A Change in Software Paradigm

A sidebar here with 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 it forever. You owned it (technically, you owned a ‘license’ to do so, but that is irrelevant to this discussion) 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 you new things and you have the option to buy them or stick with what you have. The converse of this is that they don’t get more money from you unless they create new features desired by you. 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 needs 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, updates can fall off and development slows. Then more people don’t buy updates, and it continues like this. A software developer then faces a choice: Stop developing something an application for which they aren’t making money or get more creative about features. Many times this is why a software application disappears and a company goes out of business.

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

Before Adobe.

Adobe (makers of Photoshop and a zillion other applications) began implementing a new concept. Yes, before you try to correct me, there were others before Adobe but they were one of the most obvious at the time. The idea is simple and absolutely brilliant and fixes everything that is wrong about the previous software era from a business standpoint. If the person who came up with this idea didn’t get an award, they should have. I’m guessing that the board meeting in which this idea was presented basically went something like this……

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 in the future. Of course you can always switch to another competing application if you can find one, but have you ever wondered why software companies buy each other up?

Within a few years, most of the software which is owned by the company at which I work used began switching to this model.

I called this 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.