In 1991, a guy named Ben Whipple used a then-new
computer language to write software for his doctoral research at MIT.
Ben was mostly delighted with the language (Microsoft Visual
aka VB) but was frustrated with certain aspects of it. He created an optimization
tool for his own use that went on to win numerous awards and sold tens
of thousands of copies. He expanded the product line with other programming
tools, and rode high on the hog while VB and Windows
desktop programming grew explosively in the 1990s. In 1993, 3 companies'
products received Editor's Choice Awards from the premier industry magazine,
VB Programmers Journal;
Microsoft, Borland... and WhippleWare! It was great fun while it lasted.
Then along came the world wide web, slowly deflating the VB balloon as Microsoft's efforts to reposition VB for programming the web proved too little too late. VB didn't die (there's still an awful lot of Windows desktops out there) but the growth and excitement in the programming world moved to web-oriented markup languages, scripting languages, and Java. Many companies selling VB tools disappeared. Always conservatively managed, WhippleWare did not, though Ben did stop spending big bucks on advertising.
When the Internet bubble burst, the programming business imploded with it. Good programmers went from near-rock star status to unemployment, with insult added to injury as many of the jobs that remained were "outsourced" to India. Needless to say, it became difficult to make much of a living selling programming tools.
So whither WhippleWare? Would Ben have to throw in the towel and get a real job? Go back to making furniture? Finish his PhD? As Ben contemplated these big questions, he considered several things and gradually came to a conclusion:
1) He was born to write software. It's hard to explain to someone who's never done it, but programming computers can thoroughly engage both halves of the brain in intense creative activity that poses simultaneous technical and artistic challenges. Ben loves doing it and he is pretty good at it (during the VB boom, for example, two other companies attempted to market competitive tools but Ben's tools blew them away). So if at all possible, he wanted to keep writing software.
2) Manipulating images with computers had been a hobby for years. Ben was scanning photographs with a fax machine 10 years ago and playing with whatever imaging software was available (anyone remember DrawPerfect?). He bought his first digital camera in 1999 and immediately began creating software tools for personal use to fiddle with the images (and yes, he started posting family pictures on the web).
3) There aren't as many people writing VB software as there used to be, but there are a whole lot more people using digital cameras. The digital camera market exploded in 2003, when the technology hit a sweet spot with reasonably priced cameras and printers able to create images that looked every bit as good as film but with all of the benefits of being digital. Film photography seems well on its way to joining buggy whips in the technological dustbin.
4) People's satisfaction with digital photography is mediated by the software they use to manage and manipulate the output of their digital cameras. Discussions with camera owners and a review of available software convinced Ben that therein lay an opportunity. Hence:
Whipple's Imaging Toolkit (WhipIT)
The goal of WhipIT, broadly stated, is to provide software tools that increase user satisfaction with digital photography. Put less grandly, the goal is to simplify the process (hence tools like the Camera Download Wizard), yet at the same time make more accessible some of the very cool things that can be done with digitized images (hence tools like Easel). WhipIT is aiming for a niche somewhere between the mostly lousy free software that comes with cameras and overpriced professional tools like Adobe Photoshop.
While the product line at WhippleWare is changing, the basic principles of doing business that brought previous success are not:
Our customers are not only always right, they give us our best ideas. So when you contact WhippleWare, you'll talk to the guy who writes the code. And he'll listen to you.
We maintain no inventory, continually test and improve our products, and fix all problems when reported. We don't ship software with known bugs. Our tech support line hardly ever rings, and we want to keep it that way.
We trust our customers and unconditionally guarantee their satisfaction. None of this "unless you open the package" or "if it doesn't do what we say it does" nonsense. If you aren't 100% satisfied for any reason at all, simply uninstall and return the product within 30 days and we'll refund everything except shipping and handling. The only question we'll ask: Why weren't you satisfied?