Long, long ago when I was in high school during the early
1980's, personal computers were just coming into existence.
Back then, I had taken on Basic programming as a high school
student. In those days, the PC of choice was the Radio Shack
TRS-80 --- this was just a couple of years before the
introduction of the first Apple computer.
In those dark days before the Internet and before Microsoft,
the only software choices we had were retail programs that
could cost hundreds of dollars, or cheap video games that
were offered as Shareware.
Believe it or not, in those days, we computer nerds would
pass around software on floppy disk. These days, there simply
are not too many programs that can be loaded onto a single
I mention this now as I contemplate the various ways in which
software is now distributed. We consumers are always playing
a cat-and-mouse game with software developers.
In the early 80's, the companies who had deep pockets were
the ones selling their software at retail. The ones who were
struggling to find traction in the marketplace were the ones
offering their software as Shareware.
If you doubt this conclusion, then let me ask you a question.
Which Microsoft products are available to the public as
You just proved my point.
Being an individual who has played both sides of the software
fence as both a consumer and developer, I am in a position to
tell this story so that you as the consumer can really
appreciate the quandary of the developer.
Nag screens are the storefront of the shareware developers.
See, the challenge is that it really does cost money to
develop software. Yet, the public is still of the mindset
that they want all of their software for free.
Understanding the free mindset of the consumer, software
developers have tried various schemes to get paid for their
time and efforts. These days, you will find Shareware,
Trialware, Adware and Retail.
See, the retail boys have the best advantage. They can afford
to dump millions into advertising to build the interest in
their products. Funnier still, the consumer does not expect
to get retail products for free. For some reason, it is okay
to pay the big boys retail for their products, but the little
guy is supposed to give away his work for free!
So, why is it that we consumers treat the small companies
differently? We will pay $100 to $175 for Microsoft Office XP,
but we would not pay for Sun Office! Sun Microsystems Office
product is considered by many to be a much better product than
Microsoft's, but Sun had to resort to offering their version
for free to get market share!
What is wrong with this picture?
Ironically, the difference is easy to see from my chair. As a
marketer, I am always watching the marketplace horizons to see
where the next advantage might be found.
We consumers have a need for one thing only. We want value for
our money --- real value.
With Microsoft's deep, deep pockets, they are able to sell us
on the idea of the value of their products. Additionally,
Microsoft can afford to put their software into pretty boxes
and on the shelves of thousands of retailers, adding to their
carefully crafted perception of value. Because Microsoft can
afford to paint a solid picture of value to us, we do not
hesitate to cough up the hundreds of dollars required to own
Now returning to the challenge of the little guy, we little
guys do not have deep pockets to sell you on the value of our
products. So, with Shareware and Trialware, we let you try our
software for free for an amount of time, and then we hope and
pray that the consumer will find value in the product and opt
to pay for our products.
Other companies have seen the skeletons of companies who have
tried the Shareware and Trialware and have failed. These other
companies usually prefer to post their software on the market
as Adware. The theory here is that the consumer is often so
fickle that the developer would prefer to take their chances
with advertisers paying the bills, rather than to rely on the
consumers to pay the bills.
Many people jump up and down, scream and holler about software
that employs advertising to pay the bills. Yet, the same
person doing the hollering, if placed in a situation where
he was told that he would need to go to work everyday without
any expectation for a paycheck, would explode in fury!
Would it be better that these dedicated software developers did
not produce any software at all? Should software development be
left only to Microsoft?
I don't know about your household, but in my household, if I
don't bring in the money, then I would be minus a wife and
family! So, the challenge I am left with --- if I want to work
in software development, I must find a way to get hired on at
Microsoft, find millions in seed capital to create value for
the retail market or to build advertising into my software.
Me, I have tried the shareware route... and then cut my losses
and moved on. It was a good product, really it was...
I will tell you what. If I ever write any more software for
the Windows operating system, I will likely create an Adware
product. From the developers perspective, it is the safe bet.
From the consumers perspective, it really should be considered
a small price to pay to keep my wife happy and me working to
improve the product.
I am talking about this issue tonight because one of my favorite
software packages has gone to the Adware model with its latest
upgrade. Upon the release of the new ePrompter software, people
were upset to see advertising in this wonderful email
Let me assure you that the value of this software far surpasses
the small price of looking at a few ads when I check my email.
Should I prefer the developer to continue to work for free, or
should I be willing to help him pay his bills while he continues
to improve on the software? I will support his right to earn
money for his time and effort.
ePrompter continues to provide more and more value in my daily
life online. Try ePrompter for yourself by downloading your
copy at: http://www.eprompter.com
I am certain that once you have taken ePrompter for a spin
around the block, you will also appreciate the value of the
Adware business model, and more importantly the value of the