As a side note, I’ve recently thought it’s curious how most techies/geeks and the like seem to be against DRM, yet it’s something we’ve accepted and been happy with for years. We just called it shareware.
When I redesigned my site I need a graphics program. I’ve have no real design skills, but I still need to manipulate some images. I used to use ACDSee Photo Editor which came with ACDSee Photomanager. This was perfect till about version 8 or 9 when they have it too much functionality and turned it to shit and I went to mac.
I wanted something the same level for my Mac, but couldn’t find anything till recently. Photoshop/Ilustrator are too expensive, GIMP is like photoshop, but eye pokingly horrible too use and not very mac like. Please don’t comment on how great GIMP is I’d rather eat butter coated turds than use it. I can’t stand open office either. Don’t bother.
Anyway recently a raft of image/photo editing software just came out for the mac that was (potentially) just what I was looking for.
Acron, DrawIT, Pixelmator, Iris and LiveQuartz.
I’m not actually going to review any of these (I might do it later but this isn’t the purpose of this post).
What I am going to do is talk about evaluating these.
I have no problem with the concept of shareware. I have no problems with paying for software. In fact I’ll pay for just about anything under $20, and be pretty easy going up to $50. One might say I’m largely an ideal candidate for shareware.
However, like iTunes Video Rentals I think the terms of the shareware not conducive to adoption. Most shareware has most of if not all the following conditions
- 15-30 day trial period (then mostly or totally stops working)
- Annoyance (30s nag window)
- Limited functionality (can’t print or save)
Now I fully understand this. We’re having the same debate at work and the need to generate revenue has to be balanced against getting users to use your products.
The problem with the above limitations is they don’t get users to use the products. And sometimes they get users to stop using the products. But mostly they just get users to evaluate the products.
What’s that I hear you say? “But we want users to evaluate our products”. Um … no you don’t. I remember reading a good article a few years ago, where someone was saying the problem with software reviews is that they are by reviews evaluating the software. So they install it, play it for a bit, write the evaluation and stop using it. Which is not the same as using it. I mean really really using it.
See the problem with a 15-30 day trial, is I normally download something, open it up. Have a look see and then shut it down. 10 days later when I open it up again, half my trial has gone and I have barely used it.
And well annoyances are annoyances, and I either get used to blindly ignoring them, or I de-install.
Take for example my blog. When the time came to use a graphics tool, DrawITs of trials was up and Acorn would put an annoyance watermark up after 15 mins, so I had to try working in 10 min goes. Eventually I paid up to discover it was half baked and so I now resent them
I think shareware developers need to look at what it takes to get passed the learning curve on their software and really be a user. On a saturday when redoing my blog I might have used Acorn for 3 hours over a 9 hour period. So instead of a 30 day evaluation, give me 30 hours. But 30 hours of actual use. Not since opening it, not sitting in the background. But actually using the tool. And hell while you are at it, double that number. Give me 60 hours.
If I’ve used your tool for 60 hours and am still using it, odds are I’ll buy it. And if I only use it for 60 hours in a year, give it to me for free. Or for $5, or $10% of the price. Because if I’m barely using your program throughout a year, even if I use it intensely for a weekend every now and then, I’m not going to pay. There are plenty of shareware apps, I would pay $5 or $10 for. But for something I ‘m going to use once I month, I’m not going to pay $50 for.
So you could be getting $5 from me. Which is not the same as losing $45, as you never were going to get it anyway.
I understand what a balance this is. We’re trying to get this right at work, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got it wrong a few more times before we got it right. But I do know we want people using our solution over other solutions. And the best way to do this is to get people using it. Not to get people blocking it.
Do you think it’s by accident that Apple laptops and computers are all unlocked in their stores and online. Because unlike their competitors (who make less revenue per square foot of retail) they’re know that what needed to get people to buy machines is for them to play with them. Not for them to look at them. Even if people are sitting on them facebooking and hotmailling. They are using them. And thet’s what counts.