We don't write much about old boring installable software here on Webware. We're not about that. But a new company, OpenCandy, is taking a proven Web 2.0 model--the ad network--and applying it to software installation. It's very clever. And it will probably work.
The concept is this: If you're a software developer, you can insert the OpenCandy library in your app's installer (Windows only, so far). When users install the app, they get a pitch to also download another app. As the host of the pitch, you can either hand-pick apps you want to associate with, for free (the spread-the-love model), or you can have OpenCandy select from apps that will pay you a bounty if your users choose to install them (the make-money model). Or you can specify a mix: some users will get one of your hand-picked apps pitched at them, others will get one that the network has chosen.
The module, when it runs, can base its pitches on information from the user's computer, which it gathers from the installer. Since installers can sniff the registry to determine what hardware and software is installed on the PC, the recommendations can be specific. For example, the module can tell if the user has one or more developer's tools installed, and make a pitch for product like Notepad++, a developer's editor.
Mercifully, the pitch to download the additional software is always opt-in. If you blithely just press "next" on each installation screen, you won't get the additional product.
Developers who want to take advantage of the network currently have to contact OpenCandy to get onboard, although in the future getting added in may be self-serve. When developers sign up, they can specify the bounty they will pay to other developers, and what types of users they want to pitch their apps to.
I expect that a lot of Web services with downloadable components (think uploaders, toolbars, AIR apps, and so on) will want to use this program, since desktop-resident pointers to Web services are potentially good traffic drivers.
OpenCandy is based on a model that has been proven at least once. CEO Darrius Thompson built the product after adding the download bounty program to DivX, which he co-founded. He says that the program generated millions of dollars a month for DivX, as a ride-along to the company's consumer software. And that's just one product.
This is a good business idea for riding on top of the still-kicking software industry.