A funny thing happened along the way to the 21st century. There once was a time when, if we wanted to buy something, we were required to save the money necessary to purchase a product. That worked for houses, cars, furniture, appliances, and clothes.
Then along came the digital revolution and a new century, both of which helped to usher in new business models based upon some strange new mathematics. People could buy using a thing called credit; get a new product now, and pay for it over a period of time. The new math did wonders for the economy throughout the world. Another change is taking place now.
Free Isn’t Really Free
Free just isn’t what it used to be. Today you can download and use all kinds of apps for your Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and not pay a nickel to the app developer. Or, you can download and use all kinds of apps for free, but if you want extended or advanced features, you have to pay.
For the former, Google is a good model. In exchange for giving Google access to your browsing history, your email messages, and even your files stored online, Google gives you free email, free document storage, and free tools to create documents and store photos. You pay nothing but Google learns everything there is to know about you and makes money with the data.
For the latter, we see a gazillion apps on various stores which are free, but limited. Like trial software without all the software, but not limit on the trial. Here’s a perfect example. It’s an app called Animation Desk for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, but it’s really more of an animation and design platform which is free to get started but not so free over time. Because, you know, no free lunch.
But if you’re interested in learning desktop or mobile device animation, and you don’t mind being a part of the new-age business model, Animation Desk is a good place to start.
Mac animation wannabes with Macs that have Retina displays will absolutely fall in love with this. Skeuomorphism is alive and well, even in the Jonny Ive era. Animation Desk gives designers familiar tools to sketch, draw, color, shape, highlight, write, and, well, design and then animate.
For free. That’s right. Animation Desk for Mac is free, and dirt cheap for iPhone and iPad, but there is a business model and it’s totally 21st century.
Apple pioneered mass adoption of in-app purchases. You see it mostly with games on Mac, iPhone, and iPad where the first level or two of a game is free, but if you want more levels, or additional tools to do battle or succeed, whatever the objective, you have to cough up a little more cash.
Check out some of the games for iPhone and iPad. You can spend hundreds of dollars. On. A. Game.
Animation Desk isn’t that bad, of course (it’s quite good), but if you want specific functions on your Mac, there there’s a menu of options and price tags, all easily purchased using your iTunes account. Want to store and share animation and designs in the cloud? There’s a price for that. Ditto for Robot, Creative Pack, Christmas items, and various character tools. Priced accordingly.
The iOS version works much the same way with extra price options for various brush packs, creative packs, cloud storage, and even watercolor animals come with a price tag.
What’s interesting here is that Animation Desk is a wonderful design tool, with an ease of use reminiscent of an entry-level app, but with enough tools– once you pay the price– to satisfy a few working professionals, or at least the wannabe pro. Note how that compares with previous business models in design tools, and, indeed, most applications, which once had a price tag which didn’t re-occur until an upgrade with ever more features.
Even Adobe, which once charged an upgrade fee every 18-to-24 months for the Creative Suite of design apps but now has adopted a monthly subscription fee. Get it all for a monthly rate. Or, some of it, again, for a monthly rate.
Here we are, moving rapidly into the 21st century and it’s becoming increasingly difficult just to buy and own anything anymore. iPhones? There’s an annual upgrade rental program now. Software? Pay for what you need as you need it? Or, pay by monthly subscription, much like a lease (which is the description of too much software when you read the fine print). Music? Rent access to 30-million songs for a monthly fee.
It may sound crazy but would all those companies be changing their business model if it didn’t work for them? The real question is, ‘Does it work for you?‘