/ Technology

Would you pay to rent your PC software?

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

Pity the poor software manufacturers of this world – they’re clearly scratching their heads and trying to figure out how on earth to make money these days. Do you buy software, or do you stick to the free stuff?

I have some sympathy for them. There was a time when, if you needed a piece of software, you put your jacket on, headed to the shops, and came back £50 lighter with a boxed CD to install. Not so these days.

I don’t remember the last time I paid for software on my computer – I’m a firm believer in well-chosen free downloads. No trudging to the shops, no parting with my cash – downloaded and installed on my PC in the time it takes to brew a cuppa.

Photoshop? Forget about it, I use Pixlr for free. Pay for security software? Why would I, when there are brands like Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG and Malwarebytes watching your back free of charge.

Changing the pay structure

In a bid to entice customers to part with their money, software manufacturers are changing the rules of the game. Microsoft recently announced what is, in my opinion, an appallingly bad deal for its Office 2013 suite. You can pay £109 for a bundle of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote that’s good for installation on just one PC. Not so tempting.

So alongside this, Microsoft unveiled the subscription plan for Office 365. For £79 a year, you can install Office on up to five devices, gain extra components like Outlook, 60mins of international Skype calls a month and 20GB of online storage.

On top of this, Adobe has just announced that its Creative Cloud suite will go subscription-only from now on, with fees as high as £70 a month if you only pay one month to the next. To just go for the latest version of Photoshop CC, it’ll be £17 a month. This decision has led to a petition, with 4,000 signatures in just a few days, asking for Adobe to reverse its move to a subscription-only model.

Appy customers

The whole software landscape has been changed by the rise and rise of tablet and smartphone apps. Free or absurdly-cheap apps have been designed for virtually any task you can think of, from photo editing to word processing to remarkably well-designed gaming.

With a new generation of computer users being raised to believe that the value of software lies somewhere between 69p and free, where does this leave the software designers of old? In the stone age, if they’re not careful.

The Adobe Creative Cloud suite will be tailored for design and media professionals who are now forced into the subscription model if they want the latest tools at their disposal. But as for Microsoft Office? I’d say the days of people believing they should have to part with hundreds of pounds just to type a Word document are well and truly numbered.

Comments
Member

It looks as if I will be using Adobe CS4 for a few years longer. Though I have a lot of respect for their products I think they are pricing themselves out of the market, except for professional use. Someone is going to come along with a well integrated software suite that is nearly as good for the enthusiastic amateur, but costs a lot less.

Member
richard says:
11 May 2013

I have always paid for the software I use regularly – either by one off donation or by buying it outright – It is the way to PAY BACK the writers for their efforts – Why should we expect the software for free – as so many do?????

Member

So true, I am with you all the way there!

Member

An advantage of renting software is that you will have the latest version. As long as prices are sensible, that will be fine for most people, most of the time.

Having the latest software is no help if you need to use old software to open files. I was recently asked for information by a former research student who left in the late 90s. I could not open the relevant files on a modern computer and had to go back to an old laptop computer and software that I had not used for years. I am currently doing an update on a guide book that I compiled in 2003 and have had to go back to an old desktop computer and software to deal with that. I hold on to old computers specifically to allow me to use old files created in old software. Where I have known that I will be reusing material, I transfer the files to my current computers and software, but that is not worthwhile doing with every file.

Software rental could be a great problem for amateur historians.

Member
Em says:
11 May 2013

It is more of a problem to find working hardware to run the old software on, than to find the old software. Same problem with videotape.

Member
richard says:
11 May 2013

Can only say – every single piece of my hardware still (since 1980) works except for a hard disk and a strip of memory which as I made a backup as is required was not a problem – the actual machines still work perfectly.
My latest word processing (dtp) software will still open and operate (though only with the original facilities) the very first original files from earlier versions – even early macros – Called good software. .

Member

Richard – Can you tell me which DTP software you are using. It’s good that it opens old files.

Like you, I have not had any problems with hardware, unless you count a hinge on a laptop that broke some time after I had dropped it. At work I was not quite so fortunate.

Member
Em says:
11 May 2013

Yes, if there is a particular project I need to do, renting can be a good option.

I have a few boxed pieces of software I only ever used once gathering dust. Of course, these are mostly professional purchases, not for personal use, but just in terms of waste generation, renting appeals over purchase if the price is right.