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Component Vendor Selling Practices

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Kevin Dente complains about How NOT to sell software with a note on an experience with JetBrains. I can’t comment on JetBrains, but I’ve recently had several similar experiences trying to demo component or tool software from some component vendors. Many of these are such a pain in the ass that only the most dedicated or needy customer will actually stick with it. Kevin’s point is about requiring a registration key just to try out the software which indeed is a silly practice.


Case in point: I  downloaded a WinForm component from an unnamed company a few weeks back. This component ran through a full Windows install and at the end of the install prompts for a registration key. No mention of this upfront so you download this component, start the install and THEN it prompts for a registration key and a link on a Web site to register and get the key. Are they freaking kidding? Nope dead serious... The component these guys are selling is something I really would like to use so I put up with it but after I got through with the installation on my Vista machine I ended up not being able to load this component onto a form. Why? Because there’s some registration ‘phone home’ logic built into the control that calls back to e-SellRate and it apparently doesn’t work under Vista (or maybe not at all but I suspect it's probably a Vista issue). You gotta wonder though - e-SellRate is a pretty big seller network - you'd figure these people would be ontop of this sort of situation since their business relies on their clients (the component vendor in this case) to actually be able to demo and then sell the software through them.


Under normal circumstances I would have bailed when the registration key for trial issue came up, but since I really have a need for this component I went through with this. So I check the Web site. No note ragarding compatibility (not even for .NET versions or other Windows versions) even though there’s a recent build. No direct support forum, no direct support contact. I did find an email address three layers down in the site and after I sent it off asking whether Vista is supported or will I never heard back (this was 3 weeks ago).


Ok – apparently these people really have no interest in selling this software to me. In this case everything that could go wrong did and a company that is this much off track probably shouldn’t be trusted with a product you use in your application anyway... <s>


But the sad part is that I see this kind of stuff more and more especially with component vendors. A few days ago I had to purchase an upgrade for a report engine and the upgrade process navigating a horribly antiquated ASP classic site the site fails in Internet Explorer 7.0 when you get to the final payment form. So I just spent 10 minutes filling out forms and it’s all for naught because these morons haven’t checked for IE 7 support. Then (after using FireFox) after all that effort the confirmation for the actual download was sent 2 days later. 2 days later when this order comes from the official vendor?


Just today I was checking out a component on installation completely commandeers my development environment (taking over a startup file whether I’m using the tool or not), phones home when it starts AND – and this is the kicker times out after use for 30 minutes for the day!!! 30 minutes – plenty of time to decide NOT to buy this software right? <s>


If you have a good product people will buy it!

I’m a software vendor so I realize that you have to have some restrictions in your software to make sure that people register and pay for the software. Most people are honest and will be happy to pay you for your software if it works as it’s supposed to and fits their needs. All the tools I was talking about above are developer tools not games or even hot consumer tools that hackerz are tracking down for their crak lists. C’mon we’re dealing mostly with business customers here. Do you really think that somebody who wants to use these tools will hack around even simple protection scheme? These elaborate schemes of keys and callbacks to the mother ship are a waste of time and will almost guarantee you lose customers!


Furthermore I think those people that try to hack around even the simplest software protection, would never pay for the software anyway. These people aren’t your customers in the first place. The efforts you put in to keep those people out is a waste of time as they'll get the software from a crak list somewhere anyway and instead you only end up pissing off legitimate customers. I’d argue the pissing off has a much worse affect on registrations than the loss from pirating.


As a vendor I want to make sure that I make it as easy as possible for people to try my software. I spend a lot of time trying (not always succeeding – I admit this is tough!) to make installation and testing easy. With components especially this can be difficult to do as you want to ensure all functionality is available without given it out free for all. There are many vendors that get this right too. I don’t want to name names here but I’ve seen it from both ends. The interesting thing is that the most paranoid companies that have the worst copy protection schemes usually are also the ones that have the worst license pricing. This whole moeny ueber alles attitude should tip you off to vendors from which to stay away from as they nickel and dime you to death for software that is sub par...


Posted in Personal  ISV  

The Voices of Reason


January 12, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

Just like DOS to Windows, and Windows to Windows 95, it doesn't surprise me at all that it will take vendors a few months (if not a year) to get all their software sorted out for the new internals in Vista.

Surely you didn't really "expect" some hacks super-duper WinForm control to work in your Vista install and were just hoping to get "lucky" - right?

January 12, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices


Please make your downloads available also in zip and/or msi formats. I work at a fortune 500 company and all .exe downloads are blocked. I am sure some people will experience the same problem.

Then I will look at your store app and report any nuisances. I am a very picky user. :)


Steve from Pleasant Hill
January 12, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

It's amazing how thankful I am for software that installs and runs easily, and doesn't break anything in the process.

The vendor's goals should be to get the software up and running on my PC as easily and quickly as possible, and then start the clock ticking. Hopefully I won't be able to live without it in 30 days and will want to buy it.

On the other hand, if you break my PC and I find you in a dark alley...

Bertrand Le Roy
January 12, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

Yup, isn't that what every DRM is bound to be? Annoying to your real customers and easy to work around anyway for anyone who really wants to?

Rick Strahl
January 12, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

Mr. Vista. Yes I can see the point about Vista compatibility to some degree, but here's the kicker on that component: It works just fine to run it. There's a sample application and the component runs. It even works in the sample form in the designer. But you can't drop it on the form because it wants to go out and validate the license or whatever and fails. Talk about Copy Protection/demo being completely made unusable by these shenenigans.

Abdu... hmmm... you make a good point that's not been brought to my attention. Is the issue of just not being able to download an EXE file or not being able to run it? Thanks for the feedback...

Peter Bromberg
January 13, 2007

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

I believe that Bertrand hit the 'nail right between the eyes". I'm often amazed and disappointed how much extra space and CPU cycles some component vendors' licensing schemes takes up. Not that I spend all my time defeating licensing schemes, but it's a fact. Bloated installs too, that always want to phone home for whatever reason.

Matt Fausey
February 09, 2008

# re: Component Vendor Selling Practices

Rick, I agree with you completely. Here's a link to a blog about Chilkat's licensing infrastructure:

<a href-"http://blog.chilkatsoft.com/?p=402">Licensing Infrastructure — There is none.</a>

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