I did a post more than a year ago about an Australian company called Digital Recall that was offering its digital signage software free of charge, using the angle that they could generate content creation business through nag screens inside the application.
Now we have a company called InfoSignz, based in India, that has announced its platform is also free to users … at least for now.
According to the company’s website: Small and large business owners can profit from using InfoSignz free digital signage platform for up selling their products and services within their stores or even accepting advertisements of partners to cross sell.
Further, there is no restriction on the number of screens that a free account can carry.
The free version has all the features necessary to create an enterprise scale digital signage network. Some of the features include – an all browser based application, unlimited number of screen licenses, use of multiple content types like image, video and text at the same time and advanced scheduling options.
It appears to be an application that creates a local cache of a browser in full-screen mode, and uses Flash to play out the videos as FLV files and pull in dynamic content also using Flash. So if I am right, it’s like a Web page broken into fixed frames, if you have a bit of techie in you. I saw people doing that years ago, but it was not commercialized, or as robust as this.
While the base platform is free, this is a Software as a Service model and it looks like the idea here is to layer on premium services like scheduling that will have fees attached (and have the freeware crowd scurrying for the exits). It’s an interesting approach, and makes some sense as a means of getting some attention in a crazily crowded field.
There’s one rather large problem, though. All over the site is the requirement to use Adobe Flash 9 player or above. There is even a link provided to the Adobe download site. Now unless InfoSignz received some special dispensation from Adobe and its licensing companies, the use of the “Web player” browser plug-in for digital signage is expressly prohibited by Adobe in its End User License Agreement. Section 3.1.
I just went and checked, and the explicit restriction is still in place. Now to my knowledge, Adobe has yet to go after anybody on this … but you’ve got to to think with all the noise about the industry the company’s legal team is paying attention. Now they could dial back to version 7 Flash and pay Adobe for the developer libraries it has made available for that version, but I think v7 limits Flash video support.
The other problem here is Web players are consumer applications that are designed for watching a YouTube video or a movie trailer here and there, not for round-the-clock usage. From what I hear from developers, anything running Flash files 24/7 better have regular reboots built in.
(Disclaimer: It should be noted that InfoSignz sales people would, in theory, compete with my employers for business … though the solution I sell is vastly different and aimed at a different market. … Just so nobody whines.)
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.