Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Business Methods

When I purchased my computer, it came with a "90 day free trial" version of Norton Anti-virus (these days owned by Symantec). This whirred away regularly for three months, telling me that it was finding and deleting lots of viruses in my e-mail. A few days ago the subscription expired, meaning that the software still works but that it no longer updates itself for new viruses. Given that the virus situation is bad, shall we say, and given that if I get infected my computer will then start spewing crap to all my friends and I would rather not do this, I just bought a subscription giving me another twelve months of updates. This wasn't especially expensive - costing about the cost of a nice lunch I suppose - but Symantec will no doubt be pleased that I am a paying customer. Which is of course fine, and indeed good. They provide me with a useful service and I pay for it. God bless capitalism. (Although the authors of the actual viruses can go fuck themselves).

What interests me though is the nature of the financial relationship between Dell and Symantec. Dell install the software on their computers, and it is beneficial to them to advertise the computer as having anti-virus software installed. (Most people do actually need it). So Dell are getting some benefits. However, Symantec get paying customers through the relationship - for instance me. (Paying customers who are paying rather less than customers who simply buy the anti-virus software cold, however). So what is the net money flow between the two companies? Are Symantec actually paying Dell to install Symantec's commercial software on Dell's computers? Or is it one of those neutral situations where no money changes hands? Or is Dell paying Symantec for the software? (I really doubt this). Or do Symantec pay a commission to Dell when someone like me becomes a paying customer? (I rather doubt this, as when I registered with Symantec the registration process was surprisingly low tech and I was not required to provide enough information for them to identify my computer as a Dell, although I suppose they could find this out some other way easily enough if they wanted to.

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