2013-06-12 / Columns

Paying for software as a subscription has multiple advantages

COMPUSCHMOOZE
STEVE LUBETKIN

It’s been the same drill for several decades now. You buy a popular software program, bring it home, open a box, take out a disc or discs, and install it on your computer. Then, a year or two from now, the software gets updated with new features, and you have to go out and buy the new version and cough up significant bucks again.

That world is starting to change, as more companies and computer users get comfortable buying “software as a service” or SAAS, also known as “the cloud.” Instead of getting discs, you install the software directly from the Internet, and it gets updated automatically as long as you keep your subscription current.

Two major manufacturers, Adobe and Microsoft, whose software is found nearly everywhere, are both hoping consumers and corporations will embrace this new model.

If they are successful, you’ll be paying for software like you pay for cell phones or cable TV—on a monthly subscription basis.

Adobe, maker of the popular photography editing program PhotoShop and video programs AfterEffects and Adobe Premiere, roiled the creative world this month when it announced that its Creative Suite version 6 will be the last “boxed” version of the software that users can buy as a standalone set of programs. Moving forward, Adobe will only offer the Suite as part of a subscription service called “Creative Cloud.” (http://adobe.ly/14eDFkD)

A lot of the audio, video, photo, and web work I do would benefit from various Adobe products, but acquiring these tools would have meant an investment of $1,500 or more in a single chunk. The new subscription plan lets me use all of the programs in the Creative Cloud for a small monthly fee. You can install the programs on two computers, so if you have an office PC and a laptop, you’re all set. My daughter, Shelly, is in photography school and was thrilled to know I could share the license for Adobe’s LightRoom photo management program with her.

Thousands of Adobe customers are expressing dissatisfaction with the new Adobe approach through social media and Adobe’s own user forums. Many are complaining that the licensing is too expensive, particularly for individuals who don’t want to use more than one or two programs in the Suite.

I think they are looking at it wrong. You’ve never owned the software, even when it came in a box. You always just licensed the use from the company that made it. The difference here is that you pay a little at a time but get all the software when you want it. I’d much rather pay a small amount every month and have software that is always up to date, than pay $600 now and have to pay another $300 next year.

Microsoft is also moving in this direction, with a new cloudbased licensing option for its popular Office suite of productivity products (http://bit.ly/ 18ROCw1). You can subscribe to several different levels of Office for home or business, using Office365. For about $10 a month, you get access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access database, and Microsoft Publisher—with a guarantee that it’s always the up-to-date version.

This approach seems likely to broaden the accessibility of Microsoft and Adobe programs to users who just can’t shell out hundreds of dollars at one time. I have a hard time seeing the downside that many users are complaining about.

What’s your feeling about buying software in the cloud?

Email me at steve@compuschmooze.com with your technology comments and questions. .

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