When is software subscription good and when is it not so good?

The software subscription is a subject that comes up quite often and that divides opinions. When does it offer benefits to the user, and when would an outright purchase be more convenient?

Many things that were once expensive electronic boxes are now computer programs, and the people who create these computer programs increasingly prefer to license them on a monthly basis. This is an issue that has recently caused some concern in the comment section of at least one article, so it seemed worth taking a closer look.

We’ll avoid mentioning any specific company here, in the interests of fairness, but the field breaks down into two broad categories and that’s primarily by price and terms. There is comprehensive and very competent software in the field of multimedia production for which publishers can charge the price of a decent restaurant meal for updates to a certain version, which could in practice be a year new code. Whether it’s software rental or not depends on your definition of rental, but when things are so inexpensive, it’s very hard to argue against it.

The alternative approach, where fees are usually higher and often monthly, is often equally welcomed by people on a budget, especially students or startups. At least some software vendors have set fees at a level that, again, resembles an extra phone bill each month, which is much more affordable than an outright four-figure purchase. Freelancers on a low budget might like this a lot. Companies that may need to temporarily expand the team during large projects also tend to be fans of this approach. No CFO has ever objected to a sharp reduction in capital spending.

Long term users

For longer-term users, however, things may look different. A rough calculation of the overall cost of licensing software, perhaps compared to a previous perpetual licensing model, sometimes shows that leasing is at least as expensive as long-term perpetual licensing. It’s easy to miss in a world where expensive things are usually bought on credit; in some places the price of a car per month is discussed much more easily than the cost of this car globally. Needless to say, that’s not a particularly healthy attitude to purchase. anything, not to mention expensive computer programs, and arguably contributed to the personal debt crisis plaguing Western economies. Either way, since the rental model doesn’t provide indefinite access to even an older version of the software, it’s hard to avoid the reality that this is a much poorer offering. , even if it is the same price per month.

With that in mind, there’s also a point of principle at play. Under a perpetual license, a user can evaluate a new release and decide whether updates are worth purchasing. It is not uncommon for even advanced users to ignore alternative versions of expensive software, especially in areas where that software has been developed for decades and is now mature, or is only slowly developing. In rental, users have no choice but to buy every update, whether it is useful or not. We will avoid a full discussion of the capitalist principle here, but the idea of ​​inducing people to do useful work in exchange for money is hardly controversial. At the very least, software leasing significantly degrades this incentive.

There is nothing inherently wrong with offer a rental model for people who need software short-term, and some vendors have made it available alongside a perpetual license. On the whole, however, when we talk about complex software that requires a significant investment of time and effort, expensive formal education and training, on which a person’s portfolio, experience and therefore employability may depend , renting software can give the unpleasant impression of being held hostage.