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Crippleware has been defined in realms of both computer software and hardware. In software, crippleware means that "vital features of the program such as printing or the ability to save files are disabled until the user purchases a registration key". While crippleware allows consumers to see the software before they buy, they are unable to test its complete functionality because of the disabled functions. Hardware crippleware is "a hardware device that has not been designed to its full capability". The functionality of the hardware device is limited to encourage consumers to pay for a more expensive upgraded version. Usually the hardware device considered to be crippleware can be upgraded to better or its full potential by way of a trivial change, such as removing a jumper wire. The manufacturer would most likely release the crippleware as a low-end or economy version of their product. [1]


Computer software

Deliberately limited programs are usually freeware versions of computer programs that lack the most advanced (or even crucial) features of the original program. Limited versions are made available in order to increase the popularity of the full program (by making it more desirable) without giving it away free. Examples include a word processor that cannot save or print, and unwanted features, for example screencasting and video editing software programs applying a watermark (often a logo) onto the video screen. However, crippleware programs can also differentiate between tiers of paying software customers.

The term "crippleware" is sometimes used to describe software products whose functions have been limited (or "crippled") with the sole purpose of encouraging or requiring the user to pay for those functions (either by paying a one-time fee or an ongoing subscription fee). [2] [3] [4]

The less derogatory term, from a shareware software producer's perspective, is feature-limited. Feature-limited is merely one mechanism for marketing shareware as a damaged good; others are time-limited, usage-limited, capacity-limited, nagware and output-limited. [5] From the producer's standpoint, feature-limited allows customers to try software with no commitment instead of relying on questionable or possibly staged reviews. Try-before-you-buy applications are very prevalent for mobile devices, with the additional damaged good of ad-displays as well as all of the other forms of damaged-good applications. [6]

From an Open Source software providers perspective, there is the model of open core which includes a feature-limited version of the product and an open-core version. The feature-limited version can be used widely; this approach is used by products like MySQL and Eucalyptus.

Computer hardware

This product differentiation strategy has also been used in hardware products:


Tesla limits the range on lower-end versions of the Model S in software, as well as disabling Autopilot functions if those functions weren't purchased. [18]

Digital rights management

Digital rights management is another example of this product differentiation strategy. [19] Digital files are inherently capable of being copied perfectly in unlimited quantities; digital rights management aims to deter copyright infringement by using hardware or cryptographic techniques to limit copying or playback.

See also

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  2. 1 2 "Crippleware — a definition from The New Hacker's Dictionary". Archived from the original on January 11, 2009.
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  15. "Apple Gets a Bruise by Blaming A $1.99 Fee on Accounting Rules". The Wall Street Journal.
  16. "Facepalm of the Day: Intel charges customers $50 to unlock CPU features". this arbitrary software lock is odd in that Intel is offering to remove it for a fee. Basically it seems processors have become so powerful and so cheap, and the failure rates so low, that the only way that Intel can supply the low end demand is through artificially downgrading chips.
  17. Cory Doctorow. "Intel + DRM: a crippled processor that you have to pay extra to unlock".
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  19. Andrew M. Odlyzko (July 27, 2003). "Privacy, Economics, and Price Discrimination on the Internet" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-15.