Upgradeering – Using bugs to push users down the upgrade path

I’m sure many software companies have discovered this before me. But it dawned on me today that you can use bugs/defects in your software to push users towards upgrading to your latest version. There’s a definite case for marking certain bugs as “will not fix” for reasons that it will be frustrating to users and they will see the fix in the new version almost as a “feature”.

The balancing act is making sure that leaving the bug in the software isn’t so critical that users abandon your software altogether. However for minor annoyances or not oft-used features, this business strategy makes sense. This strategy becomes a weakness if users decide to make noise about the problem, or have a collective grief outlet. However if it’s the kind of issue that many people notice but don’t actively complain about – it might be just the type of bug to ignore in this release! Not only will you get more money out of it, but your developers don’t spend time fixing these minor issues. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it a win-win, but it’s certainly profitable.

This doesn’t really work as well with a software as a service, where there really isn’t a clear upgrade path and bugs tend to affect all versions/offerings of your software.

This is obviously not a transparent way to run a software enterprise, but it’s probably one already in practice out in the wild and has some merits.