As the internet rose from the obscure, nerds-only network of the 1980s and 1990s into the everyman’s network it is today, it was inevitable that it would come to undermine and threaten established businesses and their years-old way of doing things.
And that’s exactly what has happened. Old, established industries are under threat from the internet, as things that have been digitised – or which were always digital – like movies, TV shows, and software, are now easily deliverable via the internet connection that every nearly home and business has access to.
That internet connectivity is now faster and cheaper than it’s ever been, to the point where downloading gigabytes of data doesn’t take forever or cost the earth, and people are eager to use it for the convenience and cost benefits the internet offers.
The demise of the old brick-and-mortar video store is evidence of this: renting DVDs or Blu-rays of movies and TV shows has been replaced by on-demand video-streaming services like Netflix, ShowMax, Google Play Movies & TV and Apple’s iTunes store. Why leave the house to go and choose something to watch when it’s all accessible via the internet, for much less money?
Even buying software has changed: while physical stores that sell software remain, those stores make the bulk of their money on the hardware they sell, and software hardly features on their sales sheets. Today, most software is bought over the internet, where it’s easily accessible and often cheaper than it would be in-store.
This has been made possible by what the IT industry is calling “Electronic Software Delivery”, a digital-only mechanism of selling and delivering software to end-users via the internet. And South Africa is finally climbing on the bandwagon, as local distributors are making it possible for their resellers to sign up for ESD. This is thanks to close co-operation with those big-name international software companies who’ve realised the South African internet situation is finally at a point where ESD is not only feasible, but the preferred method of service delivery.
For example, today, a reseller can buy keys for all of Microsoft’s major software packages via their preferred disti and make those available to their customers. Since the process can be automated, end users can purchase at any time, and have their keys in minutes. From there, the software just needs to be downloaded via the links supplied in the purchase confirmation email, and then installed.
The benefits of software purchased online go beyond simple convenience, too: buyers don’t have to drive anywhere to get it, sellers don’t need to arrange for delivery and charge the end user for it (saving time and costs on both ends of the equation), and physical discs don’t need to be stashed somewhere safe to guard against PC malfunctions or theft.
All that’s required is for emails containing the keys to be backed up somewhere safe (encrypted Cloud backup is a great option). Should the worst happen – malware infection, theft, breakage – re-installing the software is a simple matter of re-downloading it from the source, and re-entering the emailed serial number when it’s required. And since companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle and the like all operate multiple datacentres the world over, the chances of the customer’s software not being available for re-download are infinitesimal, barring a genuine apocalypse.
So by saving everyone involved time, money, and effort, it’s no surprise that ESD is taking over from more traditional methods of selling software. Distributors benefit by enabling their resellers to sell more, resellers benefit from improved customer service through faster perceived response times, end users benefit from ESD’s lower costs and improved convenience, and everyone benefits from the lack of any need to acquire, stock, and deliver a physical product.
About the only people with a reason to dislike ESD are owners of brick and mortar stores, and unfortunately for them, this is a situation where adapting is crucial to survival. Otherwise, they face going the way of the video store, and nobody wants that.