I'd like to draw a comparison between two companies.
At last year's MacWorld I bought two new items of cool new hardware, a Connectix QuickCam and a Visioneer PaperPort.
The QuickCam is a joy to use -- just plug it into the serial port -- it doesn't even need a power cable.
Likewise, the PaperPort is a joy to use -- just insert a sheet of paper and it starts scanning automatically.
I was really happy to see these two companies supporting the Mac with really neat new products. My PC-owning friends were jealous.
Unfortunately, the PaperPort software was not PPC native, and ran very slowly on my PowerMac 6100. The magazine adverts said the PaperPort would scan a page in "six seconds". It may scan it in six seconds, but on my PowerMac 6100 the time between inserting the sheet and actually being able to do anything with it in the PaperPort application was 45 seconds. Once in the PaperPort application, the performance was sluggish.
Still, it was a great product. It just needed faster software.
I called Visioneer and asked if they were going to produce a PowerPC native version. They said yes, so I kept the PaperPort and waited for the software update.
And waited. And waited.
After a year, Visioneer finally announces that they finally have finished the native version of the PaperPort application. Hallelujah!
But wait! It's not a free update for registered users. It costs $70 + $5 sales tax + $8 shipping.
I got the entire QuickCam including the software and the manual for not much more than that, and throughout the last year Connectix has regularly posted free software updates on its web site. The latest update includes major new features, like automatic brighness control, but it's still free to QuickCam owners.
I'm used to the fact that computer hardware always gets cheaper -- if I'd waited until this year I could have got the new PaperPort VX for less than I paid for the old standard PaperPort. That's life. What hurts is that Visioneer now expects me to pay an extra $83 for software that I expected to get when I bought it a year ago. When I complained to a Visioneer salesman at this year's MacWorld, he told me that the PaperPort box was clearly marked "not native" so I was at fault for expecting native software. When I got home I took a look at the box to check. He was lying.
So the lesson to learn from this is that if you are thinking about buying a Connectix product, buy it now. RAMDoubler, SpeedDoubler, QuickCam, whatever it is, you can buy it now with the confidence that Connectix will continue to support you as they fix bugs and make improvements to the software. Connectix doesn't penalize their early adopters.
On the other hand, if you are thinking about buying a Visioneer product, put off the decision as long as possible, because the moment you part with your cash, Visioneer sees you as a revenue stream, even before the one year warranty has run out.
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* Stanford Operating Systems and Networking Group Research Assistant
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