Betty has a question about the future of software. “I have been reading your newsletter for quite some time now and find it very enlightening, but I have a question I cannot seem to find an answer for and in the last newsletter you briefly touched on it. It is the fact that most software providers seem to be leaning towards the subscription based program selling, but I need to know what about those of us who would never buy a subscription but prefer to own the program outright? Will they eventually make us all go over to this way of getting programs as this look to me to be a very lucrative way of selling for them but very expensive for us, and I for one do not want to keep shelling out to use a program I have owned for years. Thank you for reading my rant and hope you can address my concerns in your newsletter in the near future.”

Interesting question, Betty. There has been a move towards software as a service. But I don’t think all software is headed that way just yet.  You see it most often with business software, but also with high-powered productivity software like Microsoft Office and with the Adobe Creative Suite.

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Part of the reason is that paying a monthly fee instead laying out several hundred dollars for a program like Photoshop can be more affordable for some people. This is especially true if you need a program like Adobe Premiere for a short-term project. You could just subscribe for a month or two and save hundreds of dollars.

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Having software as a subscription service guarantees that you’ll always have the most up-to-date version available. That means no more upgrading to a new OS to find your software doesn’t work. This also means your software will be updated to keep up with changing technology. This is something that might be more important to business users than home users.

And, as you say, getting someone to be a subscriber can prove very profitable for companies. People are way more likely to renew than to purchase the latest version of your software.

Keep in mind that along with the subscription-based Office service, Microsoft also offered free Office apps online that people can use for no cost at all.

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The bigger change is the shift towards online. More and more programs that used to be installed on your PC are now available to use in a browser. A lot of game playing has migrated there. You’ll also find office suites from Microsoft and Google that feature word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software that are free to use online.

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And don’t forget about the app stores for Android, Windows, and Apple. There are millions of apps (programs) that don’t require a subscription. You can find apps for everything from games to photo editing to word processing for free. Some do have ads, but many allow you to upgrade to an ad-free version for a fairly low cost. As more users move from laptops and desktops to mobile devices, most of the efforts towards developing programs have shifted to mobile.

The nice thing about a subscription service is that you aren’t tied to one device. If your PC dies, you can just switch the subscription to another device. You don’t need to buy a new copy. The same holds true for apps from the app store. Your premium version of Android Words With Friends should work on any Android device and pick up your games right where you left off.

The biggest change that you could see in the future is that operating systems could become subscription-based. It’s more likely that this would happen for businesses as opposed to home users.

~ Cynthia