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| Editor's Blog Section | Must I keep on and on paying?
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22 July 2013

Must I keep on and on paying?

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From Editor's Rant column issue 66 – Summer 2013

Does your business’s primary IT system sit on your own computer system – yours to keep and cherish forever? Or do you hire it from a third-party provider on a pay-as-you-go basis? If the latter, does this put you at a disadvantage?

Well, in one sense probably not. You assume you’ll still be in business tomorrow, and just as much able to pay your monthly software rental fee as you are now. Meanwhile, you’re spared the initial capital cost.

In which case you may not have much sympathy with users of graphic design software from Adobe. But perhaps you should. The company has just introduced a mandatory pay-as-you-go system for everybody who wants future versions of its software, and this has rung alarm bells worldwide.

You can keep the version of, say, Photoshop that you run now, but you’ll only be able to move to the next version on a subscription basis; and if you do, and then at some point you stop paying for it, it won’t work any more. Some fear that you may not even be able to open files that you’ve saved in the latest native format.

"So what?" you might say. "It’s become normal to pay for goods and services that way." However, the difference is that in most walks of life hiring never been mandatory. You’ve always been able to buy your car as opposed to leasing it, and indeed hiring some equipment (TVs for instance), once popular, has largely disappeared.

Suppose you’re a small business. You hit hard times, but you’re trying to struggle on. You still have to pay rent and wages, and under the subscription model you’ll still have to pay for your software too. Forever. It’s yet another call on your resources before you can start counting your profit.

Part of the trouble is that in theory software never wears out. If you reject PAYG and you don’t upgrade, some suppliers are wondering where their future revenue will come from.

It’s a puzzle all right, but is mandatory subscription the solution?

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