Got a vested interest in this topic - working for Pearson Education...
There's an internal discussion which I'd like to get your input into. As publishing moves inexorably more toward online services, is it time to give up on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM as a delivery media? Of course, there's a lot of issues which count for and against discs, some people love them, some find them a waste of space and quickly rip them to ISO for storage, but I'd particularly like to get your opinions on the alternatives.
Here's a topic list for issues which have been raised on which your thoughts would be appreciated:
Online only products.
Online download of ISO or self-contained MSI installers for offline use.
Copy protection generally.
Licence keys and activation (transforms are a must).
To date we've largely stayed away from copy protection and product activation, as schools are excellent at self-management, but illegal filesharing is just a fact of life (you never quite know what you're getting of course).
Just for the record, the support service chaps recently recorded end-users as wanting to keep operating offline - i.e. local or network product by an unsurprisingly high 66%, 27% were happy for website access to products and 7% by VLE.
You guys are really at the pointy end, so I consider your views as highly important inputs to this debate.
With the ever increasing uptake of virtualisation ISO's are a fantastic method of delivery, and how they come down - decent broadband speeds these days aide that nicely, and I've even seen a few titles arrive on USB drives and even HDDs (Imagine my surprise to see 6GB of data supplied on a 250gb USB 3 Iomega hard drive. Yes, Crick, I'm pointing at you!). No idea why but perhaps they thought it might make it more attactive. Not many optical drives around these days!
MSI’s that I can deploy via AD if it’s an exe install I will throw it back at you.
Licence Keys that can be pushed out with the MSI using an MST I wouldn’t mind too much but please stay away from other types of copy protection they just cause problems. If you sell unlimited site licences at fair prices schools will buy them. Network Managers i.e. people like me hate software that comes with single user licences or a handful or licences for a stupidly high cost. It doesn’t matter if only 5 kids will use a program we want to deploy it site wide so it doesn’t matter which PC they are using and we don’t want to buy more licences every time we buy a new PC / laptop.
Online downloads are great, you can even give us access to updates etc that way but there are schools that still have very slow internet access so DVD / USB Mem stick in the post should be an option but given the price of hdd’s if you want to send it on a free 500GB USB hdd that’s fine
Online hosting has its advantages i.e. kids can login from home you can provide a managed service i.e. install updates etc but it depends on the app i.e. do they actually need / want access outside of school. Software will always run faster on our local machines than it would via our 10mb internet connection.
I don't think physical media is needed for most schools, but some might need it or find it useful if they don't have a good internet connection. Theres no reason that your tech support department couldn't burn a copy on a cd r/dvd r for those that do need it.
I like to see software delivered as msi, scorm packages, or if its just multimedia an archive of the data in some reasonably common format (html, jpeg, mp4, mp3 etc).
As a school, we are putting more and more resources on our vle (fronter) so that students can access it at home. Sometimes this isn't fast enough for use in lessons though, and then a locally installed copy is useful.
What I definitely wouldn't want is anything that requires me to visit each computer to install it. I really want to be able to kick the install off from the command line in a well documented manner (msiexec or a /silent option is best). That way it can be done from group policy, fog, or altiris ds quickly.
Content made in a format that goes out of date, and then requires lots of effort to make it work is also bad.
Also, if the content is available online, I don't want to have to setup yet another account for each student on a new system. Its not so much the initial setup, but keeping it up to date when new students arrive is a pain. Being able to put the content on the schools vle is much better.
Copy protection is a way of life these days. If a code can be specified via an mst or a command line option, then it usually isn't a big problem. Hiding a file in the windows directory is probably not the best way of doing it, especially if the same file is used for lots of different products.
Thanks everyone for your input, it does help swing things when we push on your behalf...
Btw, there are phone charge points on the Pearson stand C40 at BETT, feel free to top off your phones (USB mini/micro and iPhone) plus mains sockets if you have your own) if you find yourself drained. 2 days in and I am.
Also, final BETT recommendation is to use the Albion pub - out the National Hall and turn right, 100 yards on the left. Great ales, and good food - though it's getting busier year on year.
(Imagine my surprise to see 6GB of data supplied on a 250gb USB 3 Iomega hard drive. Yes, Crick, I'm pointing at you!).
SuperDrive by any chance? lol ..
As for the question in hand (for what's it worth whilst I've noticed it this time around) ..
Digital Delivery is great, though if you offer an option to have it delivered on some form of media that might suit for schools who still struggle away on slower / unstable connections (we've only just gone from 1.5mb to 10mb as we're a bit of a distant school in exchange terms).
With regards to the licensing, I've just installed v6 of the TextEase Studio from Softease and if you've bought a site license, they are happy to provide an MSI that will activate the network installs for you, or, as has been mentioned, having the ability to create an admin install with the license details added in would work well. The thought process should always be "these guys are busy enough as it is, so whilst grateful of their purchase and wanting protecting our intellectual property, what is the easiest way for them to be able to deploy this without having to then individually go round each machine and activate it" so for me, even taking a central database kind of approach, you give a license software that can sit on a server (eating little to no resources of course) and then having each machine look locally on the network for this and being able to activate from it would work well.
I'd be happy to see a ms volume license centre style arrangement where once we buy a title we can download an iso, or order an at-cost DVD, and access the licence key at any point.
I'd also like to echo other comments about minimising copy protection because whilst i understand why a publisher would want it it really can be quite obstructive, and also designing software to be deployable via msi/mst from the outset.
If you want people to stay legal, make it really easy for them to do so by offering a single seat, or a site licence and make them realistic. So many publishers seem to treat a site licence as an easy to recoup a big chunk of development cost in one hit, pile it high, sell it cheap!
I prefer to have an option for both a local client and a VLE edition.
Local client should be distributed by a Online ISO/ZIP folder but above all if I have a 100Mb/s connection I want to be able to download at 100Mb/s - all to many I am sitting waiting for a download because the company decided to host it on their own web servers instead of hosting it with a decent CDN (Amazon S3/Windows Azure).
Local client should be installable by MSI but even better is easy compatibility with the top application virtualisation packages (App-V/XenApp ect).
I'm fine with the VLE version being a cut down of the local edition (less fancy features and so on) but above all else it should be lightweight to allow students on slower internet connections to not have to wait a year for it to load.