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Ranting About Software Companies Adopting Subscription Models

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

I'm cheap. Or stingy. Or frugal. Whatever you want to call it, the idea of paying a monthly or annual fee for software irks me beyond belief.

In the old days, you'd buy software on a floppy disk or a CD-Rom. You'd own it. Occasionally, you'd perhaps update it via the Internet. Every few years, when a "must have" feature was added, you'd pay for the upgrade. Now, software is moving into a perpetual update model where new features are added and updated sporadically, and where the software was once a one-time cost, companies are beginning to charge annual fees to cover that perpetual development.

The most egregious recent example was Adobe's move from offering their products individually, or in bundles, for one time fees, to a monthly subscription cost for everything. Instead of spending a couple hundred dollars on Photoshop one time, and paying for the new version every few years, you'll now have to pay $50 per month, every month. On the bright side, you'll get access to their entire Creative Cloud, a bundle of specialized programs that only select niche users even care about.

As a lawyer, you probably don't care about Creative Suite (or Creative Cloud, as it's now called). What about Microsoft Office? Yes, your long-loved trusty sidekick is going to the subscription model as well, though they are, for now, only taking baby steps in that direction.

For 2013, you can choose between a one-time, single license of Office 2013, or for a bit more, you can get an annual Office 365 subscription, good for a few computers. That same subscription, and an iPhone, will give you access to the yawn-worthy Office for iOS. And if you have multiple employees, tack on even more for additional annual licenses.

A subscription-based Microsoft Office may not be a big deal if you plan on deducting the cost from your taxes as a business expense, but what about software that you use less often? And when you're paying a monthly fee for your practice management software in the cloud, plus monthly tolls to the research companies, and a yearly subscription fee for Office, your overhead has shot up substantially. It's no longer possible to "cut back" for a few months while retaining access to your files.

The benefit of the subscription model is perpetual updates, which we'll admit, are great. Look at the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers for prime examples. New features, code fixes, and other updates happen regularly, without you knowing. Most users are on the newest version because updates are automatic. Compare that to Internet Explorer's annoying 7, 8, 9, and 10th versions, all of which seem like they're playing catch-up to the competitors.

Subscription models pay for perpetual updates and may be necessary if a company that releases a paid program wishes to provide that convenience. But what about sporadic users? What about those of us that can't (or won't) pay a monthly fee?

And what about the concept of tangible ownership of software, rather than mere rentals?

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