I think about this stuff a lot. I've been convinced for a couple of years now that the freeware model simply doesn't work. It only works if you REALLY don't care about money. If you do care, but you're just being nice, it's going to fail sooner or later.
To me the key question is this: what is the best way for a software developer (small programs like FARR and stuff like that) to make a living working on these programs?
The iOS app developers seem to be able to do it, but I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect them to make a living doing it (I think most of them do it on the side, but I have no idea). They also are very centralized and integrated with all the devices and itunes. So it's not only easy, but there are no competing marketplaces for iOS. Now, how do you do the same for Windows users? Can you do the same? If not, how close can you get?
The other issue is the prices. Most shareware is going to be minimum $20. That's not much, but most people would consider it too expensive unless they were really serious about it. The app prices ($2-5) are much more acceptable psychologically to users. They'll buy it just to see. That's where you want to be, even more so with Windows.
I don't know these answers. But there's some secret there. Windows developers should be able to make a living writing these small applications. But I don't even know that. Maybe those days are over. But we still haven't seen it done like the itunes stuff. We'll see when the windows marketplace comes out.
We can try an experiment here. I know mouser has tried various ways over the years to get donations and money distributed to the developers here. None of them have really worked out (there have been several threads debating all the reasons here). But how about this? We already have DCupdater, right? What if DCupdater included ALL the software going around here...mouser, skwire, skrommel, etc. everything in the list. Then, put a suggested price in DCupdater next to each one. Then, have a place where someone can buy a special license key or something with one click (credit card info will need to be stored).
I'd be interested how that works. I would even go as far as not making any of it free anymore. But before people have a fit, just put a minimum of $1. So, skrommel can sell each of his things for $1. mouser can sell his stuff for $5 each. It's so cheap, customers can come in with $30 and buy a whole bunch of things, and it really wouldn't be all that stressful.
i don't know if it will work well, but I have a feeling it can.