What it is: Software as a subscription service is a way to guarantee income for software developers while providing subscribers with a constant stream of updates.
In the early days of computers, you bought software and installed it. If it had bugs in it, you had to wait for a new version to come out to fix those bugs. When the Internet became commonplace, people could update their software for free just by going online. However, selling software has always been a problem for developers because they must constantly sell copies or updates to make money. If people don’t update, then you don’t see any income.
That’s the problem Microsoft found itself in with Microsoft Office. There’s little difference between Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office 2016, which is why many companies don’t bother updating their software to the latest version. That’s also why Microsoft now sells Office as a subscriptions service to guarantee income revenue. For Microsoft, this means a steady and reliable source of income. For users, this means always getting the latest updates.
However, software subscription services can get expensive. Assume you pay $100 a year for Microsoft Office, after several years you could have purchased a copy of a version that would still work fine for years to come, and without paying anything extra. Subscription services seem appealing at first because the annual cost is far less than the total price of buying the software. yet int he long run, the subscription service model costs more.
When Adobe switched completely to a software subscription service, they alienated many people who didn’t want to keep paying for software when older versions worked just fine. So the dilemma facing users is whether a software subscription service is worth the price or not.
Beyond the lower initial cost of a software subscription service, you should also look at the hidden drawbacks of ending your subscription service. With Microsoft Office and Adobe, your subscription price includes online storage. End your subscription and you suddenly lose that online storage. if you become dependent on that online storage, you may be reluctant to end your subscription service, which is exactly what companies are counting on.
If you can get by with alternatives that don’t require a subscription, then do so. There are plenty of Adobe Photoshop rivals on the market and more than enough Microsoft Office rivals that are often free (LibreOffice). For many people, free or less expensive alternatives work just as well as subscription services for certain software.
So the bottom line is that software subscription services are fine for some people but not so good for others. You just need to decide whether the cost of an annual subscription is worth the price, and whether you’ll feel trapped in a subscription service once you start paying for it and using its features. You may find a software subscription service is fine, but then again, you may find it’s too expensive. It really boils down to your needs.