The world is changing. There once was a time when computer software came with a physical manual, physical disks for installation, and a hefty price tag. Software publishers made their money by obtaining revenue from new customers, and revenue from existing customers through product upgrades. That part hasn’t changed, but the methodology has.
Apple killed the app upgrade pricing model with the advent of the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad, and the Mac App Store. Updates are free, but upgrades come with a new version and a price tag– the same one whether you’re an existing customer or a new customer.
Software rentals have been around awhile but have become mainstream thanks to Adobe’s popular Creative Suite, and Microsoft’s Office 365, both of which are subscription based. In essence, those major application suites require that a computer user rent software by the month. Businesses like it because it is easier to budget. Average users, not so much.
Here’s a good example. I’ve used Adobe’s Fireworks web graphic design app since back in the last century (when Fireworks was owned by Macromedia, later purchased by Adobe). Few applications were so suited to web graphic design. But the world is changing. Adobe’s new tools do not include upgrades to Fireworks, so the application is end-of-life, though there is not an exact replacement available.
Photoshop can do much of what Fireworks does, but is more cumbersome to use for the same type of graphics where Fireworks excels (it’s all about workflow, and file sizes). The monthly rental fee for Photoshop can go as low as $10 per month (includes Lightroom). Forever. The original Fireworks, back in 1998, cost me about $400. Subsequent upgrades occurred every two to three years, for about $99 to $199 each. Adobe’s rental subscription fee is $120 per year. Forever. That may be easy to budget, but it’s also twice the price of using Fireworks for an application that is less suited to the task.
When Adobe announced that Fireworks was end-of-life I began looking earnestly at alternatives. While many Mac vector-based graphic tools are quite competent and often cost far less than Adobe’s offerings; where they fail is exporting to the smallest possible file size– a critical component for publishing web graphics.
The search for a Fireworks alternative continues, as does the trend toward monthly rentals, or subscriptions. iTunes Match puts your entire music collection on all your devices. iCloud Drive stores and places all your photos on all your devices. For a monthly fee. Word on the streets is that Apple has big plans for streaming music– all the music you could possibly listen to. For a monthly fee. The math becomes an ominous indicator of the future. Buy a Mac, rent an iPhone by the month, pay Apple by the month for iTunes Match, streaming music, online photo storage. Pay Adobe and Microsoft by the month to use Creative Suite and Office.
Where will it end? It won’t. For better or worse, and with few differences, we live in a capitalist world where everyone is out to get your money.