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A Prisoner of the Unlock Code

John Ottini | Handheld PC Software Reviews
12 April 2005

Over the last two weeks I've come upon a couple of very good Handheld PC software programs that I would have purchased without hesitation, if not for the ridiculous restrictions placed on the software by the developers. What I'm talking about is the, one Handheld PC, one Desktop PC use restriction placed on the purchase and registration of the software. In an effort to protect their software from illegal use and distribution, some developers have chosen to make the buyer (in effect) a prisoner to the unlock code or key.

How does this work?

Well, when you install the software on to your Handheld or Desktop PC for the first time, a unique registration number is automatically created, which ties your device to a unique unlock code or key, obtainable only from the developer at registration. It sounds like a reasonable practice, but think about what this means? If for any reason you need to reinstall the software or wish to install the software on a different Handheld PC (or Desktop PC) - you are restricted from doing so, because the unique registration number created at installation will (purposely) not be recognized by the unlock code. To get around this you have to contact the developer and explain why you need a new unlock code and hope they don't charge you for it. At this point you are probably thinking one of two things, either this sounds like a perfectly reasonable request or this sounds absolutely outrageous.

Unforeseen Consequences

Although you may think you have purchased the actual software, what you have in fact purchased is only the right to use the software at the developer's discretion and restrictions. Think about all of the unforeseen problems and consequences this type of policy restriction can place on the buyer?

Since you can only use the software on one Handheld PC and one Desktop PC, here are a few things to consider.

  1. If your Handheld PC crashes and requires a hard reset, can you reinstall the software using the copy on your Desktop PC or will you have to contact the developer for a new unlock code?
  2. If you purchase a new Handheld PC or Desktop PC you will need to contact the developer for a new unlock code.
  3. If you decide to use the software as 'stand alone' software on your Handheld PC, you will need to get a new unlock code from the developer anytime you have the misfortune of performing a hard reset.
  4. If the developer goes out of business and you have to either reinstall the software or simply install it on a newer Handheld or Desktop PC, well - you are plum out of luck!!

In case you haven't noticed, all of these restrictions make you totally dependent on the well-being and good fortune of the developer.

The Moral of the Story

Although, most developers spell out what their registration policy and procedure is, it is your responsibility to make sure you understand what they are asking of you before you plunk down your cash. If you feel comfortable with the 'one Handheld, one Desktop' restriction, then by all means buy the software, but if not, then make the developer aware of your objection - let them know why you chose not to buy. Don't be a Prisoner of the Unlock Code!

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