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Microsoft recently announced a product called Software License & Protection Services (SLP Services) to help ISVs protect and manage their software from piracy. This same technology may be used to manage trials as well as conversion from trial to a licensed product via a different license key. I urge you to take a look at http://www.microsoft.com/slps. Let me know if you have any questions.
I've revised this a couple times, but I'm having a hard time explaining it coherently. Let's just say that for smaller shops this pricing feels like you're really sticking it to us. I think the key to most of the objections is that you're only going to look to get SLPS is if you're working on a new product. Otherwise you must already have something in place.
With that in mind, there are a number of problems with pricing the model. Let's say you're finishing up your second product. You're going to want the standard hosted version. But to get that, you have to put down $7500 before you sell even one copy of your new product. You already have a solution for your existing product, so the new package isn't going to add that much value, and you have no way of knowing if you'll ever make it back.
Even if you just have one product, if you're just starting out the automatic license creation API would be a big selling point. Except it's just too expensive to put up the cash at this point.
And what if you have a lower price point-- say something like $30? $7.50 per license for the first 1000 sales is lot to give up. Especially when the basic package works out to only $5 per license. You feel like you're a higher volume customer; you should be getting a discount, not paying extra.
After that it gets more reasonable. $1 per license seems okay. Except you have to buy in lots of a 1000. What if you're at the other end of the price spectrum; you sell only a few licenses each year for $1000 or more each?
Finally, this doesn't even take trial licenses into account. Why do we have to pay separately for trials? A service like this should really hand out trials for free, and only expect to get paid when we do.
I thought of something else. An easy response to my objections is the idea that even at those prices, if a number of people who would have been pirates now have to pay for my software, it's well worth it. However, that misses the point. For a very small ISV, obscurity is a much bigger danger to the business than piracy. Much better to spend just a couple hours of my time building a system I can host myself for free, even if it's not perfectly secure. Then go spend the money I 'saved' on advertising instead.
At this point trying to use Microsoft SLP would be like building outhouse with golden bricks.
I am interested in open source/free/cheap solutions. I would even prefer to develop it myself but for that I need some info like where to store license key? How to encrypt/decrypt/validate? how to store and check trial end date, how to protect against tampering with computer clock, how to protect against simple cracking and keygens, what kind of encryption to use or not to use?
Basically I want to know where to start looking. I guess that many people have done this already so the idea of re-inventins everything just does not thrill me.
Check out ILS: http://www.infralution.com/licensing.html. It's cheap, very easy to integrate, and you get the source code.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As I understand it, the pricing is very competitive to other solutions available in the market.
By the time you solve all the problems listed above (key management, key generation), you are no longer in the business of delivering your solution; you are in the License Management business. It's the classic Build vs. Buy question.
SLP Services is an industrial strength solution when you really want to protect your software IP.
However, I note the point about needing something for Micro ISVs. Let me provide that feedback to product team.
WinLicense is your friend. Pretty inexpensive and you get all those buy vs. create benefits and frequent updates. I think it and Infralution are the two big options at the moment.
MS - seriously. Seriously. I don't even know who you're aiming that product at :) It's very expensive for small companies and big companies would have enough firepower to write their own without dealing with another MS tax. Maybe the name will carry it *shrug*
The nameless hedgehog
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I would advise using the software from these guys:
I have used it in 5 projects (Studio 2005 windows apps) and it works like a charm.
It has a web app to regulate and control your registrations and activations (ASP.NET code included) and also phone activation methods. You may have to tweak it to meet your personal needs (we did) but that was fairly simple and the support from those guys is almost perfect.
Just my 2 cents.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
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