I get your point. The royalties issue can be a problem, however, it is the choice if you want this in your business-model yes or no. We never do this, or we pay royalties on product quantities. And if you pay on product quantities I mean all products, hence, ony 1 type of product exists doing the broadest things for all our customers. Everybody is happy, including the IP owners.
One way for equipment companies to make the upgrades harder is to sell hardware keys. No key, no upgrade. But the keys were being hacked in China and sold at lower prices than the company was charging. The company responded by using data encryption.
My second-favorite example of this was a computer from the 1960s or 1970s which was microcoded, a common way of implementing an instruction set in the days of slow core memory. They sold different models, charging more for the higher-performance models. The only difference is that the low-performance models had extra NOP instructions in the microcode to slow down execution. Otherwise, the machines were identical.
My favorite example is an IBM card reader. They had two models, one twice as fast as the other. You could actually get a field upgrade from the low-speed to high-speed version. The IBM tech came in with a big toolbox and removed a panel to expose the mechanism. Then he looked around to see if anyone was looking and quickly moved a rubber belt from one set of pulleys to another :-)
[Both stories were heard from other people, so may be aprocryphal. But they pre-date the Internet, so they must be true.]
Navelpluis wrote: My thought then is: That stupid company did not sell a big bunch of their equipment, because they have hidden it's features in the closet. While it already has been developed, engineering hours have been spend, so, WHY THE HECK DONT YOU ALWAYS SELL IT WITH IT THEN? JUST GIVE IT AWAY !!!
Here's an example of why you (the vendor) want to have hidden features. Let's say you have two products A and B, where B is an upgraded version of A that the same except for more software features and more cleverness in the FPGAs. In addition, B may include licensed software from another vendor for which you pay per-unit royalties. It costs exactly the same to make A and B hardware.
Here's the issue: you somehow need to pay for the development and support of B, which is more costly than A. If you have only one model and price it high, a customer who only needs the capabilities of A will buy a cheaper product C from another vendor. If you drop the cost of your one model to compete with C, you won't make enough money to pay for the development of B.
Solution: Price model A cheaper than C, so you get that market. Price model B more expensive than C, but people who need the additional capabilities are willing to pay for B because other vendors' products D, E, and F are more expensive. You do need a secure way to upgrade A to B, otherwise customers will buy A and then upgrade it to B without paying the difference.
Well, the reason why I write this title down is exactly how I think about the sales method with 'soft options'. I hate it. Maybe this might work for the 'average people', but if it works for engineers, I have my doubts. Well, at first, let us assume the hardware is there. No add-ons needed, that's where we are dealing about. right?
My thought then is: That stupid company did not sell a big bunch of their equipment, because they have hidden it's features in the closet. While it already has been developed, engineering hours have been spend, so, WHY THE HECK DONT YOU ALWAYS SELL IT WITH IT THEN? JUST GIVE IT AWAY !!!
That has been said. And I will assure everybody here that the sales quantities certainly will go up, paying for the development anyway. And for logistics, lots easier too, saving lots of money again. Maybe it is time for a poll if engineers want this or if they want to buy for each stupid option or silly trigger method. Personally I think these times are over.
I could see them being upset if maybe we uncovered something new that might impact them in negative ways. They are fully aware of these things already and at this point, these upgrades can actually serve to make some older models more attractive if they are found.
I wonder what these companies do if you return the unit for service and in the process of doing the repair they discover that you've activated functions that the original model didn't have? I would imagine in many cases from that point on your warranty is null and void because of the "non-authorized" nature of your "repair". I would also tend to think they would be wiithin their rights to just declare the entire main board was defective and max out both the parts and labor components of your repair (maybe even replacing these boards with "non-upgradeable" models) since now you're on the hook for the entire ball of wax! What if you regularly send the unit out to metrology, wouldn't they be inclined to "rat out" your little "upgrade" to the OEM too (since now there could be more functions to calibrate so higher costs for them to bear)? Or I suppose you could undo the repair before you sent it in and redo it after it comes back...
This reminds me of a situation that used to exist in the old mainframe computer days where nothing was ever purchased and everything was on lease by the month, service included. So there was one model of processing system which was frequently field-upgraded to a higher-performance model by replacing all the circuit cards which frequently took a process of several hours during which all the boards were removed and taken out, then a different crew came out and installed all the new boards. The truth of the situation turned out to be that the cards were all the same EXCEPT for a divide-by-two jumper in the master clock chain, the rest of the procedure was simply "choreographed" to demonstrate to the customer how much value he was getting for his much higher lease rate! On the rare occasion that a customer discovered the charade (generally after it was divulged by a "rogue" employee of the computer company) the purpose of the existence of the two models and lease rates was "justified" by the higher speed at which the printer components had to operate for the higher-performance model which resulted in much higher mechanical service costs (I guess you had to have been there but the justification really wasn't all that unreasonable). Now in THAT situation an unauthorized "field upgrade" would definitely NOT be ignored (I believe there was an OS function that even identified the machine as being the higher-performance model)!
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
Brought to you by