Thanks for the clarifications.
...[manuals are] a real drain on the profit curve to include them.
It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if you are paying to print manuals AND paying support people to read those manuals to your customers over a free 1-800 line (that you are also paying for), that the first thing you should do to decrease costs is stop printing the manuals.
The only good reason to provide them is that a very small number of people really want and use them.
Probably due to the kind of people I hang out with, but if the topic ever comes up, I never
hear any of my friends or business associates praise the lack of a printed manual. Its the exact opposite. So from my limited experience, Id have to disagree with your observation.
Its about keeping the cost of goods low, so you can keep the price competitive, while still making the profits that your stockholders expect.
Fair enough concept. But is Adobe really going to be any less competitive with its CS bundle if the MSRP is $1,100 versus, say, $1,120? I could be wrong, but I dont think so. I realize that most consumer programs cost much less (and thus that inclusion of a manual assuming cost is passed on is a bigger problem with competitive pricing), but I wasnt addressing the lower cost programs. Then again, even on lower cost programs, I tend to wonder just how competitive Microsoft has to be in its pricing. Ha!
So Ill ask you this. Assume you are a stockholder in a small software company and they ask you if you are willing to accept lower dividends so that they can provide something that most paying customers wont use. Would you say:
1. Bump the price a bit for everyone so that 10% of our customers can have manuals.
2. Provide context sensitive online help, and a searchable database viewable from any computer on the internet, and work with third party publishers to create an aftermarket product line for the rest.
Whoa there Bill! I think youve forgotten something in your question! To be consistent with your original premise, shouldnt option 2 be:
2. Provide support people to read those manuals to your customers over a free 1-800 line
, a context sensitive online help, and a searchable database viewable from any computer on the internet, and work with third party publishers to create an aftermarket product line for the rest.
As a costumer, Id be thrilled with either option. So far as a business decision goes, I have no clue which option is more economical (bit Id guess option 1 if I had to make a guess). Id also quibble with another element of your option 2: when I shop at computer stores, it sure seems like Microsoft, Adobe, etc., are right in there with the third party publishers so far as offering after-market manuals goes.
Finally, in line with your original premise, can you name at least a couple major
software producers that offer free, unlimited customer telephone support via an 800 number? I cant think of one for the programs I use!
Bottom line: I think the bottom line is
the bottom line when it comes to including or not including manuals; all other reasons for not including manuals seem like window dressing so the computer companies can put a good face on their greed. If you say that decision makers have agonized over this issue, Ill take you at your word. But I cant help but feeling that thats the exception to the rule.