Monday, August 21, 2006

Tech: OCR hides its light with crippleware

I spoke to a bloke who once sold Optical Character Recognition software. He told me that there was a substantial difference between the OCR product bundled with a scanner, and the industrial-strength version. Surely they use the same engines, I said.

Well, no they don’t. And this is not something that’s obvious to the average punter.

Myself, I was certainly aware there were commercial versions of the bundled software, selling for a few hundred dollars. I imagined that, as with most software, the commercial version would simply add extra features. As you would. Instead, the bundled software – which is all most people would normally have exposure to – simply doesn’t recognise characters as well. With any variability in print quality (eg darkness or alignment), the bundled software won’t interpret so well. It’s the difference between recognising a c as an o, for example. Correcting this can get rather tedious over a lot of text.

I remember in a previous workplace using the scanner. They only had the bundled software. Maybe it’s an older version? No, it’s just crippleware. Who’s to know, if the consumer is not educated in the deficiencies of what’s supplied.

This approach to marketing does the technology – and the brand name - no favours.

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