Top Ten Selling Business Software Titles
|Apr. 1999 issue||Feb. 1996 issue|
|1. Windows 98 Upgrade||1. Windows 95|
|2. Norton Antivirus 5.0||2. SoftRam 95|
|3. VirusScan 4.0||3. MicroSoft Plus|
|4. Norton System Works||4. Norton Anti-Virus|
|5. McAfee Office||5. Uninstaller 4.0|
|6. Microsoft Plus 98||6. Netscape Navigator|
|7. pcAnywhere 32 Host/Remote||7. Norton Utilities Upgrade|
|8. Microsoft Office 97 Upgrade||8. Norton Anti-Virus Upgrade|
|9. LivePix 2.0||9. WordPerfect|
|10. Winfax Pro 9.0||10. McAfee VirusScan|
Source: PC DATA and Windows Magazine
The purpose of this article is to take a closer look at these best-sellers to try and determine why they are consistently ranked in the Top Ten. One look at this list goes a long way towards explaining why computers are gaining the reputation of making business users less productive, instead of increasing worker output.
Over 50% of the best-selling titles are designed to solve and prevent computer problems, rather than directly increase business productivity. Basically what has happened is that the software industry has created a high profit software category for itself by releasing bug ridden, defective software.
It is my belief that the software industry has taken advantage of the "lack of computer knowledge" of the business and home user. The industry uses this advantage to persuade users to buy a lot software they don't need because these titles can offer little or no aid in correcting the problems they claim to eliminate.
Software I will not focus on are the ones I believe actually belong among the top selling "business" titles. These productivity titles include, WordPerfect and Netscape Communicator.
At first glance, the software that tops the sales charts looks innocent enough. Upon closer inspection however, a few interesting and somewhat sinister aspects start to become visible
The sinister list is headed up by the useless SoftRAM 95. This title claimed to be able to increase the speed of your computer by simulating ram. Going as far as saying it could help a 4 MB system, perform like an 8 MB computer. Read more here.
Back in early '96, this was a big deal, seeing as Windows 95 needed 8 MB of ram to run and was known to crash systems running with less. One can only hope that ram memory prices remain low so as to discourage software of this type.
In my opinion, the rest of the software titles listed here do actually perform as advertised. My only question about buying them would be... why?
Number 1 - Windows 95 Upgrade
Windows 95 causes the daily suffering of millions of users, due in part to its backward compatibility with the 16-bit applications that run on Windows 3.x.
This compatibility is the reason that even though the Windows 95 OS allows programs to access the 4 GB's of memory space available to 32-bit programs, instead of only 16 MB's using 16-bit, each program doesn't have its own protected space. Without this protection, unruly programs can and do cause GPF's or "crashes", on a frequent basis.
Another problem has been caused by Microsoft's secretive handling of the Win '95 registry. Sparse documentation, a half-ass editor and nothing but warnings of total destruction if tampered with, have ruined what should have been, a helpful tool.
Although a major improvement over the size lacking win.ini file, the Registry has basically turned into an inner tube that is constantly being filled with air and no matter how hard you try to release some of the old, unused air, it continues to bloat up.
This in turn, has increased the time necessary for a simple boot procedure. A process that could conceivably increase in length until it would require a full 8-hour shift to complete. I can picture employees having to reboot before they leave the office at night so their computer would be ready by the next morning.
No matter what certain software titles advertise, the only way to eliminate registry bloat completely is by re-installing Windows 95.
For more info on the convenience issues that plagueWin '95 as well as, tips on how to diagnose and solve them, visit the aptly named Win95 Annoyances site.
Number 2, 3, and 7 - Anti-Virus
What would any self-respecting Top 10 list do without a couple of snake oil remedies. McAffee has been milking this cash cow ever since they created demand for this type of software with their false predictions of a computer apocalypse via the overhyped Michelangelo virus.
Lets not forget Norton AV, headed up by that programmer turned male model, Peter Norton, who just loves to endorse software guaranteed to slow your system by 10 - 15%. You see Peter wishes he was Bill Gates, monetarily speaking only of course, and he is taking out his "Gates_Envy" on you and your computer.
I love it when I read an article about how these software manufacturers have "labs" where they do "research" seeking to eliminate computer viruses. You would think they were curing cancer.
Would it be unreasonable to think perhaps that in conducting this "research" it might have crossed the mind of someone that to truly understand a virus, they would need to code and release a virus, to see how quickly it could duplicate itself on different machines. I mean, what better way to defeat your enemy than to get to know your enemy.
Of course, this wouldn't have to be a devastating infection, just easily noticed. You could then keep ignoring the complaints about the virus until the media took notice, then like a hero to the rescue, you release a fix on your company website where registered users( i.e. paying) could then download a miracle "cure".
This would never happen, of course, because as we all know corporations play fair and by the rules, especially in the computer industry.
A comprehensive feature titled, Viruses: An Anatomy of Mass Hysteria, describing anti-virus hoaxes and software companies attempts to cash in on them is posted at this PC World Magazine web site.
Number 4 - Norton Utilities
Norton Utilities is a software product that suffers from being a monopoly far too long. This fact was made crystal clear with the latest upgrade to version 3.0.
Symantec was "forced" to release a patch for NU 3.0 just days after its release. Forced is the key word here due to the companies initial insistence that the bug reports it was receiving were minor and insignificant.
What types of problems does Symantec consider minor and insignificant?
One touted feature enabling users to boot their computers from Zip Disks instead caused the disks to become unaccessable.
Another "little snag" was NU's habit of damaging the Win 95 Registry to such an extent that a lot of NU users computers were suddenly unable to boot up.
Download the latest patch for Norton Utilities 3.0 at Symantec's ftp site.
Warning, if you are not the least bit interested in how your system operates, as long as it does operate, avoid this title. You probably won't use 90% of NU's features. One of which explains that ever exciting topic of the 640k memory barrier, complete with choppy .avi video of the software authors displaying just how socially awkward a computer geek can be.
Symantec has increased the number of features included thanks to competitive challenger's like Helix's Nuts & Bolts, but Symantec's inclusion of Crash Guard, which is useless to all but computer users who are total idiots, has done little to improve this title.
Where Nuts & Bolts really exceeds, is in its offering of features Norton Utilities still lacks. The problem with just adding some of these features is that Symantec already sells titles that focus on them.
For instance, Nuts & Bolts offers encryption and the permanent deleting of files. Symantec does too, but you have to buy their other title, For Your Eyes Only.
Number 6 - First Aid 98
These two titles, First Aid 97 Deluxe and newcomer First Aid 98, are perfect examples of software companies ripping off the ignorant.
Here is an example of a typical First Aid 97 user session.
I ran the Tune-up procedure with these results:
After checking out my entire system FA 97 informed me of the fact that the right- click of my mouse was too slow and needed to be sped up. I set the mouse speeds a long time ago so that the mouse worked exactly as I wanted it too and here is this useless, pathetic piece of software telling me how my system should run. Please!!
FA 97 informed me that Windows 95 explorer was not refreshing after I deleted certain files and offered to rectify this terrible situation. For the sole benefit of you, the reader, I took on the role of guinea pig. Well, I still don't know whether or not FA 97 fixed this "problem" because now every time I delete a file, Explorer crashes. Thanks, First Aid 97.
The recently released First Aid 98 is nothing more than an attempt to squeeze sales out of an ill-informed consumer.
By purchasing First Aid 98, you are receiving nothing more than a subscription to use another CyberMedia title called OilChange that connects you to the Internet so OilChange can download and install updated software drivers for you.
This feature will also be included as part of the Win '98 OS, not to mention, that you can get these updated drivers for free, by simply connecting to the Internet. Which come to think of it, is what you have to do anyway, except now, CyberMedia wants you to pay them for the privilege.
Number 5 and 10 - Uninstaller 4.5 and Norton Uninstaller Deluxe
Uninstaller was a decent , though unnecessary, program when it was first released. This software title has mutated into a program solely geared to take ignorant computer users money and return little added value.
Our good friends, CyberMedia, purchased the rights to Uninstaller after the 4.0 release. CyberMedia, promptly turned around and released version 4.5 changing only the box art, (the dumbass new "Tide" detergent design) as well as, increasing file indexing speed and adding a link to their internet OilChange application.
Norton likes to help novice computer users gain control of their systems too. They have released
Norton Uninstaller Deluxe to assist those of you who have a hard time finding the delete key.
I can think of no better argument against buying this type of software than the companies themselves provide by releasing a "deluxe" version of a product that is designed to delete files. It must delete stuff extry, extry good.
For more info, check out this article on the newest addition to the growing list of "for idiots only" software titles.
Number 9 - Microsoft Frontpage 98
One has to wonder why Microsoft isn't trying to con the US Goverment into believing that Frontpage '98 is just as much a part of the Windows OS as Internet Explorer 4.0 is.
Oh, that's right, I forgot. Microsoft has already gained dominant market share in this category.
So what's the point?
Read more Online Acumen articles.
Online Acumen Contents