Bloatware Argument for Customer Selection

Over the last few years, there have been a number of product upgrades that actually subtract features, especially from Apple. You see this the most in products that are offered for free; its hard to argue against radical change when you aren’t actually paying for it.

Not paying for something though doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost; any time you have value, you have cost.

As a user, it costs you an investment of time. Getting you to invest as much time as possible is a key strategy for any developer. Even though no money changes hands, you’ve made a personal investment of time. That’s something which is completely personal, yet can make all the difference in a future sale. The more you invest and are pleased with that investment, the less likely you are going to delete the product.

In the case of Apple though, its something quite special when they remove a feature, especially in a paid for product.

  • Removing features can be a simple matter that whatever it is, it isn’t quite supported yet in the development framework.  The vendor doesn’t want to wait around until it is available, so they ship the product without the feature. Maybe it will be added later, maybe not.
  • Removing a feature can be a matter of a future shakeup of a product line.  A feature that you’ve been using for years in a free version of iMovie, for example, may make its way into an update to Final Cut Pro. The same feature could find a future in an online service.
  • Removing a feature can also be a matter of dumping a certain type of customer for certain products. Stripping out power user features can alienate a customer, especially if they are extremely dependent on the the feature. One reason to do this is to push that user to another, more expensive solution. Another could be to reduce the cost of handling that type of customer at that level of product. Does that sound crazy to you? Its not so crazy.

Consider a mobile application used by power users.  A certain problem pops up dependent on conditions set by power users. For example, one application I handled a long time ago was a contact synchronizer mobile product that would generate database errors with really large databases. A tech support request in this case eliminated the profit on 50 sales of the product. If the condition itself wasn’t easily addressable, then the only solution was to have a hard limit on database size (the product was eventually killed, solving that problem).

Features Subscriptioned into Services Are Bad For You

Software publishers have been struggling with a problem for many years now.  We all know about it, and hate to talk about it. It is when the previous or current version of your product becomes the worst competitor for the next version you want to release. What you have right now (or even in a previous version) fulfills all the basic needs of your customers; your customers are so satisfied that they feel little compunction to upgrade.  Combine this with a growing domination in your market space, and suddenly you find yourself with far more upgrade customers than new customers, and a lot of those upgrade customers may want to skip an upgrade or two.

Some companies bloat out their products with unnecessary new features, gimmicks and built in services. They need to convince you that its worth upgrading.

Other companies restructure what features appear in each level of their product. They want to get customers that can afford to pay more to actually pay more.

And then there are others that want to transform their software into a combination of services, content subscriptions and tweaks, so its possible to effectively keep charging customers for the same features again and again. They will tell you how this new system adds significant value. It probably does add value. It just isn’t essential to what you need to get done. Its like going to an all-you-can-eat steak restaurant that charges you in 10 minute increments, only to discover you actually only get one tiny steak but a bottomless supply of french fries and ketchup.

Software companies concerns are certainly legitimate. Any release has its costs, and the cost of software engineering without off-shoring in incredibly expensive. There’s a reason why so many game studios go down before they actually reach their release – they are spending it all on very high salaries, not the electric bill.

What many software companies have failed to do is find a way to provide enough of something that customers want to ensure as many as possible upgrade. The answer for the likes of Adobe and Microsoft (and you can be sure others are going this way) to answering the question is to eliminate the conditions of  the question and keep you paying again and again for the same thing, and making the conditions of your use subject to regular updates to your End User License Agreement. Is this really the answer for you?

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How Subscription Based Software is Bad for Customers

Software companies are working hard to convince you that a pure subscription model is good for you.  Sometimes it actually is. But mostly its not, because its implemented in ways that is bad for customers and their businesses. Nowhere is this more apparent than the direction of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Lets start with the painful lesson one user of Creative Suite 6 learned that caused him to invalidate his license and get locked into the subscription model. Continue reading

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Unheard Voices in Ukraine

As many world powers weigh in mostly against the actions Russia (with a mostly silent and non-committal China trying to remain out of the conflict), inevitably the conflict gets reframed to make it easier to understand.  I think that is a disservice to the people of Ukraine.

I have long relations with ethnic Ukrainians and resident Russians in Ukraine (those who also carry a Russian passport), and first and foremost – among all of them – there is an agreement that a Ukraine that is independent of both undue European and Russian influences is the best thing for all Ukrainians.  That may be a dream that died with the fires of the EuroMaidan fueled coup. Continue reading

Will Crimeans Vote to Become Russian on March 16?

A public referendum is coming in Crimea with a simple question: do we continue with Ukraine or with Russia? Of course the EuroMaidan backed Ukraine government rejects the legality of such a vote. Before rushing to accept that this is the appropriate right of determination weighed by a majority of a popular vote – consider if your country would or should allow its states, provinces and districts to, on a popular vote, secede?

If its not okay in your country, why is it okay in Ukraine?

Only those who support breaking away from Ukraine benefit from this vote. It does nothing to change the status quo if it fails, and provides justification of the will of the people if it succeeds. The perhaps subtle and missed message for many in the West is that this  isn’t just a vote by those who have strong ties to Russia, but its also a vote by those who feel the EuroMaidan supported coup in Ukraine is illegal.  You can be certain that only those who vote will be those who have strong feelings either way.

Crimea Seizure, Putin and EuroMaidan

When the Soviet Union came to an end, so did a vast cooperative network of military bases. Ukraine, along with its autonomously ruled Crimea region, provided vast ring of key sea and air bases.  Russia assumed the crown of world recognition (and more importantly, the permanent seat on the UN Security Council), but a separate Ukraine presented reach problems, much as regime changes have wrought problems for US bases found throughout the world.  Russia and Ukraine entered into a treaty to solve just that problem, which included paid for leases and rents. Continue reading

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Ukraine Finding a Path Between Powers

I spend a lot of time working with technology companies to form their international strategies, and often the country of Ukraine is a part of that.  Id like to share my insight into what is currently in the news in the West about the country and its people. Let me tell you a bit about my relationship with the country. Most people associate me with Japan because I have established so many successful technology ventures there – but my investment in Ukraine is significant. Continue reading

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Boycott Adobe Software as Service for Creative Suite

An anonymous reader over on Macintouch wrote this post that clarifies exactly why the software-as-service methodology is completely wrong for its user base. Having Adobe update creative suite automatically, along with any license changes and additions threatens the business model of much of its customer base.

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Final Steve Ballmer Interview and Yes, It is About the Money

Steve Ballmer is leaving under a cloud, and we all know it. The #Monkeyboy has never been an easy character to like, but I take exception to BusinessInsider’s pot shot over his quote about money, even though the original quoted Mary Jo Foley interview touched on many great decisions he made early on. This is to young master Jay Yarow and others that get lost in the forest of the philosophy of design. It is always about the money. What differs is how you get there.

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NORAD Tracks Santa 2013 Returns; Meshbox Design & Mirye Software Back for Year 7

NORAD Tracks Santa is now live again, allowing children throughout the world to learn about Santa and also to track his path on Christmas Eve. This program began in the mid 1950s with radio and telephone, now in its 58th year. Proactive International divisions Meshbox Design and Mirye Software have been corporate contributors since 2006. We are one of very few corporate supporters that have supported the program over consecutive years, though I admit we are probably the smallest contributor.

What do we contribute?  Meshbox Design makes the ultimate 3D Santa Claus for Poser & DAZ Studio, Toon Santa(tm). Each year this model is improved, updated and given a new theme; now in its eighth incarnation. NORAD has used Toon Santa as its official Santa since 2006. The Meshbox team created a special derivation of Toon Santa just for NORAD.

This year, Toon Santa isn’t quite as visible on the main NORAD Tracks Santa site after a major redesign (this happens every year), but you can find him on the NORADHQ page, along with Toon Reindeer. Meshbox Sleigh from Toon Santa’s Sleigh and Sled Garage is also featured on the About Santa’s Sleigh page on the NORAD Tracks Santa site. If you like these characters and models, they are available for licensing through the links above. But this year, you  can also see Toon Santa on the Official NORAD Tracks Santa gear site. Toon Santa may appear elsewhere – keep your eyes peeled.

We used Shade 3D and Smith Micro Poser for Toon Santa and the other models. There isn’t a better combination of tools for creating and animating 3D characters and creating visually stunning scenes. Plus, there’s a free version of Shade to try out – Shade 3D for Unity.