Addressing Zend Studio’s cost, minimal though it is

On the ZF-general mailing list there was a discussion that was occuring about the cost of Zend Studio.  I started writing a response but saw that it was getting kind of long so I decided to turn it into a blog posting.

The first question I'll address is that of cost.  When you look at what other similarly-featured IDE's cost, we're actually pretty good.  Flash Builder 4 is $250 for the standard, $800 for the premium version.  Visual Studio is $300.  IntelliJ is $599.  So, from an Apples-Oranges, throw everyone in the same bucket, IDE comparison, Studio is about where everyone else is, or better, from a pricing perspective.

Concerning the IDE's out there that are in the $100 range.  If all you're looking for are things like code completion and debugging, save yer hundred bucks and get PDT, which we provide for free.  It will provide most, if not all, of the same functionality in the $100 IDE.  You can download that free IDE (PDT) from eclipse.org, which is, if I didn't say it already, is free.

But now let's talk a little bit about what you get in Zend Studio, which is not free.

  • Solid refactoring.  I had one guy tell me this was the only justification he needed for the cost
  • Profiling.
  • Integrated support for Dojo, JQuery, Prototype and ExtJS.
  • Inline debugging of both PHP and JavaScript simultaneously
  • Integrated, in-the-IDE, unit testing.  In other words, re-run your test by hitting F11
  • VMware workstation integration
  • Zend Server integration.  You NEED to look at Code Tracing.
  • Enhanced remote system support.  Some of this is there, but there are some cool new features coming
  • The best Zend Framework integration/introspection you can get.
  • Mylyn support.  This is KILLER if you have any level of task/project management, which you should be using.
  • Support. 

Then, what I think is the killer; the Eclipse Community.  IF there is an IDE tool available it WILL be available for Zend Studio because if an IDE tool is available it WILL be available for Eclipse.  Almost no other IDE platform can say that.  The Eclipse ecosystem is unparallelled among IDEs.  For example, I manage all of my development EC2 instances right from inside Zend Studio because Amazon wrote a plugin for managing EC2 via an IDE.  Due to our relationship with Adobe I also use Flash Builder.  Flash Builder is built on top of Eclipse.  Therefore, my Zend Studio is also Zend Studio/Flash Builder.  I hit CTRL-F8 and I'm writing ActionScript.  Hit it again and I'm writing PHP.  I also have the Android SDK installed so I can run an Android emulator and connect it in with my PHP-based web site for mobile development.  Anything that is available as an Eclipse plugin is available for PDT/Zend Studio.

In terms of performance, there were performance problems in 6.  7 was better.  8 (current) actually has pretty decent performance.

Here's the way I think of it.  You spend your life in front of an IDE.  If there is ANY piece of software where a "commercial version" should be concidered it is your IDE.  Zend Studio costs $300.  There are 50 working weeks in the year.  That comes out to $6 a week.  Given an hourly rate of $50 an hour and a 40 hour work week.  If Zend Studio saves you 10 minutes of work per week it has paid for itself.

Now what you could do is find all the tools that do what you need them to do and use them.  But that means that you need to manage them.  When a new version comes out you need to test it against your existing tooling.  There might be a problem.  In fact, I think the whole discussion occurred because of an incompatibility between Zend Framework and the version of PHPUnit that was being used.  That's a great example.

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9 thoughts on “Addressing Zend Studio’s cost, minimal though it is

  1. Ron Dyck

    I’ve been using ZS since before they moved to eclipse. Truthfully I’ve only started utilizing the true power of this IDE since v7. My only complaint is that it that doesn’t seem to work as well on OS X. I have a MacPro with 7Gig ram and I had to dis-able the JS validator because of speed issues as well as some errors when saving a file. I’m also having some problems with installing new software and currently Zend support is working with me in an attempt to sort them out. I have to admit having support is definitely worth something.

    I watched Kevin’s webinar yesterday regarding the cloud and was blown away by the Amazon AWS workspace. I use their services and can’t wait to sort out my software install issues so that I can take advantage of these features. So much easier than going back and forth between a browser. The ability to rename variables, methods etc. with a simple ‘command option R’ is soooo sweet!

    I just hope that the Eclipse community together with Zend can make this great IDE work as well on a my Mac as I witnessed it on Windows.

  2. Luca

    I prefer Netbeans 6.x or 7.x, at the beginning is not easy to get used to it. But after a while is fine.

  3. chris

    For me the problem is not the cost of zend studio, i think the zend studio price is very fair. The problem are the costs of zend server, with three servers i would have to pay +-3000 euro. I could use the opensource version, but that version doesnt have the really cool features like the improved debugging.

  4. Kevin

    Chris, when you say “improved debugging” are you talking about event monitoring and code tracing or just the debugger in general?

  5. chris

    Yes im talking about the monitoring, especially the code tracing features.

    As i said, +-300 Euro for an IDE like zend studio is not cheap, but its a really fair price.

    Before i used NetBeans which is a really great IDE too, but then i saw Matthews post (http://weierophinney.net/matthew/archives/229-Real-time-ZF-Monitoring-via-Zend-Server.html) about real time monitoring. I use the Zend Framework for almost all my projects and wanted to have an easy but powerfull tool to find errors or performance problems.

    Im sure Zend Server is really cool, it saves you time when installing or updating your server, it also has that cool events monitoring tool. But as is also said before +-1000 Euro is too much for a freelancer that has 3 servers. I Pay 100 Euro per server, per month, with zend studio on them it would almost double the price per month.

    Im sure for big firms that have a lot of servers to manage it might help them reduce costs or they can sell their customers better products and therefore increase the price their customers pay. But if i tell my customers that i want to ask them twice the amount they were paying per month because i want to buy i tool that helps me debug their website, its probably something they wont understand.

  6. Kevin

    Chris,
    Hypothetically, what price would you consider “about right?” for your budget?

  7. chris

    Hmmm that’s a difficult to answer, i think 400-600 would be ok for me. Probably other / bigger firms are willing to pay more. For example what i need is the software not the support bundled in all the packages. I would like to have support but i cant afford to pay for it, so i would prefer using free sources on the web (forums / mailinglists / irc …) if i have a problem. I now those sources are not as good and a lot slower then official zend support but as i said before at least its cheap.

    But i think i found a solution for me, i will probably buy the developer version for my development server at home (because its cheaper then the others), so that i can use all of the commercial features and do good testing before i deploy a new website. For the three live servers i will use the opensource version which is free but has less features.

  8. Shamil

    Although the Zend pricing is fair in terms of USD $, it doesn’t hold equivalent value in Europe. For example, Zend Studio costs $299 in the US, and EUR299. Converting the EU cost to USD: $385. Disregarding sales tax/VAT, of course. With that on, it’s just inflated further. Is there any reason for this unequal pricing?

  9. Kevin

    Shamil, I don’t the exact reason behind our pricing strategy, but it probably has something to do with the individual EUR299 number. I think it was J.C. Penney who had done some price experimentation and found that sales are often better on 1 cent/dollar less than an evenly whole amount. I don’t know the exact reason, or if I’m quoting it right, but that seems like a reasonable explanation.

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