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  • The Value of Software in Our Daily Lives
    Copyright 2002, Bill Platt

    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 
    Shareware packages?
    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 
    Microsoft's products. 
    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 
    notification software. 
    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 
    ePrompter software.

    Bill Platt owns http://thePhantomWriters.com . Do you need free content for your website or ezine? Our archives deliver more than 350 free-reprint articles available for your use. http://content.thePhantomWriters.com . Do you write your own articles? Let us distribute them for you to our network of 6000+ publishers & webmasters http://thePhantomWriters.com/distribution

    This article was originally written: May, 2002

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