Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some thoughts on test drives

Back in the 1990's I sold new cars for two months. Worked at a major dealership that sold for one of the major Japanese carmakers in the Atlanta metro area. (Kind of funny NOT to give out free advertising for any of those parties by giving names.) And one of the more fascinating things when selling new cars is the test drive.

Consider, you go to a car dealership in the United States, talk to some person doing sales, and if you like a vehicle, they may let you drive it around for a while! And I say may as don't take test drives for granted, like if you go to a Ferrari dealership--had to give them free advertising for it to make sense, like it matters.

If you go to a top of the line dealership for a very expensive vehicle they may want to make sure you can pay for it first, if you decide you want it. I remember when I was in San Francisco there was this bus stop in front of a luxury car dealership. And I'd stare in the window at these high priced cars with price tags well into the hundred thousand dollars US. But I digress.

Now then, people who come to a dealership know what an automobile is, right? They've probably driven one many times as we weren't in the business of giving driving lessons. So why do they need to drive a car to decide if they wish to buy it or not?

When you talk about letting people test out software, I have typically seen a limited version model, where you give someone something that can't do everything in the hopes that will be enough.

I liken it to having people take a test drive in a go-cart that looks a lot like the vehicle they want.

What I would like to be able to do as a developer is something I talked about in a prior post, where you let people take the equivalent of a real test drive, by just having the software on their system before they pay for it.

The idea is that a person downloads the software with a promise to pay only if they keep it, where they can use it for a while until they decide if it fits their needs or not, and then voluntarily delete it off, if it does not.

If they decide to keep it, then they'd be expected to pay at that time, which is what I call the Pay Back Value model.

So what's wrong with this idea?

Some might ask, who would pay for the software if they already had it on their systems and were being asked to voluntarily pay?

And the answer is: people who are not thieves.

The idea that all human beings are thieves is pervasive in the software industry. It may be one of the single most drivers of hostility between the tech industry and regular folks, especially when companies sue the crap out of as many people as they can get on a list.

I don't agree with the idea that most people are thieves.

And I actually sold cars for two whole months at a major dealership in Atlanta metro area! Trying to be a bit humorous there, but to me there is an awful lot of supposed knowledge about human buying behavior from people who have never sold anything at all.

Most human beings aren't thieves. Look in the mirror, would you steal everything you have if you could?

If the answer is yes, look around you at all the areas where people do not steal. And maybe grow a bit as a human being.

However, there are practical realities with this idea that may be missed. For instance, what about service and upgrades?

If a person downloads your software and never pays, what do you know if they call you later asking for help with the software?

You know they stole it.

When you do newer versions, and a person who had the original version but never pays tries to get the newer version where we'll assume there is a full installation and an upgrade where they pick the upgrade, then yup, you know they stole it.

You now can identify thieves, yet again with software.

Now if you never upgrade the software and people never need support, yeah, they can just walk way with it, but then again, do you really believe ALL human beings are thieves?

If you think all humans are thieves, I ask, what's wrong with you? And what turned you into such a cynical person?

One thing with software is you can develop something, give it away, and have billions of people using it, without making any money. But like with open source you gave it away. Like I've given away my Class Viewer app.

To get paid you need a transaction where people know upfront they are to pay for something!

And I worked it all out in a post for my own clarity. Before you think people stole something, you might want to learn the rules of transactions.

James Harris
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