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Once more, with feeling

Much-maligned Syncronys Softcorp gears up to release SoftRAM 3.0, a new version of a system compression program that was not only recalled last year but drew the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

Some call it perseverance, some call it chutzpah, and others call it things you couldn't put in a family publication. Whatever it's called, Syncronys Softcorp has it. The company is gearing up to release SoftRAM 3.0, a new version of a system compression program that was not only recalled last year but drew the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

Syncronys will post Thursday the first beta "module" of SoftRAM 3.0 on its Web site and invite previous SoftRAM users to download and try it. The module will be an improved piece of resource management software for Windows 3.1 that allows users to load more programs at one time.

Syncronys came under fire last year after the popular SoftRAM program for Windows 95 was found not to work on Windows 95 at all. The company then downgraded it to a Win 3.1 product, but some critics claimed the product still didn't work.

"To us it wasn't a placebo," said company CEO Rainer Poertner. "We just delivered technology that had a big problem."

The software did have a big enough problem to spur its recall last December, taking the company's main source of revenue completely off the market and dropping the stock from a previous high of $32 down to about $1. Syncronys received a shot in the arm, however, with a $13 million infusion in May.

The bruises to the reputation of SoftRAM include the FTC investigation, the stock plunge, and a half-million dollar payout to settle two class-action lawsuits, but the company purports that over half the plaintiffs in the lawsuits have opted for free upgrades instead of a full refund of the original purchase price.

"We have now proven that we're credible, and that gives us a lot of credibility," said Poertner. "That seems very logical to me."

A Win3.1 compression module will be available soon, Poertner said, to be followed by the first Win95 module. The final product, to be priced around $30, will be released in October or November and will contain both Windows 3.1 and 95 versions in one box. The company is betting that software buyers will either forgive or forget the problems associated with SoftRAM.

"I guess the company doesn't see the product name as tainted as it is in the mind of a few media publications," said spokesperson John Shaw. "If General Motors recalls a van because of faulty brakes, they don't change the name of the van, and they certainly don't change the name of the company."