Apple has joined a growing trend toward subscription pricing for apps, a move that somewhat mirrors what Adobe did with Creative Cloud a few years ago, and what Microsoft does with Office. Pay by the month or year. Forever. Stop paying and the app won’t work.
Free vs. Windows
When one looks at the software industry it’s not difficult to conclude that the current sales and pricing mechanism is not sustainable, which explains why Adobe worked feverishly to move the customer base from near-annual upgrades to a more consistent subscription pricing system.
Most Mac users will find an app we might find useful, try it out, and if we like it, buy it. That starts the upgrade cycle which is clumsy at best. App developers need ongoing revenue to continue to upgrade their apps, and that means a continual stream of new– and not always worthwhile or wanted– features.
Word on the streets is that Microsoft is working on a subscription model for Windows. That should not come as a surprise, despite the fact that Windows 10 just broke 10-percent of the installed PC user base. Microsoft Office has a subscription component that has proved successful for the company.
Apple remains the outlier somewhere between Google’s free Android OS and Chrome OS and Microsoft’s Windows OS. macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS are free with each product, and upgrades have been free for a few years and that is not likely to change as Apple knows that having more customers on the latest version of an operating system is to their advantage.
Apple has announced that App Store pricing at some point in the near future will have an upgrade and subscription pricing mechanism built-in. That means app developers need to have continual, ongoing updates which add value to justify the annual subscription price, but that’s the trend. Pay as you go.
That does not mean all app developers will suddenly drop their one-time price tag with upgrades forever in favor of a subscription, but it points to the future of software. Monolithic upgrades and a corresponding upgrade prices are out, while incremental ongoing updates and subscription pricing are in.
Along with that change we can expect App Store apps to have free trial period of a week to two weeks so we can try an app before signing up for the annual subscription. How is that not good for Apple’s customers? Too many App Store apps do not have a trial option. How is that not good for app developers? It’s a good method for customers to try an app, and if it’s deemed worthy, continue with the subscription. Competition should breed a better class of application.
A good example of where I would expect– and definitely consider– a subscription model is the Creative Kit suite of photograph editors and enhancement apps. It’s a package of six apps for photographers, each of which works well together, can be purchased as standalone apps, but also as a suite of apps.
App subscriptions are coming. Get ready. Choose wisely.