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What is Vaporware?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer software development is the process of creating a software application that automates the completion of a manual task. This software application becomes a product that requires sales and marketing to a user community. The term vaporware is used for describing a software application that is under development and not ready for production.

Software development is a complex process that requires effective management and rigor. Software development is the process of managing a software product through the stages of its creation. These stages typically include requirements, design, coding, testing, and deployment.

Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a method for software development that uses vaporware. During the requirements phase of development, the RAD creates screens that demonstrate how the application will function. Typically, the screen will include fake data but will look like a live system.

Proper software development requires developers to have a detailed understanding of the expectations of the prospective users of an application. To accomplish this, developers can use prototypes. A prototype application is a quick conceptual version of a working application and considered vaporware. It is typically a usable screen with limitations in the underlying architecture.

Complex software applications are expensive and require many hours of software development and hardware assembly. Typically these applications require significant upfront financial investments. Vaporware techniques are used for creating interest in a product that may drive demand and investment.

Some computer applications and technologies use “smoke and mirrors” to distract potential users from underlying issues of an application. This vaporware approach misleads the true benefits of an application. While the system meets the outlined benefits the defined higher expectations are not meet after implementation.

Shovelware is the term used for describing a porting effort of an application from one operating system to another operating system with no upgrade in usability. The users are tricked into thinking the new system will act and feel like the old system with better performance. When the system is shoveled into the new environment it typically does not meet the expectations from the user community.

Glossyware is another form of vaporware selling. When a computer application is marketed the material used for the advertisement is often termed glossyware. This material often oversells a product, promising functionality that is non-existent in production.

Typically, developers of software applications are not proponents of vaporware marketing. This type of marketing creates demand before a product is ready for release. This burden is levied on the development to deliver the product faster, which reduces overall quality.

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