When did the shrink-wrap era really end?

When did the shrink-wrap era really end?

Summary: Microsoft is moving toward a business model first pioneered in the mid-1990s by America Online.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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AOL old, new logosMicrosoft has announced the end of the shrink-wrap era with a new set of services it calls Microsoft Live.

But didn't the shrink-wrap era really end years ago?

I believe the shrinkwrap era ended when the Internet era began, in the mid-1990s. Netscape wasn't bought at stores, it was downloaded. RealAudio, Flash, toolbars -- all downloaded.

The open source movement, in fact, is all about downloads. Most open source projects define their success based, first, on the number of times a project has been downloaded. The attempts by some to shrink-wrap open source products and sell them at the cost of packaging have, on the whole, been failures.

In fact I haven't bought a Microsoft software product from a store in years. Instead, I acquired them with my hardware. They were delivered by my OEM or a manufacturer. And it's updated online.

What Microsoft has done today is to try and tilt the market's reality back into a proprietary direction, placing a new business model on an old reality. The plan is to have a variety of paid tiers for online versions of Office, delivering basic functionality for the price of looking at ads, and more functions as you pay more.

That is a sea change. Microsoft is moving toward a business model first pioneered in the mid-1990s by America Online.

Topic: Microsoft

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8 comments
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  • ads

    Is no product or service of corporate America safe from advertisements? I get to pay MS monthly for using their software...AND I get to see ads while I'm writing pivot tables in Excel? Nice. Great for productivity...

    "...cell $e$4 is the sum of...hey, wait a minute...I DO need more Gold Bond powder...my thighs ARE chaffing more than usual..."
    Flubnut
  • cost of packaging is $90

    "The attempts by some to shrink-wrap open source products and sell them at the cost of packaging have, on the whole, been failures"

    Did not know that the cost of packaging linux costs $90 (check out the price for SUSE Linux or for that matter other distributions).
    zzz1234567890
    • You've been scammed...

      I bought SUSE for $59.95. Are you sure someone didn't hijack your transaction and pocket the remaining $30.05? Better get a credit history check done.

      Yeah, truth is, the packaging doesn't cost anywhere near $90. The real cost is probably something like $15...a few bucks for the media and its art, and $8 or $10 for the manual and box. Just an approximation, of course, cuz I don't have access to SUSE's numbers. But definitely not $90.
      Techboy_z
  • Check Your $1.00 Store

    Last time I was at Deal$ They had a copy of Netscape 3.0. Anyhow Netscape sold retail in stores for $19.00 until Microsoft started giving away MSIE.

    Anyhow I don't think FOSS has been seriouly marketed anywhere. Last year I actually went out and tried to purchase Linux from Best Buy, Wal Mart, and Circuit City. None of the local computer stores sold Linux. I found one privatly owned (Non-Chain) software store that did sell Linux byt they were sold out, they suggested that I wait a week for them to stock more copies.

    I finally was able to purchase Linux but not at a computer store but rather in a bookstore (The second one I went to).

    Anyhow I think FOSS Software would sell if it was shrinkwrapped and sold at a reasonable ptice. Say $9.99 for a CD with OO.org on it $0.99-$4.99 for lets say SuperTux or FrozenBubble or even better yet for a CD with a bunch of the more popular Linux Games (Most of these are ported to Windows also so toss both versions on the CD and it would be crossplatform).
    Edward Meyers
  • Did the shrink-wrap era really end in the '90s?

    No, I don't think it did. People were buying Netscape and IE at the store then, in addition to downloading it. A lot of people were buying Eudora, the e-mail client then too. Where do you think all those installations of Office 97 came from?...

    I think it's fair to say the shrink wrap era ended maybe 4 or 5 years ago. Even so, I think when most people aren't using a web app., like E-Bay or Amazon, if they have additional needs, they're still buying it at the store as opposed to downloading it. Probably the only notable exceptions being Napster, Skype, and Kazaa. I don't think most people understand the concept of searching for software on the internet and downloading it. My guess is the only time a lot of people venture into that realm is if there's an app. that's really compelling and is only available online. Even in those cases, they have plenty of "direction markers" telling them where to go to find it. They don't have to spend a lot of time Googling for them. Otherwise they still prefer the store, IMO.
    Mark Miller
    • Yeahh....where are you from?

      WV?

      "I don't think most people understand the concept of searching for software on the internet and downloading it."

      I think you severely underestimate people...except maybe in WV. lol

      "My guess is the only time a lot of people venture into that realm is if there's an app. that's really compelling and is only available online."

      I don't think people would venture to get out of the chair and drive to the store, if they can just as easily download the sw. It have to be really compelling and not available online.

      Re-read what you wrote, in context with the alternative, and ask yourself which makes more sense?
      Techboy_z
  • The LAW on Shrinkwrap Licensing

    Dated but still valid:

    Software user's rights
    In the United States, once you own a copy of a program, you can back it up, compile it, run it, and even modify it as necessary, without permission from the copyright holder. See 17 USC 117.
    For example, after purchasing a copy of Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation---which is a poorly tuned version of NT 4.0 Server, minus a few utilities---you can back it up, apply a small patch that fixes the tuning, and run the result.

    Microsoft hates this. Of course, Microsoft could restrict your rights by demanding that you sign a contract before you get a copy of Windows NT, but this would not do wonders for Windows sales.

    So Microsoft puts a ``license'' on all of its software and pretends that you don't have the right to use the software unless you agree to the ``license.'' You can't patch Windows without their permission, according to the license; you can't use NT Workstation for more than 10 simultaneous connections; you must give Microsoft your first-born son. (Or something like that.)

    The problem with Microsoft's license is that it's unenforceable. You can simply ignore it. Microsoft can't win a copyright infringement lawsuit: you own the software that Microsoft sold you, and Congress gave you the right to use it.

    Ten years ago, the SPA convinced Louisiana to subvert the will of Congress by passing a law that declared shrinkwrap licenses enforceable. In Vault v. Quaid, 847 F.2d 255 (5th Cir. 1988), this law was struck down. Federal copyright law preempts state law.

    The SPA didn't give up. It keeps arguing in court that, gee, if all these software makers claim that you can't use the software without a license, then they can't all be wrong, can they? (Ignore the fact that they're willingly selling their software to the public.)

    The SPA lost again in Step-Saver but then won in ProCD. I expect the Supreme Court to step in within the next few years to resolve the dispute in favor of Vault and Step-Saver.

    Patches
    According to the CONTU Final Report, which is generally interpreted by the courts as legislative history, ``the right to add features to the program that were not present at the time of rightful acquisition'' falls within the owner's rights of modification under section 117.

    Note that, since it's not copyright infringement for you to apply a patch, it's also not copyright infringement for someone to give you a patch. For example, Galoob's Game Genie, which patches the software in Nintendo cartridges, does not infringe Nintendo's copyrights. ``Having paid Nintendo a fair return, the consumer may experiment with the product and create new variations of play, for personal enjoyment, without creating a derivative work.'' Galoob v. Nintendo, 780 F. Supp 1283 (N.D. Cal. 1991), affirmed, 22 U.S.P.Q.2d 1587 (9th Cir. 1992). See also Foresight v. Pfortmiller, 719 F. Supp 1006 (D. Kan. 1989).

    Free software
    What does all this mean for the free software world? Once you've legally downloaded a program, you can compile it. You can run it. You can modify it. You can distribute your patches for other people to use. If you think you need a license from the copyright holder, you've been bamboozled by Microsoft. As long as you're not distributing the software, you have nothing to worry about.

    Other countries
    The European Software Directive (adopted by the UK in 1992) gives users the freedom to copy, run, modify, and reverse-engineer lawfully acquired programs.

    /end/
    WCarlS
    • Sam says....

      "Well that's an eye-opener and no mistake!"
      Techboy_z