Software by the kilogram

Software by the kilogram

I sometimes wonder just how serious vendors are about improper sales of software. I was recently at Parklea Market in Sydney, a large indoor weekend market that sells everything from fruit to tools to mobile phones, with hundreds of stalls. I noted at least three blatant instances of people selling pirated CDs. In two cases the poor quality of the printing and (lack of) packaging gave them away. In the third case, the price was the tip-off, at less than a third of RRP on what's a brand new version of an encyclopedia.

The following day I visited the North Rocks computer market, held at a Sydney suburban shopping centre each Sunday. I wasn't struck so much by the pirated software this time, but at the huge variety of software on sale, clearly marked "to be sold with a new PC only, not to be sold separately". I saw products like the IBM World Book encyclopedia bundle of six disks for $40, and Encarta '97 for $30.

In most cases the bundler of these disks has been granted a very low price on the strict understanding that the disks are never to be sold without being part of a new PC system, and never as individual disks.

ARN readers sometimes tell me of their experiences when trying to report these breaches. The reports almost always fall on deaf ears. Typical reactions range from "I'm sure it's just an isolated incident, and not ongoing" to "Yes, but what can we do to stop them?". I'm not buying into the ethics or the legalities of creating or selling these bundles, but why make such a big fuss on the package if you aren't going to follow through? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Real value

Speaking of buying software, while I've been known to buy the odd package myself, most of the software I use has come into the office as a review copy. And I'll be honest; if I'd had to pay retail price for a lot of this software I'd be looking for a refund. All too often the best feature of the package is the description on the package. Take a lot of these so-called "cleaning" utilities that remove unwanted programs and files from your Windows 95 PC. I've yet to find one that works as well as promised.

I don't know how you'd collect the money, but the Network Computer model of charging people a micro-amount each time they use an application seems sensible to me. That way the user pays next to nothing for bad software and pays handsomely for those products they couldn't live without. Vendors wouldn't have to worry about how people get hold of an application in the first place, as they'd be paying per use.

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