When any product in the form of hardware or software is announced to the general public, but fails to be engineered, manufactured or deployed to market, then such products are often called VAPORWARE. Months (and sometimes years) before the purported release of a hot product, tech companies will promote competing items while omitting as many details as possible. The purpose of this practice is to intentionally keep consumers from moving toward competing brands or products.
It should be noted that Tech is a complex business, and that Vaporware is not always the result of empty promises. There have been cases in which software companies wind up delivering on products that were actually never intended, while planned products are shelved after millions of dollars invested in their production and advertisement. Often, big companies are accused of announcing products that have foregone proof-of-concept and other specification processes in order to compete in lucrative markets, command market share, or ward off potential competition.
Vaporware, in respect to ethical business practices, is increasing day by day. The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) has since gotten involved to address these concerns, and to enforce what they consider the “principles of fair competition.” There are times when an announcement of new products and features are helpful to both consumers and businesses—particularly when in-step with current technology trends. This allows for businesses to act accordingly, which in turn, creates vibrant and healthy competition. But when a product fails to be delivered—whether intentional or otherwise—the entire market could freeze. This not only harms competition but restricts product availability and innovation.
And then there’s the underworld of the Internet, which gives new meaning to the word “vaporware” and often goes unchecked. When commonsense and anti-virus (AV) software fails, vaporware takes the mantle of potentially-unwanted programs (PUPs) installed on a user’s computer or mobile device. This is often done deceptively, by presenting add-ons when installing legitimate software; or maliciously, when rogue applications are packaged as familiar and/or popular tools. Both practices are money-motivated, as providers of legitimate software are compensated for inline installations, while rogue software is known for duping users into providing their debit and/or credit card information.
It is worth mentioning that in either case, vaporware is often indicative of a developer’s reputation. Reputable firms, large and small, may use teasing strategies to increase customer engagement and offset development costs. These companies are known for making accurate announcements and following through with quality products. Questionable developers, on the other, engage in vaporware, in every sense and negative connotation of the word.
Whether a product that fails to be delivered or virus that “rids itself” for a monetary fee, vaporware has been a staple in the software industry for a long time. There are many possible predatory and anti-competitive implications associated with it, as its primary goal, in either case, is arguably the deterring of ethical commerce. Businesses use vaporware to dissuade competitors from developing new products, while malware developers profit from user ignorance. Both practices involve a considerable amount of effort and strategy and should be avoided by users at all costs.