At this year’s Macworld conference, the guys at Rogue Amoeba decided to do what many trade show exhibitors do: give away a free demo CD to interested attendees. But recognizing the conventional drawback of these demos, that they are obsolete from almost the minute the disc is burned, they invested in developing a clever application that runs from the disc, and conveniently presents the latest copies of all of their software to the user. If what’s on the disc is still fresh, the user runs it. Otherwise, the latest version is downloaded from the web and that’s what the user sees instead.
I spoke to them about their solution at the time, and was impressed by it. It certainly seemed like a good way to avoid turning those thousands of plastic discs into guaranteed landfill fodder. But what’s even cooler is that they’ve now decided to share the technology so that other companies who are interested can pull of the same feat with a minimum of work:
It’s also worth reading to near the end of the article, where they confess that even with the clever technology in place, the discs did not turn out to be all that effective as marketing tools:
Of the 5,000 discs we gave out, 5.8% were ever used. That may seem a bit low, but it gets quite depressing when converted to an absolute count: 288. Out of 5000 CDs given out, no more than 300 were used – perhaps giving away CDs isn’t the best idea after all
Well, you can’t win them all! On the bright side, I don’t think they would have been able to gather this information without putting in the effort to make the discs smart enough to “check for updates.” It was a valiant effort, and a very cool idea that other companies might still find useful.