Paying customers not enough for CounterPath

CounterPath, developers of the X-Lite Voice-over-IP client announced on their forum that just having paid for their software wasn't enough to make them add a necessary, small feature.

A feature of any mobile phone (at least the ones I've used) within the last 10 years has been the ability to program pauses into the number. This is useful if your contact is in an office behind a PBX (company exchange system), so you need to dial an extension number after the system has answered the call. The pause for mobiles is usually displayed as 'P' for a short-pause (around 2 seconds) and 'W' for a pause until a key is pressed (useful for long voice prompts before input is allowed). Computer modems have also had the same feature. By typing a comma within the dialing number it automatically substituted each one for a one-second pause.

Since Voice-over-IP has the ability to call normal numbers, this feature is also required, and some clients do accept it, but CounterPath, the developers of X-Lite, eyeBeam and Bria (possibly the most popular VoIP clients), have decided that they're not going to implement this common feature into their applications. Not only are they denying the free X-Lite users, but also the paying customers of Bria and eyeBeam.

After several forum posts about the missing feature, CounterPath employee Derek Jacobs (supposedly part of the support team) gave very blunt answers (if at all) to each of the threads, simply informing them that the feature doesn't exist, and in one even telling them that "it simply isn't possible".

In that thread, after I and another user replied with technical reasons why it was a simple feature request, Derek Jacobs, wrote the following, more length reply:

I'm sorry; there are no plans on adding this feature to retial builds at this time.
If you interested in a bulk purchase of a custom branded soft phone, this sort of feature can be provided.

Please contact sales at counterpath dot com for pricing.

Reading the response I didn't know whether to laugh or just be shocked and amazed by the naivety of the statement.

First of all, telling paying customers that their money isn't good enough to warrant a simple feature addition surely isn't a nice message to send out - you surely wouldn't put that kind of statement on the packaging "sorry, you don't get this feature unless you buy in 'bulk'".

Secondly, their 'bulk' deal (requiring a chat with sales) must be more than their standard on-site price list, which lists discounts for 100+ licenses, so how many is considered 'bulk', 500+, 1000+, or maybe even more, I wonder?

I can see why they might want to withhold that kind of useful feature for paid versions of Bria and eyeBeam, so wouldn't include it in X-Lite, but being told that it's only on the roadmap if you buy in bulk is poor.

Quite quickly after my forum reply this evening, Derek responded, seemingly back-peddling slightly to try and make the wording sound less harsh:

I think you misunderstood
We are not witholding anything.

What I was saying is that if it is important to your organization and if you are considering the bulk purchase of a branded soft phone that we will work with you to include what you desire.
Such a feature as you describe would would be considered custom engineering specific to your needs.

Whilst I can see where they're coming from in terms of seeing this as possibly a quite business-centric feature (although I disagree with this viewpoint). I can therefore see why they want to keep it at the bottom of their roadmap unless they have a larger customer willing to sponsor the development. I just can't help thinking this is doing them more harm than good, when people who have paid for a license of their software miss out simply because of poor judgement of whomever decides on roadmap features.

It's probably worth saying that I have used X-Lite in the past, and that I was looking at purchasing Bria because of the video calling feature as well as support for Linux as well as Windows/Mac, but I had to check from the forums that it supported pauses in dialling before shelling out the money.

Am I being too hard on them? Is this feature really just a corporate-user feature? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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On weekdays I'm a Technical Lead at Comparethemarket.com, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.


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