Why are software users tolerating subscription software?

We used to joke about software someday expiring or requiring a regular fee to keep it activated. Never thought in a million years that Consumers would allow themselves to be shaken down like this.

It’s happened. There’s been no consumer revolt. I recently bought a used copy of Photoshop CS6. The very last version of Photoshop before the dreaded subscription service began.

I never bought into purchasing regular updates for software. I still use Office 2003. It does exactly what I need. I use Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. I still use Ms Publisher too. I have no interest at all in upgrading. Not when what I have works perfectly. I’ve been using Photoshop 6 since 2001. I have to install it in a XP partition, but it still works fine under that OS. If what I have works, then I won’t update it. It’s like the 12 year old pairs of Levis I own. They fit great, look great, and feel comfortable. Why would I throw them out for new pairs?

Can someone explain the logic for tolerating subscription software? Why have Consumers meekly rolled over and accepted this shakedown? I understand that as an individual we are totally helpless. But, if a large enough group said HELL NO!!! That would end this nonsense.

is there some great value in subscription software that I’m missing? I know Photoshop claims they are charging a monthly fee for their cloud service. Why on earth would I want that when Terabyte hard drives are less than a $100?

What am I missing here?

So far what other software packages have gone subscription only? Is Ms Office only subscription now? What else?

how many consumers are actually using a legitimately purchased version of Adobe Photoshop/CS?

as far as Office goes, you can still buy non-subscription downloads of 2013. I have the subscription version because

  1. I will likely always need Office,
  2. I can legally install it on more than one machine (5 PCs/Macs, plus up to 5 mobile devices)
  3. when a new version comes out I can upgrade at no additional fee.

I don’t know about software, but you could probably work up a theory relating it to how people nowadays, instead of buying movies or music, are subscribing to services that let them access movies or music on demand. Or even to how people are leasing cars rather than buying them.

It all depends on the situation. In 2011, I needed Adobe CS5 for one class, and even with a student discount, it still cost over $200 (the retail cost was much higher). In that case, I probably would have been much better off with a 6 month subscription. Now, I’m stuck with $200 worth of outdated software that I can no longer use because my Mac died.

In the case of Office, it used to be rather expensive, at least for home use (I couldn’t find the old pricing, but I recall that it was around $300). Now, that same $300 will get you 3 years of Office for 5 PCs or Macs, plus 5 Windows tablets or iPads. If you only need the software for a short time (a college course, for example), you can get a monthly subscription for $10 per month ($7 if you only need it for a single computer and tablet).

Basically, there are pros and cons for both subscription based software, and software that is purchased outright.

The viewpoint you hold is because you are elderly and conservative and afraid of what is new. It’s called being a Luddite or hermit, and this type of human behavior has been described in detail for millennia. Don’t despair though.

To answer you question though, the new business model is light years better that the old, since 20 years ago it was common to have to unload a metric buttload of loot for purchasing, legally, a copy of software that rarely got improved upon. Now with subscription software is a much more accessible price to more people so it can be much more readily adopted. Second, because the subscription service can be stopped by customers at any point, this creates a very clear and present fire under developers’ asses to keep you happy as a customer, otherwise you walk with your wallet. Third, this business model gives you access to the latest and greatest technologies, which is important if you are actually earning a living in technology. If all you have 15 year old software running your business you probably suck at it and will be trampled by more modern and nimble companies.

And what Wolf333 mentions (flexibility in subscribing/unsubscribing) is among those parts of the model that are well received by business, institutional and professional workplaces, whose benefits are more determinant of what the software creators do or don’t do than individual “personal” users.

As mentioned, MS preserved “bought” licenses, though once again limited to a single install in the case of the Student and Home Business versions. But Adobe simply eliminated nonsubscription alternatives, so whoever HAS to keep up with the latest bell and whistle in Photoshop CS due to business needs will have to bite the bullet.

OTOH, according to the writer, someone like the OP has not generated a cent for Adobe in new revenue since 2001 so for all intents and purposes they have written him off and will not notice if he switches to Paint Shop Pro X7 or to GIMP.

Me, I am more concerned about having software I can run full featured when NOT online or networked, simply because I cannot always rely on good broadband connectivity and it would be a huge PITA to say, oh, my work is all in the cloud… which we cannot access right now.

ALL software is subscription based, in effect. You pay, then a few years later it breaks permanently because other software around it gets updated and creates incompatibilities. The only exception would be if you configure a system and then never update any of it, meaning there’s no connectivity and none of the hardware fails.

It’s not like real estate or antiques or books that can outlive you. Most software probably wouldn’t outlive a rabbit.

I work in a print shop. Adobe software is mandatory. Quark and Corel have a marginal (at best) market share, so there’s no no competition. Adobe has become the Microsoft of commercial design.

We’re supposed to love & embrace this kind of software “because it’s the cloud, man.”

I still have Office 2010 (the last before the “cloud”) and use Adobe’s (Dreamweaver. Photoshop) CS6 (also pre “cloud”) all day long. Have they added anything really “must-have” new? Perhaps for a print shop.

They’ve added a lot, but the main point is the need to stay current with our client base. They upgrade, I must as well.

In the mainframe / mini computer era almost all software was licensed per year. So this trend is going back to the past.

True, but you can run a ton of software these days with virtualization. I play games all the time in DOSBox or other emulators. Personally, I think Microsoft Word peaked in 1995 (Excel was actually improved a little bit past that) and if I really wanted to, I could install my old copy of Win98SE in a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro and then run Office 95 in that. I didn’t, but because I also don’t like the way Office is these days (plus the cost), I’m now using WordPerfect running on my BootCamp partition of Win 8.1 and normally just use the virtual machine instead of booting into native.

Plus, the copy of WordPerfect Office X7 was about $60 cheaper than the home version of Office made it an easy decision.

Interesting replies. Thank you.

I understand that some jobs or businesses require multiple platforms. The cloud service is a good solution for them.

So far, my office is still using standard software. Bought and paid for. I know that will change someday. There’s nothing any of us can do about it. Except hang on to the earlier versions for as long as possible.

It has.

“This is new, and therefore good.”

“This is new, and therefore bad.”

Neither is necessarily true, as described in detail for millennia.


Office 2007 Home and Student (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note) was $149, and was licenced for up to three devices.

I’ve always saved money and bought what I need. Being on the hook for a monthly subscription software bill is not something I’d want to do.

I wonder how many people get themselves in trouble with web site subscriptions? $15 a month doesn’t sound like much until you realize thats $180 annually. Sign up for three or four web sites and it adds up quick. Then add in software subscriptions. All that money gets quietly charged and drained away every month. The consumer never handles a bill or writes a check. It can ruin someone financially in a hurry.

…I held off buying photoshop for years simply because downunder pricing was in the thousands. With the creative cloud: I now pay less than $20.00 per month for constantly updated software. From a business point of view it is now a subscription, not a capital expense, so I don’t have to depreciate.

As a heavyweight user of the Adobe Creative Suite, I think most of the answers have already been given, but not put in context.

There are two kinds of software, and two kinds of users. One kind of software is essentially static in purpose and features - email client, word processor, spreadsheet, etc. programs haven’t changed in any substantive way for at least a decade (and I’m being charitable). This is commodity software - buy it, use it forever, most users will never know about small bugfixes or improvements and can live without a suite of new features invented by the marketing department. This is why some vast number of Word users are just as happy with Google Docs or Open Office or any old version of Word that’s lying around. Pay more than once for such software, if that? Nonsense.

The other kind of software is high-end professional development and creation software - chief among them the Adobe suite and AutoCAD. These tools do evolve fairly steadily and are used by a user base that has to stay in step with each other (far more than two users with vastly different versions of Word do). These tools have been effectively “subscription” for a long time, although they were called “updates” and cost a big chunk of change, meaning that in a large work pool, not everyone was going to have the same versions and so forth.

I paid around $2,000 for CS Master Collection maybe ten years ago. I paid $6-800 a pop for the updates, sometimes holding off until I ran into problems with collaborators. But with no more than on exception, I felt like I got my money’s worth on each upgrade as the tools got more integrated, added key features, smoothed out workflow processes and generally moved towards a multifaceted mega-tool instead of a collection of almost-compatible separate ones. I am more than happy to pay a flat $50 a month to have nearly every tool Adobe makes (most of which I use and the rest of which are nice to have on hand for the occasional tweak, side job or experimentation). $600 a year? It’s an effin’ bargain, and I get two user installations for that, meaning my very advanced-user son can have SOTA tools instead of crap freeware and discards to do his video and audio work.

Adobe doesn’t make Photoshop for people who dick around a little with photos for their websites, or even for amateur or occasional photographers. It doesn’t make Illustrator and InDesign and DreamWeaver for home hobbyists. If the amateur or sometime crowd wants to use these tools, fine, use old versions or less-than-legit ones, or GIMP or Corel or whatever. But don’t bitch because “Photoshop is so overpriced.” It’s not - not for those who use it and its huge set of kin as a daily production and development system, in step with the whole industry that does.

I resisted the move to the subscription model until I’d thought it through. Now, I have a continually updated tool set, and a complete one, at all times, for substantially less than either the updates or the hassles of working around incompatibilities used to cost.

By the way, NONE of this has anything to do with “software in the cloud.” All of the Adobe apps are installed on my workstation and work fine without a network connection. (They just want to “check in” at least once a month to verify subscription status.) High-power subscription-ware is not the same as Office365, GoogleDocs, etc. where the app runs on a server somewhere. (As for virtualization, it doesn’t work well for high-end graphics apps. It’s cheaper and more efficient to run them locally than to build a server, network and client that can handle, say, Premiere.)

Two kinds of users, two kinds of software, making a matrix of at least four situations - you can’t argue one set of issues as applying to the others. For at least one cell of that matrix, subscription effin’ rocks.

With Adobe in particular, there’s a few reasons:

  1. This sets of bar of entry much lower for those with small incomes. The freelancer or small business now no longer has to shell out thousands in a single pop to get the latest software from Adobe.

  2. The latest software from Adobe is usually - not always - needed, or percieved as needed, to keep up with the industry. People want to jump on the new version within a year of release or they feel left behind. Subscription keeps you up to date constantly.

  3. Adobe has historically put out a new version of their software about every two years. If, IF they keep up with this method, the people on the yearly subscription service will not be out any extra money. The overall cost is the same as the old method of just buying the new software package on release.

  4. There are applications like Wolf333 listed where the program is needed temporarily but not forever, and a subscription model makes the program much cheaper to use. This was probably a big reason for them as it will cut into people who pirate considerably. In school we had the “adobe pirate” who would obtain for us a pirated copy of the adobe suite that all the students could then install on their computers for free, because we were students and we couldn’t afford adobe’s price tag. A lot of those students would’ve (and will) jump on the low cost of subscription.

Since the subscription pricing, I know of several users who went legit because the $10/mo ($10.61 with tax here) pricing on Photoshop and Lightroom. For me, as a business user, it’s also cheaper than buying outright with updates every few years (and I do have legal stand-alone copies of Photoshop and Lightroom, in addition to the subscription).