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Windfall to charge for Viewfinder software updates

By Chris Williams. Published: 26th Jul 2002, 11:26:01 | Permalink | Printable

These subscription systems are all the rage now. Rage being the crucial word here.

This week sees a major change in the development and pricing of Windfall Engineering's Viewfinder graphics card for modern RISC OS machines, noted by many as the best upgrade you can get for your RiscPC. After about a month of deliberation, John Kortink has decided to make future ViewFinder software updates a yearly subscription service. Early adopters can receive a 50 Euro discount on the price of 150 Euros for subscription. (currency converter)

In addition to this announcement, John is making available a final version of the software for the ViewFinder cards - 1.46 - for free. No significant changes have been announced for this version except for support for the subscription service. As the product's mailing list reaction to Windfall's decisions continues to be a lively and colourful affair, we'll take a moment to examine the impact of Windfall's latest action, in a commentary by Peter Naulls.

John Kortink has announced a new subscription scheme to enable him to continue to develop features for his ViewFinder graphics card. The full annoucement appears here.

There's been an increasing move towards subscription based support - most notably RISC OS Select, and of course my own Unix Porting Project.

There are others too, both inside and outside of the RISC OS world. We can probably expect to see many more in the future. Of course, the reasons in each case for choosing a subscription system are different, but there are some broad parallels. The obvious issue is economics - it's not possible to support a product indefinitely for only the purchase price - regardless of the nature of the support: bugfixes, feature additions or user queries.

As usual, you can't please everyone, and it's not clear how well John considered all the issues before announcing this scheme. As such, there has been a considerable amount of debate on the two related mailing lists.

The main issues are as follows:

  • The price - 100 Euro per year (around 63UKP, rising to 150 Euro or 95ukp after two months), which is a signifcant portion of the purchase price. Compared, for example, to the price of Select, this is potentially quite pricey. On the other hand, John does have an excellent track record for updates of his software and bug fixes, so from that viewpoint it might be considered a relatively good deal.
  • The features. Apart from the long awaited screen banking support, it's not clear what other features John might provide. TV support has been mentioned (of course, you would have to purchase a capable card), and possibly some of the other features John named in the past such as ATI Radeon and dual screen support. Hopefully John might be more forthcoming on this issue.
  • Overshadowing by other products such as Omega when they appear. Although Omega's graphics capabilities remain a wild card until its release, it may well be that it spells the end of interest in further ViewFinder developments.

Not forgetting other minor issues including locking software to the machine ID (which is unfortunately easily faked); what happens to people with more than one ViewFinder or those swapping ViewFinders between machines.

When all's said and done, ViewFinder itself remains an excellent product, and is one of the most worthwhile RiscPC upgrades, and I recommend it to anyone looking to enhance their desktop.

Here at drobe, we of course wish the very best for any RISC OS developments, but this subscription scheme has gone off to a rather unfortunate start.


Windfall website Windfall's original announcement

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I see your subscription a little different: you pay for support, and in fact, the software is free. And with ROS Ltd and WF, what the support is, is not really clear, except some maillist. -- Marco Frissen,

 is a RISC OS Usermfrissen on 26/7/02 4:34PM
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None of that detracts from my original points though. I'm not trying to make close comparisons, since none are to be had.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 26/7/02 5:04PM
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I can't help thinking this very expensive subscrition scheme with no clear goals is a smoke screen for dropping further development on the grounds that not enough people have taken it up.

ViewFinder is a mature product with very few things left to be implemented for seemless integration with the RISC OS desktop, so what is the subscription or new features? Its certainly not justified for support as the vast majority of problems can be sorted out from advice on the internet.

As for new features, there is not a lot more most of the existing AGP cards can do. Some AGP cards feature TV tuners and digisers would require upgrading to new hardware, and therefor would surely come with updated firmware to drive it. I can't see people purchasing enhanced hardware that only comes with basic support in firmware, and then pay again to get the benefit of it.

I hope when more details of this scheme become available, I'm proved wrong on both accounts.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 26/7/02 9:03PM
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I'm a bit of an outsider, as I own no ViewFinder. However, my personal will to subscribe such schemes in advance begins to decrease in general. I have subscribed to select and peters unix porting scheme, as this is is supposed to be a way of supporting developments for my favorite OS. But I had to drop Foundation Membership to be able to subscribe SELECT (I have only very limited amounts of money free for computer equipment). So the real benefit to RO LTd. is questionable.

And I have a much *better feeling* if I pay for products already existing. Whats wrong with the way, say David Pilling or WSS charge for upgrades? -- Andre Schaefer

 is a RISC OS Usersf on 30/7/02 3:17PM
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