Update: When it comes to this particular story, "unlimited" now means unlimited. We spoke to BitDefender about the issues below and they have made corrections. Their comments and the update to this story follows the initial rant. Be sure to read all the way through.
Let me be clear here. I like marketers. I spent years in product marketing. I know how hard it is to walk the fine line between getting a real message out and making sure you get attention that leads to sales.
But it's time to define our terms here. Unlimited does not mean "three". It does not mean "until we're sick of you." It does not mean "until you get real traffic on our servers." It specifically does not just mean "more than one."
Why am I ranting about this today? Honestly, I've had a bug up my rather generous posterior maximus about this for years. I went through a phase when I was looking for Web hosting providers, many of whom claimed to allow "unlimited" traffic in their marketing, only to have the fine print define "unlimited" as "pretty darn limited."
This time, I'm picking on BitDefender, an anti-virus company. Here's why.
Yesterday, our Larry Seltzer ran a front-page piece Antivirus on Windows 8/8.1 compared, where BitDefender came out tied for top rating in both enterprise and consumer AV. I've used other tools, but haven't had much experience with BitDefender so I went over to the company's site.
Right on the home page was this promotion. Notice the chunk I highlighted in yellow: "One License. Unlimited Devices." See that word? Unlimited? Yeah, I knew you did.
My first thought was that's not bad. If the price wasn't too high, I might recommend BitDefender, especially since it has unlimited devices for purchasers. I like that approach for consumers. It makes things easy and creates a large base of loyal customers.
So I clicked into the "Buy Now" link. Uh-oh. Take a look at this screenshot:
On the left side I've drawn a nice green box around the wording that says, once again, "One License, Unlimited Devices." So far, so good. Now follow the red arrow to the right, to the red box I drew around the kinda-small print. What does it say there?
Yep. "Up to 3PCs." PCs are devices, folks.
Is that unlimited devices? No, three is not unlimited. Three is three.
Update: I've spoken to BitDefender and asked for clarification/response. Catalin Cosoi, BitDefender's Chief Security Strategist got back to me with this statement:
"Thank you for pointing this situation. We analyzed all the topics raised in your article and we can confirm a human error in the landing page only. It has already been fixed.
Otherwise, during the time that we displayed the misleading landing page, the info listed in the shopping cart and in the product page were absolutely correct. Bitdefender commercial offer is unlimited devices per user of the household, for three family members."
And here it is, corrected. Nice job, BitDefender.
Speaking personally, this looks like a heck of a good deal. Kudos to BitDefender for being so responsive. Now, let's see whether other limited-unlimited statements will get fixed as well.
BitDefender is far from the only company using "unlimited" to mean something other than unlimited. If you've had experience with other companies or offers claiming unlimited out of one side of their mouths while restricting and imposing limits out of the other side, please tell us about it in the TalkBacks below.