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Electronic Software Distribution: Pros/C

By xcactus ·
Hi all,

I am working on a research project on ESD and wanted to initiate a discussion that will hopefully broaden my thoughts and open the eyes on some issues I have never thought about.
As a more concrete start for the discussion I am throwing the question: "What are the major factors that stop companies to electronically distribute their products?" I am mostly refering to large and costly software packages.

Best regards,
Eduard

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Choices

by timwalsh In reply to Electronic Software Distr ...

I can think or 3 potential problem areas right off the top of my head.

1. Either/or distribution process: One of the primary benefits of ESD is that it has the potential of elimination the costs associated with packaging and conventional distribution. Many customers might feel insecure in having only an electronic copy of a piece of software that they paid a bunch of money for. While the valid argument can be made that the customer could always burn their own CD (for archive purposes, ofcourse), the counter-argument would always be "Well, what if something happens between the time I download it and when I have a chance to burn my own CD?" (also a valid argument).
2. Security of the product: Electronic distribution (via the Internet) implies that the product must be placed on a publicly accessible web or ftp server. Therefore, the company involved must walk a fine line between protecting their product from unauthorized access, and making the distribution process user friendly for valid customers.
3. Package size: Time needed to download (driven by bandwidth available to the customer) a large software package only available as a download could be a significant point against a given product, to customers researchingalternate solutions. Bandwidth could also become an issue for the software publisher if multiple customers were to attempt to download a large package at the same time.

I think the bottom line here is that customers want choices. A company should only look at ESD as an alternative to conventional distribution IF the customer is asking for that alternative, or only if ESD will not be the only alternative. ESD might be a valid as a sole distribution process for small software packages, but not for large ones.

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Comments to "Choices"

by xcactus In reply to Choices

Here is what I think about the problem areas you mentioned.

1. I agree that the client wants to retain a copy of the downloaded software. The possibility to burn your CD is almost as common as writing to a floppy several years ago (IMHO), but even if it happens something in between there can be taken measures so that the legitimate client that has already paid for the product can download it again.

2. Aren't there DRM solutions today that diminish the degree of piracy? Like software activation, for example. You may get the product, but it will not run until you get an activation key, and you get it by some out-of-band means from the software publisher.

3. Bandwidth is an issue, I agree. By the way, do you know any sources where itis clearly stated, with some numbers, may be?

I also agree about choices. Certainly the software publisher must consider the clients' demand. But I think that still many software publishers stick to the old-fashioned methods when they really could switch to ESD.

I am actually doing research in P2P networks, and think about applying some of the P2P techniques to the process of software distribution. So, I am looking for kind of "most important" problem to be solved in this case.
In this respect any comments, thoughts, doubts, ideas, etc are welcome.

Regards,
Eduard

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