A Change in Software Paradigm

A sidebar here of some of my thoughts on software development over the last decade……

In the old days, when a user ‘bought’ a copy of software, you were then able to use forever. You owned it (technically, you owned a ‘license’ to do so, but that’s a detail) and that was the end of it. At that point, the company could improve upon their software and sell you updates with more features. A very simple relationship emerged from this delicate balance….they offer new things, you can chose to buy them. The converse of this is that they don’t get more money from you unless they create desirable feature. A simple check and balance system that worked well for decades.

Now, most software reaches a point in its development where it really ‘does everything it need to do’. Yes, yes, there are always other things it can do, but they can run out of primarily desirable and sell-able things to add. The application reaches a state of equilibrium, and development slows. Then people don’t buy updates, and it continues like this. A software developer then faces a choice: Stop developing something they aren’t making money on or get more creative about features. Many times this is why a software application disappears and a company goes out of business. No one buys it because it doesn’t do what they need, or doesn’t continue to add what they need.

These was an era I refer to as B.A.

Before Adobe.

Adobe (makers of Photoshop and a zillion other applications) began implementing an idea. And yes, before you try to correct me, there were others before Adobe but they are one of the most obvious at the time. The idea is simple and brilliant and fixes everything that is wrong about the previous software era from a business standpoint. If they didn’t, someone at Adobe should have gotten an award for this idea, which basically says…..

“We currently charge someone a large amount for purchasing our application, then a tiny amount every few years as we add things they want. Instead, what if we charge them a slightly less amount up front to make it seem like a great deal, but then charge them that same amount every year forever, and if they stop paying us the software stops working?”

Call it renting, leasing, whatever you want. You would have to be an idiot not to see the financial advantage this gives a software company. You must pay for every day you use our application, whether or not we add value to it. True, you can always switch to another competing application if you can find one. Ever wonder why software companies buy each other up?

Within a few years, most of the software my company used (and myself) began switching to this model (I called it the A.A. era, for After Adobe. In my opinion, software features & enhancement has never been as good for the user as it was in the B.A. era of development and will never be so again.