Ninite is a nifty piece of software – you go to Ninite.com, choose a bunch of applications that you want to install on your computer, get a single Ninite installer that fetches all the apps you’ve chosen and installs them for you without asking a single question.
Ninite also makes sure it nukes the toolbar crapware that comes with software installers. That’s why Ninite impresses people. It’s a beautiful product with a loyal fan base. If you’re a family tech support guy, you need to have it. If you’re an IT guy, you need to have it. Period.
What follows is an interview with Patrick Swieskowski, cofounder of Ninite. If you’ve been waiting for a Mac counterpart of Ninite for a long time, read on. If you want to know why Ninite Pro is priced at $20, read on. If you want to know what drives Ninite’s popularity, read on.
Q: You’re pretty much focussed on building the best automated installer out there, but a lot of people would like to know if you’re creating something like Ninite that automatically installs system drivers/uninstalls crapware. Do you have any plans on making such tools? (Credit to this question goes to our biggest fan, Gouthaman Karunakaran)
We’ve gotten a lot of requests for driver support, so that’s definitely something we’re considering. It’s a little tougher to make a driver product that will please a lot of people since driver needs vary so much from PC to PC while everyone uses the same set of core apps.
Uninstallation is also something we’re thinking about. Though it’s a lower priority since there seem to be some decent existing solutions for that right now like Revo Uninstaller or PC Decrapifier.
Q: You deliberately coded the application using C++ leveraging the Windows API (instead of using a cross platform framework or something of that kind). How important has this factor been behind Ninite’s success?
We think it’s really important for software to fit in with the native platform. Cross-platform toolkits or frameworks usually just come off as feeling weird. I do think that a big part of Ninite’s success has been that it “just works” right out of the box and looks and acts like people expect.
Q: How did you guys come up with the $20 price for Ninite Pro? How do you justify the pricing to someone who emails you saying it’s overpriced?
We thought $20 sounded fair and would be easy to justify based on the time that businesses save with Ninite. We’ve had users write in about saving hundreds of hours with Ninite Pro. It really makes their workflow incredibly efficient.
Our pricing is actually too low now and we’ll likely be raising it soon. Existing customers will continue to have their $20/month unlimited accounts though. The gains Pro users get by automating software management are incredible.
Q: I can see that Ninite is pretty simple and there’s not much feature creep. When you have an idea for a new Ninite feature, how do you decide if you really should make the addition or not?
Feature development is guided by requests from users. Lately a lot of the stuff we’ve been adding has been for the Pro product as we hear about ways people are integrating it with other remote management tools or deploying it within their organizations.
Some of these deployments may be awkward at first, but we like to look for features to add that can simplify them and make Ninite Pro more useful in more enterprise and business situations. Basically, we add things that make the product demonstrably better and will be useful to large numbers of users.
Q: Ninite bundled with new PCs will be amazingly useful. Have you ever approached computer manufacturers with that idea?
Definitely! People love using Ninite to set up new PCs, although we’re also a great site for day-to-day downloads. We’ve had some talks with PC vendors, but large companies proceed with things like this extremely slowly.
Q: What has been the biggest driver of Ninite downloads? Organic search? Word of mouth, or?
Word of mouth. Marketing Ninite is actually tricky because there’s no term for what we do. It’s something people don’t even think is possible. Software installation has just been so crappy for so long, people just assume it’s going to suck. The first reaction to Ninite is frequently amazement. We get a fair amount of traffic from search, but the queries are all just for “Ninite”.
Q: I’ve read somewhere that you have gone to the extent of simulating clicks to avoid the toolbar crapware that comes bundled with installers. Did that seem like some sort of grunt work to you? What have been those low points during the course of building Ninite?
Maintaining the catalog is definitely a chore, but we’re incredibly serious about keeping everything up-to-date and working. This is one of the reasons we only include the best apps in Ninite. The selection is manageable enough that we can always guarantee that everything works great.
There haven’t been many real low points with Ninite so far. Sometimes we’ll make a big improvement in our sales funnel, or find a way to make the installer work much better and the stuff we were doing in the past will look silly in retrospect. That’s about as close to a low point as we’ve gotten lately.
Having users who fanatically love the product makes it a real pleasure to work on.
Q: If you could go back in time and do one thing better when you started out what would it be?
We should have started selling the Pro product sooner. Business grows exponentially at first and being a few months ahead in that lifecycle would be pretty awesome.
Q: And finally, is a Mac version of Ninite in the making? (Credit to this question goes to Abhijeet)
Yes, we’re working on it. We’ve seen a lot of demand for it and I think it’s going to be really exciting when we release it.
Killer Tech Tips would like to thank Patrick for agreeing to do this interview. We’re all big fans of Ninite here!