- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009

There are certain things I’m a sucker for and one is the periodic “bundles” of software offered to Mac users at a ridiculously low price. The programs are digital downloads, of course, and if you want a users manual, it’s self-service. But the prospect of getting about $450 or so in software for about one-tenth of that amount is hard to resist.

It kind of feels like legalized shoplifting.

I don’t recall seeing similar promotions with the same frequency in the Windows world, but every six months or so, a Web site such as MacBundleBox, www.macbundlebox.com, will offer programs for the Mac in a bundle for a limited time. I’ve not sampled all the programs, but there’s certainly enough here to interest most users.

Why do software creators do this? Well, to get exposure for their programs and gain a raft of new customers who’ll continue to upgrade to newer versions, or the next level of their products, presumably at higher prices.

Consider Softpress, developers of Freeway Express, a “drag and drop” application for creating Web pages. Their $79 program competes with Apple Inc.’s far-more-famous iWeb. Not having Apple’s cash reserves, making Freeway Express part of the MacBundleBox offering will likely introduce lots of folks to the firm and its wares.

The same could probably be said for MAX Programming LLC, a Spanish firm run by a French programmer, Stanley Roche Busk. The firm offers something called iCash, aimed at helping folks keep track of their spending, something Intuit’s category-dominating Quicken also does. Mr. Busk likely considers the idea of “seeding” copies of iCash in the hands of users as an inexpensive form of advertising.

And on the list goes in promotions such as this one. In the MacBundleBox, buyers will also get a copy of DEVONthink, an electronic file cabinet that’ll hold all sorts of digital files, index them, and help you find ‘em in a hurry. Another notable item is a collection of templates for use with Keynote, the Apple Inc. presentation software.

As mentioned, buyers get 12 programs for just under $50. The sponsors say they’ll donate 10 percent of all bundle revenue to Charity: Water, an organization “that brings fresh, clean drinking water to the 1 billion people on earth that don’t have access to it,” as the Web site indicates.

The Mac platform is conducive to the downloading, use and removal of programs: In many, if not most, cases, it’s a matter of dragging an unwanted program to the trash folder in order to uninstall the software. Where that’s not the case, I’ve almost always seen an “uninstaller” included with the original program. This means users can try — and trash, if desired — a given program easily.

So all around, the MacBundleBox, and similar promotions, seem like a good idea. I’ve never found a malicious program in the bunch, and while some applications were not ones I’ve kept, I have found a few winners in the bunch.

The key is to keep a diversity of programs available to users, letting them try out new and potentially useful applications without a lot of hassle. As I said, it’s not a bad idea. The promoters are even offering trial versions of all the programs, another common feature of these deals.

One other common feature: The bargains don’t last long, so it’s worth moving quickly on this.

As I mentioned, I don’t recall seeing many of these deals in the Windows world. If any readers have, I’d love to hear about it.

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