The meter's on all the time: Tech's 'greed is good' era arrives

Adobe Creative Cloud is the first blatant move to make us pay, pay again, and pay some more for nonservices technology

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App metering: A nonsensical licensing model
For applications like Creative Suite and Office, there is no justification for metering. There is no capacity issue; after all the software runs locally on your computer. It's like trying to charge people each time they read a book they bought, each time they play an album they bought, or each time they watch a DVD they bought. No wonder Creative Suite users are angry!

No, the reason for converting app into rented, pretend services is to gouge customers. Remember: Adobe's Creative Cloud suite is not a collection of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps like Google Apps -- it's software you download onto your PC or Mac and run locally. It's not a service as the "cloud" label might suggest.

The software model used to be that you bought a license and upgraded to a new version every version or two because of compelling new capabilities. That worked well from the 1990s into the early 2000s, when upgrades were often compellingly useful. Software makers could count on a large majority of us upgrading at least every other version, providing an ongoing stream of income -- an uneven stream, but a stream nonetheless.

But it's been years since Microsoft and Adobe have offered compelling new functionality worth the big money they charge for old tools like Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook and/or OneNote) and Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Acrobat Pro, and others).

Adobe has been particularly hard hit, as most designers stopped upgrading three or four versions ago for lack of utility in suites whose upgrades are $600 or more -- and much more if you don't upgrade each new version as it arrives every 18 to 24 months. The new Creative Cloud subscription model is Adobe's way of forcing users to pay for upgrades they would not otherwise buy.

That becomes clear when you do the math: In most scenarios, the cloud version costs more over a three-year or longer period. If you are a first-time Creative Suite buyer (there are a few) or someone who has not upgraded in several versions -- either way, you pay the full price for the current version 6 -- then sometimes the Creative Cloud option is slightly cheaper in the first three years, but gets costlier after that.

It's a punitive business decision from a company whose products are essentially completed and don't warrant multi-hundred-dollar upgrade fees.

I fully expect most users to stick with version 4 or 5, the last justifiable upgrades. Some may upgrade to version 6 -- the current and last one-time-license version -- to have a version likely to work well on future versions of OS X and Windows.

You can see why Microsoft declines to rule out a similar future for Office, as it too has been bereft of meaningful new changes for several versions.

If you work in IT, you know that Microsoft has largely converted businesses to the subscription model through its Software Assurance scheme. Why large businesses think it makes sense to keep paying every year for each user's Office license is beyond me, but their foolishness clearly gives software vendors hope that individual consumers and small businesses can be similarly duped or even strong-armed through lack of choice.

This article, "The meter's on all the time: Tech's 'greed is good' era arrives," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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