I think that we have unfortunately reached a point in time, where the remaining viable option for Steinberg will be to do the Internet validation scheme. In this light, I would say that a dongle is the better alternative. There are a couple of improvements that I would like to see though.
1. The ability to have the eLicenser on a local network, so that other local computers could be used, without moving the dongle around. This should not be compromising, since I believe that *most* users only own one license per product anyways. And the ones that can afford it, would probably buy additional licenses anyhow, since that would keep their progress from being interrupted in case of network problems.
2. The ability to have a secondary COPY of the USB eLicenser with all my licenses. It is really a concern, to have to call around and reactivate my licenses if it were to go. I own licenses from FabFilter, Steinberg, VirSyn and Waldorf. All which uses the eLicenser, and in case my eLicenser were to go, I really am not looking forward to the hassle, if this were ever to occur.
The argument for copy protection I support, absolutely, but not at the expense of the user who wish to pay for the products. Sure, it is preventing piracy, to a point, but it is also inconveniencing legitimate customers.
A greater concern, IMO, is the way that continuous upgrades are becoming the norm. This in DRM land is better than good, even though the scheme in my opinion is a total rip off. E.g. you buy Cubase 4 for $500, and upgrade to every version at the cost of $200 each, up to C7, which totals $1,100. Someone else buys that same C4, but decides to skip upgrades until C7, which for this person is $300, and that brings the grand total of $800. Fairly big difference, and if the upgrade cost increases, so does the difference.
Well now, some arguments will be "no one is forced to upgrade" and "they also cannot use the new features", etc. but I have yet to get to my point. Companies (in general) put out so much software of absolute crap quality, that a lot of times you don't even get the value for which you paid, and certainly not when you paid for it. The upgrade cycle actually benefits from this. E.g. If you have no problems with C4, then what's the real incentive to upgrade? You could actually feel comfortable staying with what you are familiar with until you need some newly presented feature, which are harder for companies to come up with. As it is now, you are compelled to upgrade since you are still experiencing problems, on your system, and worse, in some cases the problems from the past are promised to be fixed in the newer version, which you now have to pay for, even though you technically already did. A feature that got lost in the previous version shows up as a new feature in a new version is a classic too... Maybe C5 will improve my situation. Maybe C6 will... Hopefully C7...
It is in no way particular to Steinberg, it is a global phenomena. The same thing is happening with operating systems, and the whole thing appears to be increasing too. E.g. apps that just "closes" and you or the system restarts it and you are left with a greater fear of loss... an upgrade will surely fix it, eh?
This may not have been a plan per se, but it's also not fiction. I may have bent things a bit, but there is no denying the underlying red line. It's 2013 and there is no HAL to be found on Amazon... if Clarke's right, his timing was way off. Maybe the people behind Idiocrazy are more accurate...