Much has been written in the past couple of years about the change in how we use software. It wasn’t that long ago that nearly every piece of software– from OS to application suite to utility tool– came with a price tag.
Visit the Mac App Store or the iOS App Store or any online store and you’ll see the old model still works. For the most part, applications we know, love, and use, come with a price tag. That model is changing for the major players in the computing industry.
Free, With A Price
Here’s a good example. Back in the day we Mac users would upgrade to the latest and greatest version of OS X and fork over hard-earned dollars for the privilege. Apple even charged for beta versions of OS X, and I’ve paid as much as $129 for upgrades.
Contrast that to Windows of the past. Every few years Microsoft would trot out a new version of Windows, with a new price tag, usually in the hundreds of dollars. Is it any wonder that Windows XP stuck around a dozen years after it should have been buried?
Today, OS X is free with every Mac, and any Mac user with an iTunes account for the Mac App Store can get the latest version. That works with iOS, too. As long as the newest will install and run on your hardware, the software is free. Ditto for Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Calendar, Mail, Contacts, Reminders, Maps, FaceTime, Safari, iTunes, iMovie, Photos, and all the other applications Apple makes for their hardware customers.
Apple has decided that it is a hardware company. The software comes along for the ride.
What of Microsoft? The company made vast fortunes extracting money from individuals, manufacturers, organizations, and the corporate world with the Windows Office duopoly. Those days are gone. Microsoft shifted Office apps to a subscription model, and Windows is about to become a service.
Most Windows customers of the future will get automatic updates and upgrades, like it or don’t. Windows enterprise and education customers will get more choices, more options, and the former will pay more; as always.
Time will tell whether or not Microsoft’s new strategy for Windows and Office will bear the cash fruit that came with upgrades in the past. Windows is free for OEMs who sell notebooks and tablets below $200. Windows 10 will be free– initially– for every Windows PC user whose hardware can handle the upgrade.
The more I think about it, the more I recognize that OS X and iOS are subscription services, too. It’s a free subscription for software– as long as you buy the hardware to run it. The cost of the software is included in the price of the hardware. That’s one way that PC makers and Android device manufacturers have an edge over Apple– they don’t have to worry the complexity, research and development and resulting expense of publishing an operating system or applications.
It may take awhile for the subscription model to make its way down the software development food chain, but the trend is obvious. For better or worse, we live in a capitalist society, and that means everyone it out to get your money. How they go about it may vary from product to product, and service to service, but the end result is the same.