Being relatively environmentally conscious and ever so practical, upgrades have become something of a bother for me. I love getting the new version of the program replete with new features, often with a new manual. Most upgrades replace the old versions of the program I was using and I never begrudge the companies the (usually) reasonable upgrade fees because it is expensive to put out new versions of the manual and mail it out and all that. However, doesn't it seem to be a huge waste to just throw out that old program? After all, it served its purpose relatively well for some time or you wouldn't have used it. The only company that has recognized this dilemma is WordPerfect, which allows you to donate your copies of older versions of WordPerfect software to educational institutions (K-12 only). I don't know exactly if the copy will become eligible for further upgrades, but the institution will receive a free license to use that copy.
I propose a further step. Instead of just being able to donate the older versions of software to schools, why not just let people sell it or give it away as a working product, which it is. The company (with a letter from the original owner transferring registration) could recognize the new owner but not allow that person any access to technical support or updates. This seems uncharitable, because people are unlikely to buy a new copy of a program they already own for full price. So why not allow the new owner to enjoy full rights to support (such as it may be) and updates? The company would then lose the income from the original sale, but would gain a user who would be likely to purchase updates. More importantly, each time a program went through an upgrade, the installed base for that program would have the ability to double in size, and no one would sneer at that kind of increase.
The main argument against my proposal as far as I can tell is that the software companies would lose money on original sales. This is true, but the increased revenue from upgrades should make up the difference. I also believe that the increased number of users would help in building product and company loyalty. Lots of people still use Word and Excel even though other programs do many things better just because it would be too hard to switch. Many companies would also have to change their systems so each copy of the program had a serial number and that number would obviously change each time a user upgraded. Currently, many companies let you keep your old registration number.
Interestingly enough, when I posed this question on Usenet, no one responded at all. The mainframe could have been acting up and failed to send my message out, but if not, why the complete lack of response? If you have comments about my proposal, I would like to hear them and will do another article if the comments warrant it. Send everything to one of my electronic addresses (check the About... card). Also, if you agree that upgrades should work as I think, let software companies know and mention TidBITS. The current practice of essentially leasing the right to use a program is strange enough that it would be nice to have at least the right to let someone else use an old version of your program.
WordPerfect Information Services -- 801/225-5000
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
John Garland -- email@example.com
WPCorp Report -- Jan-90, pg. 22