Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why Software Subscriptions (esp. Symantec's) Suck

Has anyone else noticed that, while we've been fiddling away at work, life, etc., the software companies have been changing their model in an attempt to force us into subscription plans?

Take for example Symantec. This is a huge software company and one I've been a customer of for many years. Recently I retired a computer. Since I wiped the hard drive and would no longer be using my copy of Norton SystemWorks 2006 on it, I decided I would install it on my wife's computer. Now, she is already running Norton Anti-Virus 2007 and has an active subscription. But SystemWorks would not activate, complaining that I had installed this product key on too many computers. A phone call to tech support (in India, of course) was useless. A call to corporate headquarters and a request for US-based customer support was met with disdain and I was directed to send a fax to the CEO if I wanted US-based support. Yes, in order to get US-based customer support from Symantec, I would have to fax the CEO of the company. This is a useful expenditure of my time and his, right?

Well, an angry letter later, I get a phone call and an email from a very nice woman, here in the US. We play a bit of phone tag, but when we speak, she pretty much immediately offers to send me a new copy of Norton SystemWorks Basic (for XP only; not Vista). Problem solved, right?

Well, sort of. It wasted how many hours of my time and how many corporate resources at Symantec? It alienated me how much? Let's just say, "A lot."

In the meantime, I went shopping online. I also have a new computer and it's a Vista system, so I needed SystemWorks for Vista. I found it at with not one, but two, rebates. Assuming I get both rebates, it comes out to a net price of $12.99 a copy. Ridiculous. These are not rebates. They are Symantec rebates. If Symantec sold the damn program for $12.99, rather than play the rebate game, they'd sell a heck of a lot more copies. They wouldn't need to worry about people trying to install it on multiple machines, because it would be cheap enough up-front.

Now, Anti-Virus has been subscription-based for a while. You get a year when you buy the program and it costs, I think, $29 a year after that to stay subscribed. Now, if you think they've improved the program year after year, you can buy a new copy each year for, often, less than the $29.00 the new subscription costs (after rebates, of course). But, if you haven't been paying attention, all of their products are now good for a year, not as long as you own them. And they may stop working after a year. This, to me, is the biggest example of corporate obnoxiousness I have ever seen.

If I buy a program, I expect it to work as long as I own it. Period. New virus updates? Okay, I can see having to pay for new information. But how is SystemWorks going to change over the course of a year. Bug fixes? Well, I certainly shouldn't have to pay for those. So what else are they going to do for me? Not a lot, I can see. So I'm going to sit here and be a bit pissed about them being obnoxious and cheap about turning software into a subscription. This isn't a magazine and I'm not renting the program. So what exactly am I paying for?

It's a shame, because I have genuinely always had confidence in their programs. But I don't want subscriptions. I already get too many magazines. And I don't want a time limit on the working life of my software. It's not milk and it shouldn't expire. If I want to run some Norton product from 2004 with the same old virus definitions from 2004, that's my choice. It may not be safe, but it is my choice, if I paid for the software to start with.

So, now I just installed SystemWorks on a system that already has Internet Security 2007 installed. It says I have 184 days left on my IS subscription and 366 on my SystemWorks subscription. But I didn't install the Norton Anti-Virus program that comes with both IS and SystemWorks. But if I did, would I get 184+366? Or if I let the clock run out on IS and then install the Anti-Virus from the SystemWorks CD, will I get another 366 out of it? Confusing, eh?

Enough with the subscriptions. Just make good software and charge a reasonable price, like say the price you net out after all of the pain-in-the-ass rebates. That will get you more customers, for sure. And far fewer of them will think you suck.



B.E. Sanderson said...

Back in the mid-90's I worked for a computer training/consulting company (buying and trying software for our clients), and Symantec was one of the friendliest and most efficient companies to work with. It's sad they've let themselves go like that. I don't use them at all now. There are too many other companies who provide the services they aren't willing to.

Hathery said...

Norton 360 actually blew out the video card on our year-old laptop. It hogged the system resources to the point that our computer couldn't handle it and literally...exploded. Note to self: never buy a Norton product again.

Linda Adams said...

I've had horror stories with both Symantec and McAfee. I bought an upgrade to Symantec System Works(which seems to go downhill in features every new upgrade) and installed it. My CD ROM suddenly no longer worked. And the firewall drove me stark raving nuts! It was supposed to adjustable and get smarter as it went along, and it didn't.

McAfee was even worse. I installed it, but when it asked to reboot my computer, I couldn't get it to boot up without failing. Their help phone number was extremely hard to find; they preferred that you go to the Web site. Which I couldn't do because the program wouldn't let my computer boot up.

When I got hold of someone, they said I would have to pay an hourly fee to fix an install problem! They didn't seem to grasp the concept that if I couldn't install the software in the first place I might return it. Most of the software I deal with offers free help for installation issues.

Fortunately, I was able to finally get into the system and took that software off the computer immediately. I now just use what my cable company provides.

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