Computers

The Overripe Software Phenomenon

I am going to pick on a software company that I really loved. Ahead’s Nero project has been consumed by a phenomenon that seems inevitable for any long running project. I have coined the term “overripe software” for my uses. It is similar to software bloat, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a bloated interface, or options that no one uses in the base product. It more has to do with an ever broadening scope of a product. Lets examine the Nero 7 from Ahead software to illustrate the point:

Nero Installation welcome screen

I like to see what is going on with my software installations, so I will choose “Custom”.

Nero Installation
Here we get to the meat of the issue. As if anyone doesn’t know, Nero is a CD burning application. The problem is, it isn’t just a CD burning application anymore. Lets look at some of these categories:

Nero Options

Nero StartSmart is the central starting point for all your audio, video, backup, and recording tasks. Choose a task from several categories to launch the corresponding Nero application, and customize the Nero StartSmart to suit your needs.

This is basically a front end for selecting which task you would like to perform. This functionality is completely redundant to the main page of Nero Express where you select your task.

Nero Express is powered by the ultimate Nero burning engine using a wizard-style user interface. Burn your audio, data and video discs in one go.

This is the main package, so I have no gripes about it.

Nero Home is your central application for accessing all your media files for viewing and managing them on a TV or PC. It integrates TV recording, time-shifting, DVD/Video playback and Audio and Photo playback in an easy-to-use interface.

This is a front end that searches for media on my machine, then creates a library so that I can browse everything from one central interface. Why is this part of a CD burning application?

Nero Vision is the video editing and authoring software that allows you to capture your videos from external devices and record them to DVD-Video, VCD, SVCD. You can create amazing slide shows and cut and edit your own movies with spectacular effects.

So we have gotten into video editing. Well beyond the scope of a CD burning application.

With Nero ShowTime you can watch your favourite DVD-Video movies, listen to music and turn your computer into a home cinema and all this with excellent picture and sound quality.

I really didn’t understand the difference between this and the Nero Home feature. No matter what it is, it is well beyond the scope of what should be bundled with a CD burning application.

Nero MediaHome allows you to stream videos, music, and images to all your UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) enabled devices and to Nero ShowTime.

Great, so now my computer that I will be burning CDs on is able to talk to other machines on which I install this package.

Nero CoverDesigner is a user-friendly program for creating and designing individual covers and labels. You can use your own ideas to create CD/DVD covers, booklets or you can import covers from your scanner, digital camera or the Internet.

I can understand this being in the scope of a CD burning application if you stretch things. I don’t know anyone that actually designs covers for their CDs, but it might be useful to someone.

Nero PhotoSnap lets you edit your favorite photographs. You can make use of a wide range of options to improve their quality.

Venturing into image manipulation?

InCD allows you to use your rewritable disc like a big floppy disk. Copy files onto your disc using drag and drop or save them to the disc from other applications.

Pertains to CD burning, but I think the integrity of a CD-RW is shot after about 10-15 rewrites. Hmm…

Tools (as you might have guessed) is its own subcategory including the following:

Nero CD-DVD drive speed detector needs to be part of Nero Express, and not its own stand-alone tool.

Nero Drivespeed allows you to control the speed that your optical drive spins at to control noise.

Nero BurnRights allows you to control burning privileges to other users on the machine. I would probably object to the implementation of such control, not the concept of it. I am sure it runs as a service/process in the background instead of enforcing any real restrictions at the OS level.

Nero InfoTool allows you to find out all of the information you want about your optical drive. Again, this should just be part of Nero Express, and not a stand-alone tool.

After the bare bones installation completes, I am presented with a big no-no. A piece of software called Nero Scout has installed itself without permission, and is sucking up real-estate and resources on my machine.

Nero start bar crap

I don’t even know what it does really, but it seems to be watching folders for something. Perhaps this is a dependency of some of the other crap that I unchecked? What is even worse, is that it has registered two different applications to auto-start with my machine.

Nero msconfig nastiness

Springer’s Final Thought: Over ripening of software has become such a big issue to me that I have been saving programs to my hard drive for the last two years. I do this because I prefer Nero 6 to Nero 7. I don’t want to have to jump through installation hoops just to burn a CD.

Ahead’s Nero isn’t alone in this problem. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say this is a Windows world problem. Now let me explain what I mean by this. As a company that is selling software, one of the biggest selling points is that double-edged sword called “features”. You want to have the fullest application for the buck so consumers will choose you over the other guy. The majority of your audience will never use the Nero Home, Vision, or MediaHome applications, but if you don’t offer it, you have potentially lost some of your market. Because of this, everyone has to cope with this creeping scope of what a product aims to cover. This is a sharp contrast to a profit-less model, where you can have an application (or a better name would be utility) that does one thing, and that one thing very well.

As computers evolve, the process of creating software becomes cheaper, easier, and more readily available to everyone. I really think that it would be healthy for everyone to step back, and concentrate on improving an existing product. Streamline the process, improve the UI, work on that mysterious Ramp problem, and improve AI predictions. Stop making filler, because less can be more.

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