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.
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.