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Apple Businesses

Apple and CompUSA Working on 'Software on Demand' 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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Apple and CompUSA Working on 'Software on Demand'

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  • It's about time... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by autojive ( 560399 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:14AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:58AM (#5502783) Homepage
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:26AM (#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 :-)
  • by eXtro ( 258933 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:29AM (#5503094) Homepage
    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.

  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:39AM (#5503201) Journal
    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).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:04PM (#5503433)
    Buying anonymously with cash.
  • One Better (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:09PM (#5503492) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:13PM (#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:Realistically... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EccentricAnomaly ( 451326 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:20PM (#5503592) Homepage
    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.
  • Steam (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Feral Bueller ( 615138 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @01:54PM (#5504548) Homepage

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @02:15PM (#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.
  • by jimlau ( 581205 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @02:56PM (#5505157) Homepage
    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.

  • by Gropo ( 445879 ) <<groopo> <at> <>> on Thursday March 13, 2003 @03:20PM (#5505388) Homepage Journal
    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 ;)
  • by superflippy ( 442879 ) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5505813) Homepage Journal
    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?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @05:55PM (#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

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle