Software subscriptions suck. Almost always.
You don’t want to rent your software. You want to own it.
But now, most companies pretend that subscriptions are actually a favor to the customers, who now can try the products for 1 month for free, and there are only advantages.
1- The big lie
Subscription models always hide behind insured “constant” revenues flows to the developers that sustain the development of future releases. Hence, you (the customers) benefit from this and you are the real winners. The software you rely on won't die and disappear. Yeah!
Nobody talks about free software, which is indeed not sustainable besides being donations-based. But a one-time price is fine, with new discounted prices for major upgrades YOU decide to get.
2- When can a subscription be justified?
A software could use paid 3rd-party services. This is not in the developer's hands, it comes as an option.
Think banking services that have a value added potential, like stock management within the bank infrastructure. The 3rd-party will charge for this and this has to be cascaded down to the end-user. But it's an option.
Another justified subscription would be in the pay-as-you-go paradigm, which is a real innovation. You own the app, and you use it as long as you want. You don't need it anymore, you dispose of it and stop paying, stop receiving added-value features and upgrades.
Just like when buying a car, if you want leather seats, you pay more. If you want your car cleaned every month, you pay if you don't clean it yourself. But you still can use your filthy car if it pleases you.
It's also just like you don't rent a drink, you don't rent your coffee.
3- How did the software industry survive so well all those years?
How come selling software has been working without problems for 40+ years, generating huge profits and revenues, before what I consider the Adobe rip-off that started the “best value for the customers" subscriptions model ?
They had no subscriptions and made billions for years?
Microsoft? Same thing. Billions.
Were they crippled and then resurrected from the graveyard thanks to the subscriptions change of business model? Don't listen to that non-sense.
Did they suddenly come out of the graveyard? Certainly not.
4- Sustainability at risk
Subscription-based apps are at risk the day they shut down their business. The apps that you rent are likely not usable anymore and the end-users they're supposed to serve lose everything. Data included. Data that you can be sure is analyzed for their own use.
That's why I moved away from Adobe, Office365, Quicken, Banktivity and the likes.
5- Web "apps". Yuck !
The only worst thing that could happen to "real" apps, would then to even force the users to turn into so called "web-apps" (they're portals or services, but not "apps") where you not only lose everything the day they shut down (your data and the tools) but also, when they, the webmasters, "upgrade" the portal, the web interface fully changes overnight, without warning and is imposed on you who can't revert back to the previous one you liked the day before and were familiar with.
That's what happens when they want you to subscribe so you get all new updates and new features. You supposedly are the real winner in the deal. What a joke.
Just as if you didn't get this with a paid software you bought !
At least, non-web desktop/mobile apps, on the other hand, stay the way they are, even under a subscription. You can keep version 3 over version 4 if you hate the latest.
6- Paid and Standalone Apps
When you don't have a subscription-based software, you can keep it as long as you want. You paid for it.
You can use it without an Internet connection (when not needed).
You can use the user interface you like as long as you want.
You don't feel like you are a cow being outrageously milked by the software vendor.
You can keep and access your data when you want, and without an Internet connection.
The only thing that can render your software useless is a major operating system change that won't let it run anymore. But does this happen even once in a decade?
7- Jeopardized Software and Data
Another factor with subscription is jeopardizing your needs. Let the customer use the software long enough to really depend on it. Once customers reach the no-turning back point, you can raise the subscription prices. What are your options? You need the product, you need your data. Worse, if your data is stored on the industry's infrastructure, they will make sure it's very difficult to get it back, convert it to move to another solution.
You're not happy? Too bad for you: either you pay five fold what you used to pay, or you lose your files! Talk about a brilliant business plan. That leads to the next point.
8- Customer respect
In the end, it all comes down to customer respect and the message you send them.
While very small fee subscriptions (under $5/month) can be justified if you heavily rely on 3rd party add-ons and/or sync infrastuctures, most of the time, subscriptions carry the impression that it's just plain rip-off.
Well, I’m a software developer since 1980 and I will never impose subscriptions to my customers because I respect them.
And because I asked them.
100% of them told me they would hate subscriptions.
100%. That should make one think about the subscription imposed business model.
It sucks. Always.
Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak and Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels