Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Atalasoft: Another Example of Gnarly DRM == Lost Sale

I’m working on a project that involves semi-automated document imaging. Scan, deskew, crop, re-arrange …

It’s on Windows, where every modern scanner hooks into both TWAIN and WIA out of the box, often without even needing a vendor driver, so I just needed a library/toolkit to do the lifting on the app logic side.

Enter Atalasoft DotImage imaging libraries. Does everything you need, works fairly well. Established presence in the market. We start heading in that direction. The Atalasoft bits we needed turn out to be pricey as components go, and we would need a runtime license as well as the development license – but this is a commercial project the success of which would not be diminished by the software costs. So we didn’t blink at the price.

We downloaded the dev SDK, implemented a few features … and we needed to show them to customers. In other cities on other machines. Well, the dev SDK is crippled and doesn’t allow that.

Atalasoft’s sales department generated a 30-day license for me, and sent me the instructions to install and deploy it. And … it half worked. Some machines could run the deployed app. Other machines, the app would crash when the relevant DLLs tried to load, despite deployment of the magic binaries, license files, and other DRM voodoo.

For a brief moment, I thought maybe my app is just broken … but, upon attaching a debugger, I saw that all of these crashes threw the same error. And, since it was .Net, the error was in plain English: Atalasoft’s licensing module was barfing and taking the whole app down.

At that point I could have spend more critical hours trying to navigate around these problems (I’m guessing their pre-sales tech support would have tried) … but … wouldn’t you know it, here is another company offering a similar library, much more agreeable terms, 30-day trial and a seemingly foolproof license key mechanism.

Download, type type build deploy. Success. Haven’t looked back.

Now it’s also convenient that this other product seems to work a little better, has more agreeable legal terms and costs less. But those were not dealbreaker criteria at this stage.

I would never have even gone down the list to this other vendor if Atalasoft’s DRM hadn’t broken my tight-deadline customer demos.


Elaine said...

Greetings, Adam --

You're correct -- we would have definitely tried to debug the issue (and still would, if you're interested). Doesn't sound like a licensing issue to me, though, as you said it worked on half the machines. It more implies a permissions issue, where it couldn't load the license file. But that's only a suspicion, given I don't know the details of what you're building. We are here if you need us.

Elaine G.
Atalasoft Training & Support Manager

Anonymous said...


Atalasoft Licencing SUCKS...

Cant event embed the licence into a DLL!

What other software did you decide to use?

Anonymous said...

I'll also agree with this, AtalaSoft has alientated a lot of potential customers by going down this route with DotImage v 8.0

LeadTools Document Imaging Enterprise is now what I'm looking at and appears to be $150 per desktop deployment which is a lot better than 40% of $3k every year incase I require one more desktop license.

Gone are the days when things just had a price tag.

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Anonymous said...

I agree. 80% of the time I spent with the libraries was pulling my hairs with the licensing and DRM issues. And we paid for it!! It's a hellish nightmare that only punishes paying customers.
It's a shame, their software works very nicely once you get past the licensing exceptions left and right.

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At that point I could have spend more critical hours trying to navigate around these problems (I’m guessing their pre-sales tech support would have tried) … but … wouldn’t you know it, here is another company offering a similar library, much more agreeable terms, 30-day trial and a seemingly foolproof license key mechanism.

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