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Is there any software that is both ahead of the competition and outsourced? By that I mean software products which are big sellers and which are highly reviewed, and developed by an entity outside of the entity that owns the product itself.

The "outside entity" could be a domestic or foreign business, performing development work on a contractual basis. I am excluding open source here, as the process is more democratized than the typical product (where the product owner dictates the design and requirements directly).

I'm thinking desktop software like:

  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • MS Office
  • Aperture
  • Visual Studio
  • ReSharper

Or web apps/sites like:

  • Yelp
  • Pandora
  • 37 Signals apps
  • Zendesk
  • Salesforce
  • Amazon

I'm looking for data points, here, and not subjective ideas about what's popular. We can measure popularity by sales or Google rank or other metrics.

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2 Answers 2

I doubt it.

Outsourcing is usually done for non-mission-critical processes. Yes, software is outsourced, but it is usually done by companies for whom the software isn't part of their core business, or by companies who deliver custom software to clients and have tight controls on their specs and outsource partners.

If developing a specific software application is your core business, you would be foolish to put your core-business into someone else's hands.

I have since learned of applications that are highly regarded and ahead of their competition which are partly developed outside the company that owns the product.

That said, it should be noted that the parts that are outsourced, while important (for example the UI) are absolutely not, and not even close to, the "core" parts of the application that give the owners their competitive edge.

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Don't be so sure about that "core parts" assertion. It happens all the time, in major software companies. Published cases are rare (this is usually considered confidential information), but, for example, see tcs.com/news_events/press_releases/Pages/…. –  Ross Patterson Sep 27 '14 at 14:34
@RossPatterson: Where does it say that they our outsourcing development of their virtualization solution? I may be reading it wrong (just scanned it really), but I see MS outsourcing the operation of their virtualization platform, not the development of it? –  Marjan Venema Sep 27 '14 at 14:38

Absolutely. Most large software companies, including Adobe, Microsoft, SalesForce, and Amazon, outsource some or all of the development on some of their products. Just look at the major Indian outsourcer's client lists (e.g.http://www.tcs.com/about/corp_facts/clients/Pages/default.aspx).

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