Preview creates new way to sell software on the Net

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PC users soon will be able to use the Web to sample, buy and download shrink-wrapped software--or at least a virtual equivalent.

Preview Software today will announce its "Vbox" technology, offering software makers and resellers a new way to package software distributed on the Web, CD-ROM or on a new PC's hard drive.


Vbox, which is both a logo and a technology, is intended as a simplified way for customers to try out and buy software.

Vbox will give software publishers and resellers a way to bundle a trial version, full version and/or special promotions, represented on a Web site with a virtual box, branded with a Vbox logo.

A PC user visiting an online software store, for example, might click on a Vbox and download a full version of a software application that could be used for 15 days. If the customer liked it, the customer could provide a credit card number by Internet, phone, e-mail, fax or mail to unlock the program for permanent use. Through partners, Preview will provide services to process the payment.

Once the technology rolls out, customers will encounter the Vbox logo at software stores or software makers' Web sites and in sample CD-ROMs distributed by software publishers. VP-Sales and Marketing David Roman said Preview is talking with PC makers about using Vbox to include full versions of software on hard drives.


Vbox, now in beta testing, is expected to be launched April 1. While no software publishers have officially signed up, Mr. Roman said, Preview has agreements with 220 publishers for a related technology that serves as the basis of the Vbox technology. Existing partners include Broderbund Software and Network Associates; also, Microsoft Corp. is using the existing technology on a CD-ROM trial version of a developer's title.

"We're working on taking top titles and making them available in Vbox versions," said Mr. Roman, who was VP-advertising and brand marketing at Apple Computer before joining start-up Preview in December.

Mr. Roman said Preview has deals with several software online sites--including CNET's, Netscape Communications Corp.'s Software Depot and accept orders for Vboxed software.

Preview is pushing Vbox for both business and home use. Mr. Roman acknowledges a home obstacle: limited bandwidth making downloads time consuming. But he argues that won't be a long-term obstacle since bandwidth is growing.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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