Free Software vs Free Trial

I don’t know if I’d call myself a software expert, by any stretch of the imagination – but I do know good software (and a good deal) when I see it. Window Clippings just went shareware, and I started an exchange with Kenny Kerr about this move – specifically, related to the new licensing structure (what it was, how it works, etc.). After sending him the following bit of text, he responded with a link to his earlier assertion.

I suppose the following is applicable to anybody who develops and releases software online as “free trial” or has software downloads geared towards on generating registrations.

So long as you don’t get picky about licenses tied to machines (please, don’t get me started about activation crap). If registration isn’t convenient for me (read: PayPal) , and if licensing is annoying (read: limited), and if the upgrade path is cost-prohibitive (read: paying for the same thing over and over again), I’ll walk – or, I’ll find something that’s open source and/or free.

Either way, subsequent licenses should be at *LEAST* half off (if not more). Let me put it to you this way: $10 isn’t much, but it means more to me if that covers a perpetual license that’s not tied to any one computer or another. It’s the reason I switched from UltraEdit (shareware, hellish upgrade path – even discounted) to PSPad (free).

Most shareware authors are mediocre developers and rotten marketers. They’re either too greedy, don’t understand their own marketplace, or they have absolutely no business savvy whatsoever. It’s the reason why I believe the entire shareware industry is in deep trouble. Deep, deep, deep trouble. The Web is killing ’em.

Exception to the rule? OS X.

You could do $10 once, $1 for each additional upgrade – and if you tie the registration into the user’s PayPal account, and you have a seamless upgrade path (all done within the utility itself), you could make upgrading painless and affordable. They could still upgrade without paying the extra buck for the new version, and the new version would fall back on its “basic” self. No harm, no foul. EVERYBODY can afford a buck, especially if it’s convenient.

Just don’t nag, man… ever. That’ll wipe you off my radar quicker than you can say “Milli Vanilli.” There are very few software titles that I’m willing to pay for – and even the ones I do pay for wind up disappointing me at some point. Right now, Window Clippings is nice to have – but not “$10 nice” yet, especially with a questionable upgrade path.

There are too many [X] utilities out there for me to say this is a slam dunk for you.