Some time ago I had the great privilege of working for a week in New York City at the Fog Creek headquarters. Aside from getting a chance to meet Joel and the rest of the staff, I was also able to do some early exploratory work on the Mac version of Copilot, which went live today. This is a product based on a fantastically simple idea: VNC with no configuration hassles. Anybody who’s ever tried to set up a remote access connection to a person who may be technically naive, behind a firewall, etc., knows how significant removing the hassles is.
My trip to Fog Creek was a Copilot-heavy experience. Though only one of the original Aardvark interns was present at the time, the company was in the final stages of post-production for their Project Aadrvark movie. So I showed up just in time to meet the film’s director and join in company screening just before it went to production.
Up to now Fog Creek was “the best software company that doesn’t make Mac products.” Now I guess I’ll have to drop that qualification. Maybe now that one of their brightest engineers has been bitten by the Mac bug, we’ll be seeing other interesting stuff in the future. (Actually, they have shipped FogBugz, and an associated screen capture tool for Mac for some time).
One of the interesting aspects of this commercial venture is that both the helper and helpee processes are completely open source, GPL licensed code. How does Fog Creek make money by having customers download GPL applications? The mojo is all in the server. This is simultaneously how the company eliminates the configuration hassles and adds a monetary bottleneck to the offering. But at the new price of $5 for a full day’s use, I think many will find it’s worth every penny.