04 декабря, 2005
The definition of shareware is actually a matter of some debate in shareware circles. But it is generally agreed that shareware is try before you buy software. It is a way of marketing software.
It is different from the traditional way of marketing and selling software. In the traditional way, the customer buys the software in a store. They take it home, open the box, install it, and then they pray that it works. This could be described as the buy and pray method of purchasing software.
In the shareware way, the customer downloads a trial version of the software. He/she can use the software free for some trial period (usually 30 days) to see whether it fits their needs. If it does, then they buy it. Shareware could be described as the play and then pay method of purchasing software.
The benefits to the customer are obvious. When you buy software in a retail store, all you have to go on is the pretty box. The pretty box tells you how great the software is. The pretty box tells you what the software does. The pretty box tells you how much you need the software. The pretty box tells you that you should take it home now!
So you buy the pretty box, take it home, install the software, and throw away the pretty box. And, as often as not, the pretty box lied to you. The software isn't that great. Or maybe it is great, but it doesn't do what you actually want.
Shareware allows you to test the software out before you buy it. You'll know if the software does what you actually want. You can try out all the different products of a certain type and find which one you like best, then buy it.
This demo approach now dominates the software industry so that even big companies like Microsoft have demo versions of their software, even if they don't market in the shareware way generally.
And there are other benefits to the shareware customer. Most shareware products offer free upgrades for at least some period of time after the original purchase (I offer free upgrades for 2-3 years). Try walking into a store and saying "Hey, I bought that last year, I see you have a new version, can I take that home with me for free?"
With most shareware products, you can get at least e-mail technical support from the developer. Often it's directly from the programmer himself, as in my case. Again, with most retail software, you can't get any kind of support anymore.
All this makes shareware very attractive to the customer.