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Alienating business plans

04/04/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining

I've been using DataViz's "Documents To Go" for years now on my Palm Tungsten. When I bought my Macintosh, I was delighted that they offered a OSX version as that made switching platforms easier. When v9 came out late last year, I paid the upgrade fee quite happily. Recently DataViz released v10 of the program. Around the same time they made a few little adjustments to their business practices.

The first change hit me when I went to reinstall my work computer. I run a duplicate Palm environment to assist me in my job. In essence I use the PDA as a portable data device and sync it at both ends, keeping agendas, contact information, notes and so on to hand and backed up. This has worked very well in the past which is a credit to both Palm and the various application developers who've created the conduits. Work is a Windows shop so I need Windows-compatible versions of my Palm conduits. I went to re-download DTG only to find that they've now switched to a limited download scheme. If you want to download the files after the initial week, you need to have paid for a support contract. Or as they put it:

Downloads are available for this product with the purchase of a maintenance plan.

Previously you could log in with your account and freely download the last version you bought. I find it hard to believe in this day and age that a company would actually try this, but hey, they have. I don't recall being informed that this change was coming in but I'm sure there's something in their lengthy software agreement that gives them the right to do so. Anyway, not impressed by this bit of greed; $2.99 gets you an additional 10 downloads of the software over 12 months. Not patches, just downloads. I'm extremely annoyed with myself too: I became used to the original (decent) process and never backed up my installation files for v9; I'm truly out of luck if I ever need to reinstall the software on my Mac.

The second thing was that they've separated the Macintosh and Windows versions. A license is now good for only one of the two platforms. It used to be agnostic about that and was one of the reasons I've used the product. This, at least, I can see a business reason behind as supporting two platforms is more expensive than just one. It appears you're still ok if you only use one operating system though; as of v9 the license explicitly says you can install the software on more than one machine (it's tied to a specific Palm user instead):

This group of related computers may include a desktop computer, a home computer and a laptop computer, but shall not include more than three related computers or any computer for which you are not the primary user.

Finally, I went through the online support pages to try to figure out if there'd been any upgrades to the v9 release for OSX since they've now removed the "Check For Updates" function in the program itself. Hit #3 was this:

DataViz offers one-to-one support for our customers that own the most recent version of this product. We have released a new version of this software, but you are still entitled to phone and e-mail support for 58 more days. After 06/02/2007 phone and e-mail support will discontinue for this version of your product.

This is for a piece of software bought in mid-December last year. It's not even six months old and they're already discontinuing support for it. And it gets better:

As of June 14, 2004 we modified the support policy and those customers who choose to take advantage of one-to-one support via the phone will be charged a $19.99 fee per incident. There will be no charge for calls related to first-time installation. Registered and trial customers at the latest version of our software are still entitled to free one-to-one support via e-mail. Customers at non-current versions of our software do not have access to one-to-one support unless they upgrade to the current version.

I quite understand wanting to discourage repeat offenders as phone support is expensive but simply washing your hands of your customers unless they continually fork over money? Egads. Even Microsoft whose support is pretty spartan doesn't change the software annually to age out their customers.

Thanks, but no thanks, DataViz. You've lost me as a customer from this point on. It's a decent product but I really don't like how you do business.


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