Perpetually paying for software

It’s possible that the way you use software on your computer underwent a sea change in the last 24 hours.

Normally, if you need some computer tools, you buy some software at a store or download, install it and never worry about paying for it again until the next upgrade.

But Adobe has announced it’s now going to sell some of its most popular and useful software through subscriptions. You’ll be paying as long as you wish to keep using it.

It’ll run you $50 a month for full versions of Photoshop or Acrobat, for example. If you want to use just one app, that’ll be $20 a month. Subscriptions started a year ago but the company still sold software the old-fashioned way: perpetually licensed.

“We know that’s going to be a difficult transition for some customers, but we think it’s going to be the best move in the long haul,” the company’s marketing boss told CNet, insisting that this is what people want.

The shift to subscription pricing has been gradually spreading across the computing industry as the Internet has simplified software distribution. Early pioneers such as Red Hat argued that customers are better off with a steady stream of payments that gets them a steady stream of updates.

Now subscription pricing is spreading to software such as Google Apps, Evernote, and Dropbox that are inextricably linked with online services. The shift is aided by pay-as-you-go infrastructure such as Amazon Web Services that lets companies use and pay for only as much computing power as they need.

Some people just do not like subscription pricing, and they’ll have to make do with CS6, which Adobe will continue to sell, or with rival products. But those who’ve carped about the Creative Cloud are a minority, Morris said.

“Overwhelmingly, when you compare the people who’ve complained about the new model to the people who loved it, it definitely skewed heavily to the new model,” he said. “Obviously we would not be making a decision this big if the percentage of people in that category was so big it was the wrong thing for us to do.”

“It’s another nail in the coffin of the whole business model of software, as it existed in the pre-Internet days,” Harry McCracken of Time’s Technologizer blog says.

McCracken speculates that Microsoft’s Office might be next, and suggests computer users might as well start considering software a service than a product.

  • Mark Gisleson

    All thanks to the indefensible belief that software code can be copyrighted/patented.

    Reform copyright and patent law or the only breakthroughs we’ll see will be from nations that ignore these irrational barriers to technological progress.

  • Evan

    As a college student with a limited budget, this will make purchasing Adobe products a lot less feasible. I guess I’ll be sticking with CS6 for a while.

  • vjacobsen

    “…speculates that Microsoft Office might be next”?

    It’s already here. It’s called Office 365.

  • Bob Collins

    Right. But they haven’t discontinued the perpetual license.

  • BJ

    As a software developer, this makes a lot of sense. My old company did this.

    What price is correct to keep developing new stuff, and pay for the original development has been an age old question.