months ago there was a little bit of a blowup as to whether Firefox was good for enterprise or bad for enterprise, if they wanted to target the enterprise – and at the time when it happened, there was breaking changes between versions, but there was also just an issue of the end of life of product and if you’ve made your platform bed as an enterprise to say, “I’m going to standardize on this version of Firefox,” you can’t be running a browser that doesn’t get security updates.  And they can’t pivot to update their browser every six weeks.  They just can’t do that.  And so there’s another case where we’re trying to enable a solution for them, and we see something coming down the pike with Firefox of we’ll be able to build this secure zone around it and say this older application needs the older stuff, but you know, we can adapt to the newer.  And Chrome is very much in the same vein.  They’re going to have to deprecate features in order to move their platform forward.  That’s just their given from a technical standpoint.  And that’s also gonna change the add-on model and the extensibility pieces and points, and they need to be able to do that, but enterprise companies need to be able to know that they can make a bet that they can rely on for two years or three years, and that’s their cycle.

Brian: So your gift is the six week dev cycle of Chrome and Firefox, right?

Matt: Yeah, I mean it certainly is good for us, and it gives us a clearer story around that, because people can visualize that.  The related kind of story around the longer-term compatibility piece is what we’re trying to make people aware of and make sure that they understand we’re here to solve problems they don’t’ quite see yet.  We know the web from having run and built high-volume websites, but it’s also we understand the browser itself and what the browser can and can’t do and ways you can use the browser.

Brian: So your product, the Unibrowse product today is only for IE though, right?  

Matt: Right.

Brian: So the conversation about Firefox and Chrome is kind of the future direction of the company?

Matt: Yeah, and so in our labs we can put the Firefox engines and anything from – I think it’s 2.0; I think we chose not to do 1.0 only because it’s so old and so far off that it’s really unlikely.  And multiple versions of Chrome, and that’s –

Brian: Does Firefox live within Firefox and Chrome lives within Chrome?

Matt: We’re injecting all – injecting, again to use a scientific term – into IE, so at this point, we’re focused on IE because we see that as the places that businesses and enterprises are looking at today, as we look down our road map, it starts to become any browser and any browser, and you choose – although Google has sort of co-opted the term in a brand way – you choose the Chrome that you want, and you then say, from a rules standpoint, it doesn’t matter what browser I’m using, it needs to be this way.  The other sort of concept you’ve talked a bunch about is virtualization of IT, so we’re trying to look at ways of saying, of building solutions that say, “I don’t care what you’re using, I can set IT policy that regardless of which browser you’re using, it will force your system to use the browser that you need for my app.”

Brian: Oh, so you mean for the consumerization of IT?

Matt: Yeah.

Brian: Yeah, okay, so that was a question I was sort of wondering.  So it’s not, in that sense, it’s not like your client-agent is some gigantic super huge thing that only an admin has to install, so I could be non-affiliated, it’s like a BYO scenario, and you bring whatever device you want, because we know that you need whatever this – this version of Chrome with this version of Java, and whatever browser you happen to have, we’ll make it work.

Matt: Right.  And as long as –

Brian: And that’s the future, like, in the next months?

Matt: Yeah, it’s in the 2012 road mapping, and the min bar though is we need a plugin, so whether it’s an extension in Firefox or Chrome or an add-on in IE, we need some way of doing that, but once you’ve got that, the rest we can deal with.

Brian: Yeah, it’s easier to find all that stuff on their own anyway.

Matt: Yeah, exactly, and it’s packaged completely as an MSI or an XE, it’s very, very easy to give to someone on how you can make it a link on a site to install it, and they restart the browser and they’re good.  

Brian: How does different – isn’t there something like IE Tab or something like that, an Internet Explorer Tab inside Chrome, like an extension or in Firefox or something like that?

Matt: Yeah, and –

Brian: Is that the same thing as this?

Matt: What IE Tab is doing is letting you take – essentially it’s the web browser control – it’s the version that’s installed on the system, so if you’re running Windows 7 and use IE tab, you’ve got IE8 inside of Firefox or Chrome.

Brian: It’s like an iFrame almost inside, in a matter of speaking.

Matt: Yeah.  Exactly.  But it’s only the installed version of IE on the system and it’s all those settings.  So you can’t tweak it.

Brian: Okay.

Matt: And it’s a great solution for admins that never want to run IE, even see it in the Chrome UI and get it from there.  Now, the question you haven’t gotten to, so maybe I’m breaking into jail on this one, but I will.  There’s also the other question in terms of our longevity of, “Well, you know, everyone’s moving to standards, so you talk about the IE9 problem, the IE10 problem, it’s gonna go away because everybody’s gonna use standards.

Brian: I don’t believe that’ll happen.  Good luck with that.

Matt: Yeah, and then standards, one of the talks I give over and over and over with Microsoft, we use an example of a slide – and this is obviously more further along than you – there was an extract of part of the HTML spec, the HTML spec that talked about the box model, and it’s paragraphs and paragraphs of exactly how you calculate the left, the right, the top padding, all these pieces.  At the very end it says, “Or use your best approximation thereof.”  So here’s exactly the way the rules of the road are, or do your best.  And so it’s never gonna be there.  And then you – even just this morning Adobe announcing the closing of Flash Mobile and now there’s speculation of whether Flash Desktop will continue or not, everything.

Brian: What do you think on this?

Matt: You know, I think they will move away from it.  I think they’re going to have some very interesting tools to work with HTML5.  The question is are they going to build essentially a fourth video platform for the HTML5 standard?  And so all the sudden –

Brian: And what is the fourth?    What are the first three?

Matt: Now you’re stretching my knowledge.  

Brian: You mean like –

Matt: There’s the Ogg Vorbis kind of plug-in model, there’s MPEG4 and WebM.

Brian: Oh, like those things, okay.

Matt: Yeah.  And so who knows what they’ll do, but they may – they may have a great technical reason for why the others aren’t there.  But it’s not a standard.  And until it’s a standard and solidified – and it’s not scheduled to be closed for some years yet –

Brian: The HTML5 standard –

Matt: The HTML5 spec, and it’s gonna change and things are gonna get tweaked and deprecated.  You know, Microsoft got some really good ideas on security ideas, security options, and then Chrome comes and says, “Yeah, but in this scenario,” and they work together and they hammer that out, but meanwhile with a six week iteration cycle, Firefox has implemented four different ways of doing it, Chrome has done the same thing, and IE and their IE10 – it was IE9 and now it’s 10 – platform preview and developer previews, they’re moving very quickly as well, so you’re still going to be suffering from that challenge, and from our standpoint, again, we want to give you the ability to lock and configure an environment at a set point in time, and choose your browser and in the end, when we’ve got all these pieces together, choose the browser you like because of the features.  Don’t worry about the rendering part, don’t worry about compatibility, until all the browser vendors in the world agree to use the same rendering engine and JavaScript engine, it’s not gonna – there’s always gonna be problems.

Brian: So it’s BYOB, but Bring Your Own Browser.

Matt: Right.

Brian: And it’s truly – if you’re hot on Chrome Sync and you want that –

Matt: Yeah, and that’s I think really where the browser render should be competing, is on the features, not on the rendering stuff, because it’s –

Brian: Poke my eye out.

Matt: Right.  My mother always has the expression, “The problem with a pissing contest is everybody’s feet get wet.”  And that’s sort of where I kind of feel like they are, at the rendering engine level, you’re just – the best you can do when you compete against the other guy is get exactly the same experience?  That’s a lot of money and time and smart people that could be doing really cool stuff feature-wise, or spec-wise, and contributing to a standardized real single rendering engine.

Brian: Is there any possibility for what you do to work across platforms like on Chrome for Mac versus –

Matt: There is.  There is.  And where that starts to get interesting is when we not only look at the Mac but start to look at mobile and these other pieces.  Now, the challenge is you really pull the rug out every single time you change the platform, and so we’re trying to lock down what we do today on Windows and then be smart enough to say, “Okay, we get the model and people get our model.  Let’s go ahead and do the others.”  We’ve got some ideas around how we could do things on the Mac and mobile space –

Brian: And it’ll be cool because I guess IE10 or 11, whatever is next, for Windows 8 will have a Metro UI, and so its touch-based, so now you can have – you can deliver that touch-based interface to an iOS via RDP or whatever, and then put your Firefox and Chrome, assuming you guys have all that put together by that time.

Matt: Yeah, the challenge with – there’s an interesting question coming up that I think I know how Microsoft’s going to answer.  I don’t necessarily think it’s the right answer, but it’s an appropriate answer.  That they really – there’s two versions of IE10 in Windows 8.  There’s the Metro UI version and the client version.  And the Metro UI version has no plug-in model.  They –

Brian: Oh, that’s right.  I forgot about that.

Matt: So that will be a big problem.  But it’s also I think gonna cause just a tremendous amount of headache for business applications, because there’s no value to it then because you know, if Siebel –

Brian: Is there any value to touching your web browser with your fingers anyway, for business?

Matt: Sure.  You know, I haven’t seen the compelling scenario.  I might, again, get in trouble, not jail this one, but just piss a bunch of people off.  Going back to all that time at Microsoft, I was a Windows phone at Windows Mobile back then, a person.  And you’re using a little stylus and you’ve got a start menu and they try to port the Windows client desktop environment to this teeny tiny little thing, and you know, I’ve got Office there, and yes, it’s the same kind to methodology, but I just look at trying to put Windows 8 and I’ll quickly go from a Metro UI to the – you’re using Office – I’m not going to use my fingers to use Office.  It’s hard enough – I’m a huge iPad fan for simple stuff, and lots of email, things like that.  My wife’s actually a romance writer, and she doesn’t take a laptop anywhere anymore.  She’s got a Bluetooth keyboard and uses her iPad and it’s great.  But it’s good for her to just pound out manuscript material.  But when she has the really heavy lifting work of editing and story plotting, all that stuff, she’s got to use a real computer, and it’s just the same thing.  You can’t use that kind of touch interface for real work, so when people are trying to do just emails on the plane or at their desk, it’s a simple email to bang out, sure, you can use a touch interface.  But when you have a guy trying to do a multi-dimensional cube in Hyperion with Excel and back ended SQL, no.  I just don’t see how that works.  And so that’s just one layer of problems.  There’s a bunch of other business model questions that we’ve got around, you know, how they break into the tablet model and how do you price a tablet when you have Windows Client costing a hundred and seventy dollars versus free and that’s a whole different problem, but you’re just talking about the use case of things.  

Brian: So does – so that’s kind of some of the thoughts about where you guys are going as far as an organization.  I guess the bottom line is that I can sort of say that when – so if you’ve got issues with web pages not working right, different versions of browsers, all of that, that’s kind of – that’s your wheelhouse?

Matt: Yes, absolutely.

Brian: Did people not buy this?  Like, do you show it to people and then they say, “No, thanks,” and why do they choose –

Matt: We like to say to people – and it’s actually really true, so we should say it – we bat a thousand when we show the product.  I mean, it just – it’s simple, it’s the right logical way to solve the problem.  The frequent comments are, “Wow, why didn’t Microsoft do this?”  “Oh, you guys totally get it.”  Those kinds of things.  Where the rubber meets the road is certainly the hard part.  I wish we had a magic solution that you just put it in and sort of like we were talking about before, we could identify the problems on the fly and know what to do.

Brian: Make the web work.

Matt: Yeah.  And you know, there is configuration that needs to happen, and it’s not hard, and we work with customers to get through it, but the – looking – I hate to pick on the Siebel people, but we see it a lot – there’s differences in minor updates in Siebel 7.5 for you know, update four to update six, and so we have to tweak a little bit on the configuration, so it’s not a code problem, it’s a configuration problem.

Brian: Are there forums and then who can download config files?  Are there forums on your site to talk about this?

Matt: We’ll get to that.  We started down the path of doing that and didn’t feel like we were providing enough value in there to do it, so it wasn’t an ongoing resource that we could direct people to today.  So right now that’s done through either our support team or through any of the partners we’ve got around the world that they can get access to that.

Brian: Are there trials so people who want to play with this –

Matt: Yup, just go to Browsium.com and there’s a link to get the eval kit, and that will let you download the software which will be the admin interface client, the preparation tool, and then also a 60 day license key so you can run that, and we’ve built it so that the license key can be used for even internal pilots.  So we’ve had companies that got a configuration up and running and then pushed it out to a hundred seats to try that.

Brian: And then if you buy it it’s just swapping out the key?  You don’t have to reinstall anything?

Matt: Exactly.  

Brian: And why buy it?  What am I looking at price-wise?

Matt: You know, it’s a sliding scale from – there’s a base fee of about five thousand dollars for the software itself, and then a per-seat cost, and it starts at about twenty bucks a seat for the zero to ten users, and then drops off.  Typically the sweet spot is the five thousand to fifty thousand users, but my sales people have told me, “Stop talking specifically on a price.”

Brian: I would batter you until you told me anyway.  And I guess, hey, everything’s negotiable in this world, so if you only have twenty users, I guess you’re not paying five thousand dollars fixed price.

Matt: Yeah, and so one of the things that we’re looking at and again, I’m getting –

Brian: The fixed price thing is like, so antiquated.  So like, that base price –

Matt: Yeah, there’s a lot of reasons that we did that.  Part of it was when we first released the product and had a bunch of people saying, “Hey, I need four copies,” you know, we can’t really run a business – not just be profitable as a business, but it’s very hard to sell four copies of software.

Brian: Can’t you automate that and get a little web store?

Matt: Oh, no, I mean just as the touch involved with issuing a license key and then all the other stuff and then support, so what – I’m gonna get myself in all sorts of trouble for talking a little bit again ahead –

Brian: Oh, no one’s gonna listen to this anyway.

Matt: I’m sure, at this point, towards the end.  But we are moving to in our version two essentially a single user model, something that’s more geared towards developers and small business, and so it’ll be self-service.  Certain features will be pulled out, so it’ll be a different skew type of product.  Same technology under core, but it’s something that is the right fit for a small business and can be completely self-service and we don’t have to worry about the complexities of it.  That doesn’t mean that we haven’t done deals with companies that have six users.  We have.  And then you know, we negotiate on a couple of things, oftentimes the smaller ones that we’ve dealt with have been educational non-profits, things like that.  And so we’ll deal with pricing on the base fee.

Brian: So that’s all the questions that people have sort of thrown out here, and that’s everything that I have.  I don’t know if there’s anything else, sort of final thoughts from your end or things that people typically ask that I didn’t ask or anything else you wanted to talk about?

Matt: You know, we really covered all the big pieces, and sort of where we’re – where we came from, where we think we’re going, but then also why we think we’re going to be around for a long time.  It’s really exciting for me to be doing what I’m doing right now because everything is moving more and more to the web and so I really see that we’re in that right sweet spot.  The virtualization vendors are doing a lot of interesting stuff today between virtualizing environments, but also trying to build businesses around application management and migration, some really interesting stuff is coming out of other small startups and things like that. so it’s a very unique space to be part of today, so I’m really excited.  Our people are enthused to get up in the morning, if they haven’t stayed up all night working.

Brian: Well, you’re the boss, of course they’re gonna tell you that.  

Matt: No, we’ve got a really good bunch of people.  Our sale engineer actually had been on the IE team since ’94, so really knows the space and has lived it for a long time.  Our developers have been Microsoft developers for a long time at Microsoft.  So this is exciting for them to be working with the platform, but then also to be moving at a pace that a large company like Microsoft can’t move, and so they’re just constantly looking at stuff going, “Oh, man, it’d be really cool if we did this.”  Or, “A customer hasn’t asked us for this, but we can see it as coming down the pike.”  And we’re able to be nimble enough to do that.  We had a customer the other day ask, “You know, it’d be really neat if we could do X, Y, and Z.”  I’m like, “Oh, let us show you what we’re looking at for 2012, and it just sort of blows them away that we’re thinking ahead of where they’ve already thought they need to be.  And so it’s just a fun company, fun place to be, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that we get a lot of attention and a lot of interest from customers and from the press.

Brian: Are you based in D.C. the company, or just you personally?

Matt: So we actually have offices in D.C. and in Seattle, Redmond technically, right down the street from Microsoft, and we keep our engineering folks in D.C.  I promised my wife a long time ago that I would stop traveling as much.  Hasn’t really happened yet, but so our engineers are right there for me to work with on a regular basis, and then we have our sales and marketing folks are in Seattle.  And that’s also to be closer to our customer base, because if they’re coming to see Microsoft, it’s very easy for us to meet with them there.

Brian: Deal with this this morning, and this afternoon we’ll tell you how to fix it.

Matt: Exactly.

Brian: Well, with that, Matt Heller CEO and co-founder of Browsium.

Matt: Nope, just the founder.  

Brian: Founder, oh?  I misspoke.

Matt: Yes, please.

Brian: So CEO and founder of Browsium, thank you so much for stopping by while you’re in town.

Matt: Oh, sure thing.

Brian: And this is cool stuff, this is my first time sitting down with you, and I’m looking forward to hearing updates in the future.

Matt: Yes, please, and if anybody’s got questions for us as Browsium, because as much as I’m not a personal Twitter person, we talk on there.

Brian: So pay attention.  This will be on the website, and pay attention to that article, and I’m sure people will post questions.

[End of Audio]


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