Some of you may think I’m talking about the Somali pirates or even the fictional Disney characters. No, we’re talking about software pirates here. I would venture a guess that half of the copies of CorelDRAW in use today are illegal. That isn’t really much different than any software out there. What is does mean is that Corel Corporation isn’t collecting any revenue from those users. Corel needs to find a way to convert as many of the pirates as possible to paying customers.
During my training sessions, I definitely come across people who freely admit to me that they got the software “from a friend”. If you haven’t paid for your copy of CorelDRAW (or any other software), I’ll ask you to do the right thing and purchase a copy. It is not my job to police the situation, that is the job for Corel’s lawyers. OK, back to the main point I want to make in today’s marketing suggestion.
Those who want to steal software can usually find a copy somewhere. These days the hardest part is getting a serial number that is functional. Not a day goes by that one of the pirates will post a message on Corel’s Web site asking for a serial number. Heck, as I was typing this paragraph I got a request from someone who “lost their disk” to e-mail them a copy of the software.
One way that pirates operate is that they download the trial version of software and then try to locate a “crack” for it that will magically turn the trial into the full version. Sometimes the cracks work, sometimes they don’t. Often, the cracks will unleash some sort of malware on your system. So if you really want to go down that road, be prepared to have your computer infected causing you a large amount of downtime.
Corel does indeed have a trial version of CorelDRAW X4 available for download. If you have never installed CorelDRAW X4 on a machine before, the trial will be fully functional for 14 days. After the trial expires, the trial will turn into a file viewer. No saving, printing, exporting, etc. Trials are a great way to expose users to a new version and convince them to purchase a copy. I think 14 days is way too short. As an example of what other software companies are doing, Microsoft has announced that the RC (release candidate) of Windows 7 will work for almost a year before it times out.
Shouldn’t a user be able to make a buying decision within fourteen days? Of course they should. But that isn’t why I’m suggesting the trial period be expanded to at least sixty days. If a user is actively using the new version for that length of time, they’ll have built up a nice library of files saved from that new version. When the trial expires, they will only be able to open those files by purchasing a copy. It also gives the user more time to appreciate the new and improved features. I know, some of you will say that it also gives you more time to see features and changes that you don’t like. We’re going to assume that there are darned good reasons to upgrade.
Changing the length of the trial wouldn’t be difficult to implement. It is just changing a number somewhere in the code that tracks how long it has been installed. I seriously doubt this would hurt sales and I really believe it will increase sales. It may just delay some of the sales for a little longer. Now I don’t think this change will make a huge difference. Maybe a few percent more users will upgrade from the trial.
Now comes the sneaky, underhanded trick to convert the pirates. Remember, they are looking for a crack that will unlock the trial version so they never have to pay. Corel should develop that crack and widely distribute it. Some of you are thinking I’m nuts for suggesting they help people steal their software. While the crack will appear to completely unlock the software, it will actually do a bit more than that. It may extend the trial a bit longer. In the meantime it could send Corel information about the user who is using the “stolen” copy. And after the user feels they have safely gotten away with it, then shut down the software completely. If the pirates catch on, develop another crack to replace the first one.
Will this eliminate piracy? Not even close. But let’s say that it reduces the number of pirated copies by even ten percent. That’s a large amount of revenue headed Corel’s way! It is definitely worth a try.