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Apple and CompUSA Working on 'Software on Demand'

pudge posted more than 11 years ago | from the going-into-a-store-how-quaint dept.

Apple 108

pimpbott writes "Apple is working with SoftwareToGo to install kiosks in CompUSA stores to deliver software on demand. Imagine walking into your local CompUSA and ordering some obscure title that nobody would ordinarily stock, paying for it, and walking out with a custom-burned CD-ROM. This not only gets more titles published and available to the public at large by reducing the need for expensive shelf space and other publishing costs, but it keeps embarassingly large, mostly empty software boxes from ending up in the landfill."

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P2P (2, Funny)

defunc (238921) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502357)

Anybody thinks that they will be using LimeWire to download the software ?

Re:P2P (1)

Alex Thorpe (575736) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506308)

Since I can't find didly squat on LimeWire anymore, I'd say no. Not that I ever search for software, but these days, there's so few other servers to connect to, a *.* search comes up nearly empty.

C'mon... (0, Troll)

Erik K. Veland (574016) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502372)

We've had this for years! Hotline, FTP, KDX, Aquisition have given me Software2Go for as long as I can remember.

Re:C'mon... (4, Funny)

xyzzy (10685) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502418)

Yes, this is hysterically funny. These guys are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Where have they been for the past 13 years? My first reaction was: walk??? CD???

stop scaring me (4, Funny)

amorico (40859) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502391)

Imagine walking into your local CompUSA...


I know several campfire horror stories that begin that way. They usually end with "but that is the price AFTER the mail-in rebate. {cue maniacal laughter}"


Re:stop scaring me (4, Informative)

WatertonMan (550706) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505640)

Which is a good point, and not just funny. First off it has been my experience that rebates are a pain in the ass. When I bought my Mac I had all sorts of rebates I sent in. Unfortunately I only ended up getting about 1/2 the rebates back. One took me months because Apple cancelled the rebate fairly soon after I bought the computer. But instead of keeping the department open they just closed down the PO Box. Fortunately I called several of the other rebate offers and finally got an understanding manager. Then I found out that of the three, nearly identical, bar codes on the box I had to send in, I'd sent the wrong one in. More hassle. Fortunately again a very understanding person on the other end of the phone. Unfortunately not all the other rebate offers were as understanding.

My advice? Think of rebates as a "plus." Do NOT calculate it into your purchase. Unless you have a lot of disposable cash, you can't count on the price. (i.e. your initial cost) Secondly it can be up to months before you see that cash. Thirdly I'd say at least half my rebates run into problems. Then you have to fit into your busy day tracking down phone numbers, finding receipts, etc. In about 1/4 of all rebates I never see the rebate. (That is with all products, not just computers)

This is why companies love rebates instead of price reductions. They know that in practice they won't pay out all of them.

My advice? Always keep a backup of everything. (A scanner is very nice for this) Prior to sending in the rebate, call up the help line to ensure you're sending in the right proof. (I think that a lot of rebate instructions are intentionally misleading so as to make it less likely you'll collect) Also if it is a rebate with a reasonable price (i.e. hundreds of dollars) consider sending certified mail and keep your proof.

CompUSA isn't particularly worse than anyone else in rebates. But they do tend to over-emphasize the price of products in terms of rebates.

Re:stop scaring me (2)

schmink182 (540768) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506716)

CompUSA isn't particularly worse than anyone else in rebates.

False. CompUSA is the worst when it comes to rebates. I've bought electronics from all the stores around here. Not only do they do tricks with barcodes like you said, having very similar barcodes so you don't know what to send. You have to actually track every rebate (they like to use more than one per product) or else they'll forget about it. In no other store have I had nearly as bad of an experience then at CompUSA. I no longer will buy a product from them because of a mail-in rebate.

I *do* agree with the rest of your comment, but that last bit doesn't sit well with me.

What does it offer over downloads? (2, Informative)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502427)

More and more people are getting broadband. Call me unimaginative but, in the long run, what would this scheme offer over downloadable software? I'm sure some people will still be lacking internet connections, but will it really be enough people to subsidize this form of software distribution?

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (3, Insightful)

puddytat (120371) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502498)

Well it might make it easier for people to get legal software without having to transmit their creditcard info over the internet. Not everyone seems to be happy to do that (and not everyone has a credit card)

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (4, Insightful)

GeorgeH (5469) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502590)

Publisher buy-in. Maybe I haven't been looking hard enough, but I haven't seen (legal) downloads of Microsoft Office X, Adobe Photoshop, Unreal 2, or pretty much anything else that you might want. Publishers are leery to offer downloads, this gives them the peace of mind to put their downloads in the context of a store setting.

Besides, I have a cable modem and it would still take me less time to go to CompUSA, wait for a CD to burn, and go home than it would for me to download the image.

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (2, Interesting)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503201)

I got an email from my former alma mater, with a link that said I could go download any MS product I wanted, for free. Of course, I am no longer enrolled, but I decided to go to the link to see what it was like. Indeed, they did have a whole lot of MS software available for free download. I didn't download anything, because they had some scary looking EULA that said if I wasn't a student then they would come cut my balls off. I wonder how much the school had to pay for that service (and as a state school, I wonder how much of my tax money was wasted on MS software).

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (1)

rreay (50160) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504531)

Assuming you got the same letter I did, or at least a similiar one, check that it really is any MS product. I thought that it was cool until I noticed Office X was not avalable. In fact, I saw no Mac SW at all, Windows only.

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505646)

OK, so I shouldn't have taken the grandparent's claim with a grain of slat? Oh good lord... M$ is pushing its crack on the college kiddies... First hit is free - after that... M$ Licensing 9.0
(bottom of EULA reads: We own your 90ddamned f$cking soul, you mindless sheep sucker-ass punks!)

Sounds like a certain corporation is feeling the pressure from the popularity of OSS on campuses...

Scary, scary tactic indeed.

This legitimizes the downloads (4, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503339)

One major difference between this idea and a simple download is what the customer receives: tangible proof that he or she legally bought the product.

The possibility of embedding registration numbers and the like on the CD is there, of course, and is probably part of the system.

All in all, given the fact that many people still can't download truly huge CD images from home, this seems like a promising idea.

Re:This legitimizes the downloads (3, Insightful)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505059)

Not to mention plenty of software comes on 2 or 3 cds.

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (2, Informative)

MConlon (246624) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503545)

Maybe I haven't been looking hard enough, but I haven't seen (legal) downloads of Microsoft Office X, Adobe Photoshop, Unreal 2, or pretty much anything else that you might want.

I believe IBM will let you download electronic verions of their software, and knock 10% off the price.


Databank in compusa locations (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5504713)

I would assume this would be better off if they had the files on location. They can download them to the kiosk, and burn them in no time. Hell, maybe even have a laser printer at the kiosk to print out the software manuals as well.

Compusa has the benefit of having software as one of their products. They can have the product in backup and produce it on site for a customer. Not like barnes and nobles where if you're looking for a book, you have to wait 3-5 weeks for them to order it.

This is would be a nice feature for people who don't go to e-tail or trust e-purchases.

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (2, Informative)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502735)

The question is whether the cost of the kiosk storage exceeds the cost of serving your program data. You might, as a consumer, have access to broadband but if it costs a penny to push to the customer via the Internet and half a penny to distribute a copy via kiosks then kiosks will maintain their viability purely on a cost basis. They also offer some minimal marketing impact because searchers looking to buy will get a list of products, including yours that are available in the proper category. When was the last time you searched Google and got zero spurious hits?

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (2, Interesting)

eXtro (258933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503094)

I still like having a piece of physical media that I can point at and store away. I have purchased online downloads before, a few small games and PowerDVD XP. In the case of PowerDVD I ended up buying it twice because I had lost my original download and serial number as well as the software itself in a nasty hard drive crash. I talked with the PowerDVD folks and they kept asking me to fax them a copy of my CD no matter how many times I protested that I had purchased a downloadable copy.

This could have been prevented if I had burned the download and installation information to CD but I honestly never thought of it. I backed up lots of other things but not that silly little application.

Re:What does it offer over downloads? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5503433)

Buying anonymously with cash.

copy protection to publisher, security to buyer (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503481)

advantages to publisher:
1) lower cost of market entry: It offers a way for an obscure title to become discovered and expand without having to be ready for a major distribution market. yet still make some money and have professional distribution even when its small.

2) If they print your disk for you they can watermark the serial number right into it. if it showed up later on the net they know you did it. heck maybe they could just make your visa card number part of the activation code.

3) plus they could embed all sort of copy protection into it as any physical disk publisher can do.

4) Sure dilligent thieves could subvert this but if they are stocking rare titles theres no market.

advnatages to buyer:
1) youre getting the software from a trusted source. personally I sweat over installing any software I download from an untrusted source. its the dark side of freeware => lack of responsible party.

2) proof of ownership. you own it. maybe you can even sell it to someone else if you want. or qualify for upgrades. In bussiness circles having an official hardcopy is an important part of software accountability.

3) one stop shopping and less hassle. imagine you work at a company an suddenly need some peice of software, do you want to go web surfing or just go buy it: did I get the latest version? did I get all of the parts I need to install it? did I get the documentation? do I have it all on a hard copy disk? Did it download correctly? yes you can do all of that, but its nice to be able to pay someone to do it for you.

4) if you pay for software it increaces the chance creators are likely to create more or maintain it or possibly even offer support.

Re:copy protection to publisher, security to buyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5503580)

I'll add one more:

curation of lagacy software.

as time passes we are going to encounter situations where data recovery, perhaps needed for a trial, will be become important, yet the required software needed to read old data in old formats on old operating systems just does no exist.

lets say in 2030 you need to find a copy of quicken 98 and windows 98. good luck, you'll find it after a few man-days of effort. and if it was more obscure than quciken, well maybe it will take a man-week.

or you could run down to the kiosk and for 50 reichsmarks (issued by fuhrer Bush) you can have what you need.

Re:copy protection to publisher, security to buyer (1)

gryphokk (648488) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504966)

And I thought I was Bush-o-phobic!

Re:copy protection to publisher, security to buyer (1)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505382)

3) plus they could embed all sort of copy protection into it as any physical disk publisher can do.

This would be a real pain, and would be one strong reason for me to demand a pressed CD. CD-Rs are significantly less reliable, and not being able to back it up can cause real inconveniences.

And you missed one: it's much easier to keep a kiosk updated with the most recent versions of software, than to restock shelves. Today, the first thing you should do after installing shrinkwrap software is to apply patches, and this concept eliminates that.

It's about time... (5, Interesting)

autojive (560399) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502447)

It's about time someone thought of doing something like this. Heck, if it catches on, you could probably set this up as a vending type of machine. Imagine going down to the "Quick-E-Mart" at 3AM andpurchasing a copy of an imaging program to help work on the report due first thing in the morning.

Of course, I think that there needs to be some valid way to register or prove that you actually did purchase this software since something like this may cause more piracy and/or fraud.

Re:It's about time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5502686)

yeah, it would really be a shame to see something that looks so promising end up causing more privacy.

What sad days these are, when passing ruffians can say "Ni!" to an old woman...

put one of these in the student union (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5503525)

yeah, put one of these in the student union or in a drom on a big campus with a built in student discount and I bet it would sell stuff like gangbusters... especially games :)

Re:It's about time... (1)

Masque (20587) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504347)

Wouldn't that then be a Quick eMart?

manuals? (3, Insightful)

steveheath (119200) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502467)

I like to think that the software I just bought comes with at least a little bit of explaination.. I fondly remember the days when you bought a book on linux and you got slackware free on a CD.. (I still have the CDs and books)

Re:manuals? (2)

Ponty (15710) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503103)

Hell ... I miss the days when I'd buy a software package and get a manual. Hundreds of pages of explanations, a tutorial manual, a reference manual. Back when software was actually worth buying it.

Re:manuals? (1)

crazyj (145672) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505897)

Yeah, but as Pudge says, You can't grep a dead tree.

Honestly, I prefer to have documentation in PDF. Being able to open the 833 page MySQL manual in PDF format and search for INNER JOIN is a lot easier than grabbing the (heavy) printed manual, looking up INNER JOIN in the index and then checking every page to see if it is what you're looking for.

Re:manuals? (1)

trash eighty (457611) | more than 11 years ago | (#5510596)

yeah but if you haven't got a laptop it makes reading the manual anywhere else apart from at your computer... tricky

Re:manuals? (1)

jlaxson (580785) | more than 11 years ago | (#5514468) Don't even have to boot and worship acrobat.

Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (4, Insightful)

jbarr (2233) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502482)

I personally like "hard copy" manuals. To cut costs, many companies are providing documentation in the form of online electronic files. For those of us who actually like reading "hard copy" manuals, this type of software distribution might be a problem.

Of course, that might just be the "price" you pay for access to the specific software that you want.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (1)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502504)

I wold agree - if they're not going to be able to include the software manual, the price should be reduced by some degree.

Granted, there's a difference in how much - if the manual is typically a pamplet, then it won't make much difference. But it's an idea.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5502912)

So buy a printer.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (2, Insightful)

mkoz (323688) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503059)

Great idea, but look at the manuals companies give these days. Even when I buy a box the manuals are basically useless.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504230)

Yeah, spend the money on a tech writer, not on paper. I'd much rather print a few pages I need for
quick reference than have nothing worth printing.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503660)

Split the cost. Honestly. There's a game distributor in canada somewhere that charges less for games if you buy the game itself. Skip the box and other fluff. ALl you get is an envelope with a shrink rapped game and instruction manual. The consumer saves like, $20.

Why not do the same /w softare to some degree? If you want the manuals.. charge an extra $10 for it.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (2, Interesting)

superflippy (442879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505813)

Remember the "print on demand" book machines [] that Barnes & Noble were supposedly trying out a while back? Wouldn't it be great if the Software Machine were hooked up to one of those so you really could get the whole package? Heck, throw in a shrink-wrap machine if you want to get really fancy.

All said, though, how is this different and better than downloading software from the manufacturer over the Internet and burning a CD myself?

Kinkos (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 11 years ago | (#5507808)

I agree I think Kinkos would be a better place to do this than Compusa. Its pretty easy for Kinko's to add CD/DVD burning (they already have internet access). Its pretty hard for CompUSA to add on demand publishing and binding.

Re:Not a bad idea, but what about documentation? (1)

tres (151637) | more than 11 years ago | (#5508553)

For me, sometimes a hard manual is just necessary. But I don't think it's because there's anything better about having a dead tree in my lap. I think it's because we haven't quite gotten the electric metaphor of paper down yet. Instead of imitating the banal, everyday practical thing that paper is, we've gotten a bunch of glitz that promises a lot and delivers little.

Instead of giving a user an easily extensible format that can be quickly and easily changed, we've gotten more and more "tools" to make electronic manuals easier to use. I find that most of the time, the tools end up getting in the way. Even though I can type faster and clearer than I can write, using things like Notes in Adobe Acrobat end up taking longer than simply writing notes in a book because the interface hinders direct interaction with the text itself.

I mean, take for instance Microsoft's failed e-reader program; they tried to capture the metaphor of paper without providing the user any means to touch their paper. Your book was set firmly on the other side of a clunky interface that didn't allow you to change it. It was like when Bill Gates was showing some work by Da Vinci at the Seattle Art Museum--on the other side of a thick block of glass was a barely legible piece of paper that you couldn't get anywhere near. Acrobat has the same problem, it's just that the information is all laminated instead of embedded in a chunk of glass.

I think that SGML overcomes a lot of the shortcomings that electronic manuals intherently have, but the problem is, marking up a text is going to take a lot more time than just using paper; using SGML to make electronic media as extensible as paper is like using a jackhammer to unscrew something.

The heart of the problem is that there really hasn't been a need to take the electronic paper metaphor beyond its current half-baked state. Books still make a lot more money and publishers don't want to lose control of their industry. Those who have tried to extend the metaphor have done so with the aim of protecting the industry as is.

The real thing here is that 80% of the time--even with the broken paper metaphor--you never need a printed manual. And many of the instances where you do need one it's because the information is being presented in a manner which doesn't work within the bounds of the broken paper metaphor; it wants to be printed. Using electronic format in its present state means that an author must present information differently.

I think the presentation of technical information in electronic format is getting better all the time (I'm actually seeing instances where paper "manuals" or quickstart guides are mimicking online presentation and it works well).

For those others, the metaphor

A great idea particularly on the Mac side (4, Insightful)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502503)

The Macintosh has thousands of titles, but you'd be hard-pressed to know this by walking into any computer store--even Apple Stores.

Part of this is how the Mac market works. There are proportionally fewer titles to PCs, but then, only a handful of titles are required for general applications, and the quality of Macintosh titles are stronger, in my opinion, because that smaller market is agressively competitive. Mac users can't tolerate crappy apps. And, frankly, how many word processors, screensavers, photo galleries, and diagnostic tools does one really need?

The other problem is mindshare on the part of a retailer. Space is precious, and you don't want to use lots of space on titles that move slowly. In an Apple Store, the most common and popular apps are displayed. Need a copy of CADMover? You'll need to go to mail-order or call the vendor. Photoshop plug-ins? Pre-flight software? SOL if go to the store.

On-demand CDs is an excellent idea for these situations. In fact, since all Macs sold today come with DVD-ROM ability, you can pack many apps on a single disk. The idea helps the sales and throughput of the scrappy but innovative businesses with fine products, and eases the retailer's space burden while still selling product. More importantly, you, the consumer, get what you need. Wins all around.

Possible problems? Bad media, as you could have with any software purchase. This idea also doesn't help products with a hardware element, such as the EyeTV PVR.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (2, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502728)

Although this is a good idea in principle, it leaves open a few questions:
  • The CompUSA delivery method is only an advantage over apps that you can't currently download and unlock. Many of the small apps that you mention are like this already.
  • And will this new delivery method accomodate the apps that aren't downloadable? I don't believe the article specified. If it doesn't, it's only useful for folks without broadband connections ie home users, but no businesses, not even home based ones. OTOH, most apps that do require the CD do so for either a) copy protection or b) size of the app. How this will work with copy protection that requires a CD install remains to be seen.
So in the absence of more information, it appears this may only really help home-users with dial-up connections who desire big applications. Otherwise you're back to mail order.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (1)

repetty (260322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505642)

"The CompUSA delivery method is only an advantage over apps that you can't currently download and unlock. Many of the small apps that you mention are like this already."

What difference does this make? The point is, they are all in one retail place, ready to go. To you and I that might not matter much, but to the other 99% of the retail consumers it will be a miracle.

The point is that the apps will be visible without the cost of shelf space. In a retail setting this has NOT happened before.


Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (4, Interesting)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502783)

Since you not only get a software CD but a unique serial number, media replacement policies will probably be identical to boxed software, return within 30 days with receipt.

As for EyeTV PVR, the smart move would be to replace some of the mac software title space with mac hardware peripherals. CompUSA *does* adjust space policies due to sales figures. If people buy more mac, they'll stock more mac.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (1)

analog_line (465182) | more than 11 years ago | (#5508184)

Media replacement will probably be a whole lot easier with a system such as this.

No need to remember to save manuals or boxes for whatever proof of purchase information is required, that you're not going to be able to find when you need it in any case. You've got a receipt, which most people do or should save in any case, and that's your proof of purchase right there. Walk into CompUSA. Say the dog ate your disc. You already have the CD Key (it's right there on your reciept, or distributed seperately). They say "You bet sir!" (or more likely, grunt and shuffle over to the CD replicator...this is CompUSA we're talking about here), possibly charge you $.50 to $1 for media, and a minute or two later you've got a fresh CD.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (2, Informative)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505485)

all Macs sold today come with DVD-ROM ability

Not yet. The $999 iBook and all CRT iMacs still ship with CD-ROM drives. More importantly, I don't have a DVD-ROM drive yet.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (1)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505698)

Thanks for the clarification. A better way to say this is that DVD reading is available as standard equipment on most Macs, and available by option on the lowest-end iBook and iMac that you describe.

Re:A great idea particularly on the Mac side (1)

Alex Thorpe (575736) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506389)

More specifically, today's CRT iMacs have just CD-ROMs. My 3 year old iMac DV has a DVD-ROM. But I've never put a DVD in it that wasn't just a movie.

Dear Apple (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5502506)

Dear Apple,

I am a homosexual. I bought an Apple computer because of its well earned reputation for being "the" gay computer. Since I have become an Apple owner, I have been exposed to a whole new world of gay friends. It is really a pleasure to meet and compute with other homos such as myself. I plan on using my new Apple computer as a way to entice and recruit young schoolboys into the homosexual lifestyle; it would be so helpful if you could produce more software which would appeal to young boys. Thanks in advance.

with much gayness,

Father Randy "Pudge" O'Day, S.J.

Re:Dear Apple (-1, Offtopic)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502800)

Besides being deeply bigoted and offensive it actually is true that the Vatican likes macs because they want their priests to use their computers to get work done, not fiddle with the OS.

Sigh. (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502784)

SO this means ill be getting LESS documentation? I didnt think that was possible.

Realistically... (5, Insightful)

Ry R. (658722) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502786)

Realistically most software isn't that big, Photoshop is about 150MB, that's a lot to download on my dial-up but who going to drop $700 after just walking into a CompuServ, if you have that money you can have it overnight with FedEx.

And most good software for the Mac comes from Shareware and Freeware developers,and I'd bet, though I couldn't verify, that the average size of those files isn't much more than 20MB.

Otherwise, with the exception of other bloated (usually for the best) by Adobe and Microsoft (which you usually order with your computer anyway) there isn't much that anyone can't download overnight on almost any connecntion, and, as someone pointed out, those times have been dropping because of the proliferation of broadband.

I think it's a neat idea but totally unecessary. Finding Mac software is very hard, especially in non-urban areas (the Circuit City didn't have a single Mac app, except, by chance, the old Diablo which was released in the same box for both OS's), but demand just isn't there for kiosks, especially not at CompuServ.

Apple would be better off having offered a super-secure, super-reliable server to download software from, instead of asking people to drive an hour to get what they could download in that time.

Re:Realistically... (2, Interesting)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503592)

And most good software for the Mac comes from Shareware and Freeware developers,and I'd bet, though I couldn't verify, that the average size of those files isn't much more than 20MB.

If this catches on, it might replace the shareware market. Shareware is shareware because it is so expensive to distribute software through retail. Since this has no upfront costs, it's a good way for small-time developers to sell their software.

I don't know how big the cut Software-To-Go takes, but I bet its comparable to what various regestration services charge to register shareware.

If Apple does this right it might really help to make the Mac a mecca for small-time developers.

Re:Realistically... (1)

NaugaHunter (639364) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503627)

You missed the most important part - obscure software that isn't normally carried, even at CompUSA. It's gotten better with the boxes shrinking to DVD-cases (more titles/shelf), but they still only order what they think will sell & rotate out quickly. Also, broadband isn't nearly as prolific as you think. The Kiosk would be able to demo the software, which you can't do without downloading the full install. In addition, you'd get a CD and case, whereas from the 'net you'd have to spend even more time burning a CD or keep the original installer hanging around in case of incidents.

Personally, I'm more interested in the End-Of-Life titles. I'd like to pick up older games like Full Throttle or Sam & Max, or the Infocom collections, without relying on eBay. I'm hoping once a publisher has buy-in they'll release the majority of their backlog, possibly as sets of games. They'll understandably be wary of an increase support calls from trying to run old games in Classic, but hopefully they release the most popular from olden days.

In addition, the 'copy protection' scheme seems reasonable. It seems more designed to remind people 'Hey you paid for this. If you copy it for someone, you'll have to give them your unlocking key.' Of course, it could be stronger than it appears, but I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Re:End-of-life issues (3, Insightful)

jaoswald (63789) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505126)

I'd like to pick up older games like Full Throttle or Sam & Max, or the Infocom collections, without relying on eBay

I don't think this is likely to fly. Most programs, games especially, are not particularly future compatible. Porting software to Mac OS X is feasible with Carbon, but isn't automatic. As soon as you ask for money, you are setting up expectations that the program will actually work, not just on museum-piece hardware.

Think about how little software from the Mac OS 7 era still works on OS 9, much less OS X. There's always some glitch (doesn't work on HFS+ volumes, had some weird implementation of heirarchical menus, etc.)

If the owner of these old games hasn't seen fit to update them for the new platform, this kiosk isn't going to make that much difference in the economics. You still need to pay the developers to go over the code to eliminate bit-rot, for a market that is probably very small.

The main benefit is for retailers, who don't have to keep inventory and shelf space for lots of Mac titles, when they hardly have space for the PC titles they want to carry.

Re:End-of-life issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5511469)

The SCUMM engine that drives the mentioned games has already been ported to (well, emulated on) OS X.


Two issues (1)

NitroPye (594566) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502792)

I have two issues with a system like this. 1. How easy would it be to do this. Will I have to run down a sales person and will i get strange looks then the manager then "ohh yea I forgot we did that" 2. Any software? Such as games? Because some of the software is not boxed what about price? Will it be cheaper because I am not getting a manual and whatnot?

There's already a system like this: (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5502806)

It's called Kazaa.


Re:There's already a system like this: (1)

coolmacdude (640605) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503748)

Last time I checked, no Mac version of Kazza.

Re:There's already a system like this: (1)

vi-rocks (611108) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503858)

Well, there is a shadow client for kazza called NEO []
Also there is Limewire, Direct Connect, Aquisition, etc.. so there are lots of P2P file shareing options.

Re:There's already a system like this: (1)

coolmacdude (640605) | more than 11 years ago | (#5510862)

Right but the original post was referring to Kazaa. There is Neo, but it is a pain in the ass and usually doesn't find what you are looking for.

The underdog has to innovate (4, Insightful)

shunnicutt (561059) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502934)

I see a lot of comments from the Slashdot perspective, but for the people out there that do frequent CompUSA, this is something that Apple should be commened for trying.

If this takes off, Macintosh owners will gain access to more software. CompUSA will be able to stock more titles for less space with no hassle with moving physical boxes around.

Not only that, PC shoppers might take a look at the Apple equipment and ask, 'what about software?' Then they can browse the listings at the kiosk and see what's available.

Apple faces significant pressure on many fronts in today's marketplace, but it's nice to see them trying new things. In fact, in their position, they must.

Re:The underdog has to innovate (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504136)

This is the correct thought pattern. The chief complaint of people that see what they can do with Mac OS X is "well can I run $title on it?"

With one of these kiosks hitched to a fast line (NOT DSL, CABLE, OTHER RESIDENTIAL ACCESS) they could find $title and get it right then when they purchase the hardware, rather than "Hmm... I better find out if I can do that, then come back and maybe get this"

For the most part, if a customer leaves the store to do some research, they will not be coming back to make the purchase. This is a way for the customer to find an answer right now, and walk out with $title AND that shiny new G4 and cinema display. CompUSA wins, Apple wins, the software developer wins, and the software distributor wins, but more importantly, the customer wins.

When the going gets wierd, the wierd go pro...

How will you browse? (4, Insightful)

Enrico Pulatzo (536675) | more than 11 years ago | (#5502970)

People like looking at the box to make sure it's the right thing. I can only assume that most consumers won't be using this service, as they wouldn't necessarily know what software they're looking for. There's a reason it's called shopping, and not buying stuff.

Re:How will you browse? (1)

Pyrometer (106089) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503197)

How will you browse?

Put simply ... each product will probably have information about it on the kiosk similar and possibly more informative than whats on current shrink-wrap software packages. I didn't 'RTFA' but this just seems like the logical choice for browsing does it not?

I didn't read it because it didn't really interest me ... as for comments about missing hard copy documentation ... most shrink wrap packages I have bought have basic install information and the rest in PDF format as it is.

Re:How will you browse? (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503220)

R.T.F.A. Does not stand for "Reactionary Thoughts For All"... From Apple's SoftwareToGo page:
The two PPS' multi-page product presentation includes screen shots, video/audio demos, text description and system requirements. In each store, the two PPS', with at least one in a prominent end-cap position, are complete with signage and an electronic reader board that scrolls titles housed on the system to attract customers.

Re:How will you browse? (1)

Enrico Pulatzo (536675) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503721)

My thought wasn't that you couldn't page through the interface, but rather the people who don't know what they're looking for. The spontaneous sales will lag, as no one will be able to say "Reader Rabbit, hey my niece will like that". The flashing random title names does NOT make up for that. That's what shopping is. Buying stuff is what this allows you to do. Unless you spend an hour in front of one of the kiosks, holding up the store traffic.

Re:How will you browse? (2, Interesting)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505388)

I get your drift... My thoughts lead to Toys R Us game title cabinets... You don't really get to see the package design until you go pick it up at the service desk.

In the dozen-or-so CompUSA's I've been to, the PC software titles are arranged by category - sometimes dispersed throughout the store. BestBuy/Wiz/Circuit City kiosks don't get all too much attention from customers. I guess most brick-and-mortar patrons think: "Hey I'm in the store, why do something I could do at home?" which is I guess your general point?

On the other hand, this system would potentially benefit the random customer that comes in saying: "Hey there, sales rep! I purchased a Macintosh a month ago and need small-business inventory management software for it!"

Rather than getting the current response: "Sorry, we don't carry any Mac inventory management titles" they would be directed to the kiosk, get a brief demo if needed, and walk out of the store 20 minutes later with the software. I think these kiosks cover a middle-ground... That of the customer who still needs their hand held (retail environment) yet wants obscure titles. It'll also do wonders for perception of the Mac platform in retail, as people tend to ask about software availability when considering the "switch"... The Apple Sales Consultant would be able to say: "Sure, there are thousands of titles available in just about every category you need - as a matter of fact, you can get most of them right here, right now!"

In any event, I don't think the idea is to entirely supplant and supply the needs of "Joe Title Browser" in an LCD interface, rather extend the retail experience in general (and quickly remedy the fact that Apple titles are relegated to half a shelf in most CompUSA's)

I've done package design in the past, and frankly, it left a sour taste in my mouth... Smoke and Mirrors. "Doesn't matter how much a title sucks once you load it on the system - if it's got the right package design it'll SELL!" Yeccch. I'll be glad to see those days left far, far behind us ;)

Re:How will you browse? (1)

NSObject (250170) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505080)

I suppose you could browse the same way you do at a video store.

There can still be display boxes. You'd take em to the checkout (burnout?) counter, get your CDs, and the display boxes would be returned to the shelf.

Where have I seen this before? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5503057)

SoftwareToGo reminds me of the Nintendo Disk Writer [] systems [] or the "Game Kiosk" [] idea for the SNES and GameBoy. (If only in terms of overall concept. I also seem to have this misconception that I was able to reuse old cartridges in the DiskWriter system . . . )

I thought it was a good idea then, and I still think it's a good idea now. Now if we can only get movies and music this way :-)

Thought they already had this? (3, Funny)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503257)

I mean, I pick up some software every time I walk into Future Shop (Canada's CompUSA). I just plug the 'ol iPod into one of the demo Macs and get After Effects, Office, etc. Very fast, doesn't even cost me a CD-R.


Re:Thought they already had this? (1)

coolmacdude (640605) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503767)

I doubt they would allow you to hook up your custom media to get it. They would probably be afraid that it might be possible to transmit viruses or do something malicious.

Re:Thought they already had this? (1)

gryphokk (648488) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505396)

Who's allowing anything?

If I read this post right, thisguywhoIam just confessed (tongue-in-cheek, I hope) to grand larceny. Of course CUSA wouldn't allow it, anymore than they would allow to burn a CD of their demo software sitting on a machine with a CD-RW drive.

Wait, maybe I need to go commit a little larceny myself...

Nice but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5509120)

...Where in Canada do you live?

Future Shop near my place has shit all for software on any of the Macs... I usually end up setting them up from MacAddict CDs and my own CDs I bring in (Game demos and whatnot)

The saddest thing is I don't even work there... :-p

One Better (3, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503492)

Why bother with the part where you walk into CompUSA? The last time I went in there I had to wait in line quite a long while to talk to someone knowledgeable, but was accosted without prompting by a lurking sales droid to buy an extended warranty on products I was holding while I was waiting in yet another line for a cashier:)

No, really.

With hard drive space so cheap, why not pre-load all kinds of software, each with a unique encryption key (varies for software, computer) and let the user call in with a credit card number to get the key for the software?

Until broadband for the last mile is a reality, I think this is a lot less hassle than visiting CompUSA.

Re:One Better (1)

CrazyJoel (146417) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503699)

"With hard drive space so cheap, why not pre-load all kinds of software, each with a unique encryption key (varies for software, computer) and let the user call in with a credit card number to get the key for the software?"

I don't know about you, but I fill any size hard drive within 6 months. After that, you're gonna start deleting that crap off of there.

I say no, when I buy a mac I want just the OS and nothing else on there. Let me decide to put whatever crap is on the hard drive.

Re:One Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5514800)

Hard drives, no. But CD-Rs (or DVD-Rs if CDs are too small) might be a good medium, *if* they can make the encryption reasonably foolproof. Updating shouldn't be an issue if a kiosk will produce you the latest copy for a minimal fee.

Re:One Better (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503955)

The benefit of this sytem is that it doesn't neccesarily give 'The Big Boys' a preferential advantage...

A bottom-rung iBook's drive would hold a finite amount of pre-packaged wares; preferential treatment would be neccesary. Any vendor can be represented on one of these kiosks within the same hierarchy as anyone else. Despite the detracting factors, Apple already exhibits preferential behavior with the "Software" directory on an iLife subscriber's iDisk.

Apple seems to be pushing the "Democracy for all developers" angle with these SoftwareToGo kiosks - something pre-loading can never truly accomplish. It would also cause n00bies stress to flit through a list of "what software should I delete" at system setup :P

Re:Pre-loads (1)

jaoswald (63789) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505218)

With hard drive space so cheap, why not pre-load all kinds of software, each with a unique encryption key (varies for software, computer) and let the user call in with a credit card number to get the key for the software?

This has been tried. I think one of the main problems is that the software gets out of date. Six months from now, there is a new version. You don't want people to keep buying the old version that came with their hard drive. The other problem is probably keeping up with changes at the computer vendors as they upgrade their product mix. The release of a new OS install becomes a retail software situation, and the system probably isn't set up well to do that. Deadlines are hard enough to meet without some marketing-type guy having to update the contract with the software supplier.

From a user perspective, OS upgrades become more difficult. You want to keep all those unused software archives when getting a new hard drive or OS? A hassle.

Re:One Better (2, Insightful)

repetty (260322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505666)

"Why bother with the part where you walk into CompUSA?"

Because that's where cash-in-hand customers go to spend money?


thats been tried (1)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 11 years ago | (#5517587)

Back in the day, my Mom ordered a Quadra from Apple and it came with some cd's that had locked software on them. I don't remember exactly how it worked or what it was called (Software Express?) but I imagine you called and gave them a credit card number and they'd give you the key.

Don't know how succesful they were, just that my Mom never got anything from them.

Why download from CompUSA? (2, Insightful)

nycroft (653728) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503679)

The only shred of content in that article that is news is CompUSA. Users have been dowloading software for years now through various means. Does CompUSA think that by installing a Software to Go kiosk in their store, that's going to expand their (and STG's) market?

Has anyone tried to get help in a CompUSA store? It's impossible to find somebody who knows much about anything (if anyone out there reading this works on the CompUSA sales floor, sorry. It's true, you guys have a rep for lagging). How exactly does a person who doesn't know much about computers (hence the reason they're in CompUSA in the first place) going to figure out how to work the kiosk? Who at CompUSA is going to help them?

The sad but true fact is this: People like to have something tangible to look over before they buy. That's why packaging exists in the first place. People who are not knowledgeable about downloading and installing software from home, where they should be doing it are not going to walk up to a kiosk and get the software all by themselves. Face it. Example: how often do you see people in Borders using the kiosks to look up books? Not that often. That's because people who can't look up titles for themselves will go straight to a sales person, and ask.

Download it from home. If you don't know how, then packaging is here to stay.

Re:Why download from CompUSA? (1)

pressman (182919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5503772)

Well, you see, if Apple is invilved, they are going to make this kiosk as easy as possible to use. That is what Apple is known for. "It just works."

Re:Why download from CompUSA? (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504093)

Yah, except that Apple has merely partenered with SoftwareToGo on these...

From the looks of their logo and kiosk display, I should hope Apple unleashes the design ninjas on STG's design/marketing department...

If you're having trouble with the image, imagine a hoarde of standard ninjas with "switch" testimonials on the backs of their shinobi shozokos...

Steam (2, Interesting)

Feral Bueller (615138) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504548)

This is where I think we'll see software distribution going...

Right now, Steam is being tested specifically for delivering Half-Life and various mods such as Counter-Strike, but in a presentation they gave at the Game Developer's Conference a couple of years ago, they discussed how it could be used for delivering any type of software. It's pretty straightforward: you have a user account, you select which application you want to use, the app checks your account against the software, and if validated, updates your software as needed.

More importantly from a developers standpoint, it would theoretically make piracy a lot tougher for the average user. A lot of the incremental Counter-Strike updates delivered via Steam are anti-cheat related, so I can see technology used in a similar way to keep the crackers on their toes.

It's interesting from a Proof Of Concept perspective, and Valve seems to be committed to the app - it would appear they've been spending more time on it then they have developing any games...

There's a whole lot of potential with this type of delivery system, especially for people who aren't comfortable with an ASP model.

SoftWareToGo seems a little late with the kiosk model: it didn't work too well for that company that tried the "burn your own compilation CDs" - I remember seeing one of those kiosks in a neighborhood Wherehouse for about 15 minutes.

Perhaps not revolutionary, but a good thing. (4, Interesting)

jimlau (581205) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505157)

I happen to work as a salesman at CompUSA (I know that's probably a bad word around here). In my defense, the main reason I work there is to counter all the computer-ignorant (especially Mac-ignorant) sales staff I experienced when I shopped there for Macs.

I think this software on demand distribution system will be generally a good thing for the market, because I explain several times a day how the software a customer is looking for exists, but just not here. Very few users are savvy enough to pirate the software, many wouldn't know where to look to find the software, quite a few aren't comfortable with online credit card transactions, and having this resource would be very helpful. Also, CompUSA installs pretty much everything it sells for free. So in theory, I could send a customer with a brand new computer out the door with all the hardware and software they need, even if it's an obscure title. That is valuable. And CompUSA can be pretty lame about keeping products in stock, and this gives us more options for the customer. Although, in fairness, our store could run out of the box inserts or something stupid like that and void all the advantages of this system : ]

I'm curious to see if my store gets one.

Good Idea (1)

PeeweeJD (623974) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505426)

This is a good idea because it will give us Mac people somewhere to buy software (beside the internet). Stores do not generally have a robust selection of Mac software on their shelves. This would give them a way to have the selection without the shelves.

Even going P2P the selection of Mac software is bad (unless you are after office or photoshop).

walk up to buy software at CompUSA (2, Insightful)

macwomansince1986 (658905) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505459)

I used to walk around CompUSA, et. al., to find what software is available for my Mac. What I really wanted, & never found, were Demos of software to get a real look & feel before buying a certain application. I would like them right there in the store to peruse. (Even the printed box wasn't enough info.) re: downloading. I would rather recieve an actual CD with demoed software than hassle with downloading & copying onto a disk for backup. Regarding documentation, I have mourned for years the reduction of paper manuals. I need to troubleshoot from a *book while I'm having trouble with the Mac machine or screen itself. They can't fool me. Now I have to do more of the work myself (e.g. print out a manual). It costs me more for paper & ink than their mass production, and costs me more in time, too. I'm trying to be patient with the industry. Go, Jef Raskin!

"Software on Demand" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5506282)

Yeah, pay ten bucks, and you get a disk with software written in REALbasic with a crappy brushed metal interface. It doesn't actually do what you want, but the author will promise you it'll get fixed in the next update.

Re:"Software on Demand" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5509236)

Ah, you must work for Perversion Tracker...

Page Title: SotwareToGo (1)

neonzebra (33639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506294)

You'd think Apple's web people would pay more attention to details like that....

illegal copying... (1)

nuckin futs (574289) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506304)

Who's going to watch and run this system?
Can the store prevent someone from walking in the store with a 20gig ipod and leaving with 20 gigs worth of downloaded software?

OS X Updates (1)

awtbfb (586638) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506510)

Apple wants this so they can issue OS X and application updates (e.g., iDVD aka iLife). This will make (1) impulse purchases more likely and (2) allow them to update the Apple software options in the store nearly instantaneously - think MacWorld releases.

Third party apps are the gravy of this basic meal.

It's not all about YOU! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5506872)

Forget about your needs...this isn't about you. The biggest benefit here isn't the convenience to the shopper, it's the ability for the store to...

1. Stock a wider selection of titles

2. Prevent theft (hard to walk out the door with a kiosk).

3. Save money on inventory. Retailers *hate* having to tie up their cash in physical goods. It's a neccessary cost, but that's money that could be off doing other things on the operations or finance side of the business.

4. Make more money on existing shelf space by putting other things where the software titles are. Even the tiny amount of space allocated to Mac software is worth a lot across a National footprint of stores.

5. Maybe take a higher margin....the upfront cost for a kiosk may be high, but over time and with volume this distribution system could result in higher profits because of 2, 3, and 4 above.

The benefit to the consumer comes in with the added variety, but make no mistake: this is a play for the retailer, and a damn fine one.

Good for the retailer($), good for Apple(demonstrates range of titles), OK for the consumer (No mail ordering)...good idea

Screw the CD... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#5508444)

Load it onto my iPod and I'm out'a here

I can think of a good use for this right away (1)

guuyuk (410254) | more than 11 years ago | (#5509243)

For those customers who don't have broadband running into their house, burn software updates and demos for free. Not having to download a 76MB combo updater for OSX 10.2, a 90MB game demo, and a few other things like that would probably sell a lot more machines and software.

Old-Hat (1)

DaracMarjal (513394) | more than 11 years ago | (#5510223)

This is not a new idea at all. I remember buying games from Menzies (a UK newsagent chain) for the Spectrum+. You browse the shelves and take the empty box up to the counter. They'd then put a blank cassette into a machine and make a copy of the game you want and put the cassette into the box.
Yes, it meant a bit of a wait but it had all the same advantages for the retailer as this idea does (no unpopular software clogging up shelves, matching supply to demand etc.). Plus, because you got the official box you also got all the documentation you needed (what more do you need than the keys for up, down, left, right and fire?)
This is a tried and tested idea and about time someone brought it into the CD age.

not as bad an idea as it sounds... (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 11 years ago | (#5510479)

I know most of you are laughing... but for people who can't/won't download stuff from the net (legally or illegally) this may be a great way to save money on packaging and storage. While vastly increasing available titles...

I think it would work provided they came up with a decent way to keep people from copying the software after it's been burned (at least some titles attempt cd copyright protection now... if everything was on CD-R forget it).

Now back to Kazaa... =)
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