I've registered my small consulting company about a year ago and since then we provide consulting and support for several clients, one of which is one of the industry largest organizations in the world.
However, my goal is to release a product and to become a product company in the long run. The services that we provide are just to pay the bills and to sponsor the development of the product.
So my questions are:
Any advise would be highly appreciated.
It's very hard to believe when you're setting out to develop a software product but to be successful a tremendous amount of your time and energy will have to go into marketing. The hardest lesson we got from our advisers was to stop adding features to our product and instead focus on how we connected with people and got them to give us enough time to demonstrate the value of the features we had. The goal isn't just to ship software but to have people find it a compelling solution to problems they have.
The general consensus seems to be: get the word out there ASAP in order to at least validate the demand for your product.
On a side note, 5-6 months seems like a quite long development cycle in 2010. Why don't you build a minimum viable product and iterate from there using customer feedback? Short iteration cycles, agility and "release early, release often" are all common denominators for successful startups nowadays. For more info on the subject, I recommend reading about the Customer Development and Lean Startup methodologies.
I would not push a product which doesn't exist yet.
Instead, I'd suggest you focus on two things:
First - continue to build your personal reputation and credentials as an industry thought leader in the segment in which you are currently providing services and in which you expect to focus your potential product. Since you're the primary provider in your family, it's important that you continue to have a reliable income stream. In addition, your positive reputation as a thought leader will be invaluable should you choose to launch a product.
Second - ask current clients how a product might help them solve specific problems and what mix of features would provide the most measurable value to them. Don't commit that you are developing a product until you're much closer to a beta release. As you get closer to beta, ask some of your current clients to be part of your advisory board to ensure that the features you're building are the most important to the marketplace and differentiate your product from the "big players". Don't worry about who gets credit for thinking of a new idea - instead, focus on being able to deliver quantifiable value around the new idea.
I would also wait, and get at least some open road ahead of your competition.
I'm not paranoid about people stealing my idea, but there's little point in outlining all of your plans in public to the startup and uISV communities at this stage.
If you want the advice of that community, maybe contact specific people privately or offline and them to share their opinions?
If you want to test the market and build a little buzz, maybe do that discretely in the communities of your customers. e.g. Publish a few articles and see if the idea spreads or generates interest? Even then, I personally would take a softly softly approach until you have the first iteration of your product.