Subscription Software

Have you come across this change in the last few years of how you buy software. I should point out that I am a mac user, so apologies if the terminology is different for windows users.

As software evolved through the 1990s and into the new millennium, the way we purchased it was largely unchanged just the format had changed from floppy disc to CD ROM and this in time progressed to DVD ROM as the size of the files increased. This meant going to computer or electrical stores and choosing from the variety of versions of software available. Over the past decade as the speed of the internet increased and became more widely available the format moved from DVD to downloads. At first I was suspicious of this, you went to a store and purchased an empty box (apart from a serial number) then went home and downloaded the software. However the system seemed to work. However, even then, new updated software was often being released and the only way to stay up to was to buy the latest version. I recall the antivirus software being the most annoying, in order to stay up to date and protected was to keep buying the latest software year after year. There seemed very little reward for loyalty.

Then around 2014 I noticed a change. Initially it was Microsoft, with the then latest version of their office suite becoming a subscription on an annual basis. This seemed like a way of charging you every year for the same product (assuming no updates). To be honest for Microsoft I still think this is a money making exercise as there has only been one major update for mac in 3 years from 2013 to 2016 office. I get the business idea behind it, it provides a steady and more even income stream. This is especially important for smaller developers. However, many smaller developers have resisted this subscription model, for fear of alienating new customers when they are trying to build a customer base.

So what are the benefits to the user of subscription model software. The obvious one, although it is early in the evolution of subscription software, is that it provides the developer with a steady income stream, so that development of the application can take place, and significant improvements can be developed and issued to the users.

Ulysses have taken this step recently to move to a subscription model. What is Ulysses? It is an amazing piece of writing software, that provides a fantastic environment to write without the distraction of formatting and allows full concentration on the words. I have used it for several years, initially on the mac, and then on the ipad and iphone. I have watched it evolve and grow, new features being added, to enhance the writing experience. It automatically syncs your work so wherever you get to, it is ready on another machine without any intervention or opening third party syncing apps.

Given the developments that the makers of Ulysses have made in the last two years, the improvements and usuability, I have changed my opinion of subscription software and have subscribed already. The developers offered a discount (lifetime too) for existing users. Although it didn’t apply to me, as I have had the app for a couple of years, they are offering an equivalent free period going forward if you have purchased it recently. This is a nice touch as often there is an arbitrary date that is fixed.

I remain to be convinced for all subscription software, there are some apps I have refused to entertain on that basis, and looking at my apps, there are few I would support, but Ulysses is certainly one.