CNET Uploads New Software Publishing Solution

CNET Networks plans to announce a partnership between its property and e-commerce solutions provider Protexis in the coming days that will launch Merchant services, a self-trial product promotion and e-commerce solution for software publishers. will complement, a digital download site that boasts tens of millions of software enthusiasts who download more than 2.3 million software trial versions every day, according to CNET. aims at automating the process of marketing trial software, then converting trial users into paying customers with new e-commerce capabilities.

“ offers software publishers all the key components of marketing and selling online,” Scott Arpajian, senior vice president of CNET, told the E-Commerce Times. “To date, we have largely focused on helping software publishers get the word out and get trials of their products out to users. Through our partnership with Protexis, we are actually helping software publishers sell the product.”

Selling Shareware offers “free downloads” and “free-to-try downloads.” The free downloads service involves copyrighted, fully functional software that users can download and use without ever paying, but the products may come with ad-serving components.

Free-to-try downloads are either demonstration versions of programs sold through retail channels or “try before you buy” software packages that may have functionality limitations or disabled features. Users are expected to register and pay for the program within a certain time period.

“The market for software distribution has taken a significant upturn in online distribution,” Karl Hirsch, CEO of Protexis, told the E-Commerce Times. “Nearly all software publishers today utilize the Internet as a sales channel because it is so cost effective. But it is becoming increasingly important to protect it from unauthorized use.”

Stopping Piracy

That unauthorized use — better known as piracy — is a growing problem. According to the Business Software Alliance Global Software Piracy Study, 36 percent of the software installed on computers worldwide in 2003 was pirated. That translates to US$29 billion in losses each year.

“Software publishers need licensing, commerce and distribution components,” Hirsch said. “When you download a bag of bits it can be copied millions of times unless it is protected. We’ve put together the first completely automated full suite of services at the number one software distribution site on the Internet.”

In addition to trial enablement and copy protection, offers software publishers a list of payment processing features, including local tax support, fraud screening, address verification, fund settlement and multilingual e-commerce support.

Viral Marketing

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told the E-Commerce Times he sees merit in CNET’s latest initiative, but he is not sure all software publishers will jump on board with its copy protection capabilities.

“CNET is providing a centralized facility by which software publishers can distribute their product securely and safely,” Wilcox said. “In theory that will curb piracy; however, I am not convinced that all publishers see piracy as a bad thing because of the viral marketing possibilities.”

Wilcox, in other words, claims that piracy isn’t always bad. He said some software publishers he has spoken to actually expect a 10 and 20 percent piracy rate and consider it part of their marketing budget.

“That anti-piracy point of view does not apply equally to all software publishers,” Wilcox said. “The size of the publisher, the product they offer and the amount of benefit that they might receive through a little bit of casual piracy vs. losses through a lot of piracy are all factors.”

Booming Market

Still, most analysts agree that piracy is a problem that must be addressed, and is doing just that in efforts to cash in on the next software distribution boom.

“We believe online software distribution is a multibillion market, and we believe within the next five to 10 years all software will be distributed primarily and perhaps only online,” Hirsch said. “This partnership positions us to go after that market with licensing, commerce and distribution capabilities.”

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