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How Will Subscription-Ware Affect OEMs?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the only-if-they-remove-the-full-install-CDs-from-my-cold-dead-hands dept.

Microsoft 292

TomCampion asks: "I've been reading a lot about how software makers want subscription-based services to be the norm, but how will OEMs handle the distribution of this new type of software? Today Dell ships a copy of Office 2000 that will run forever, but does this mean tomorrow they'll ship a copy of Office XP that will run for one year? How will this affect the prices of PCs?" I suspect that, if the foul idea of subscription-ware catches on, OEMs will effectively be relegated to the role of hardware pushers. The software will come foamed in with the hardware, with the install procedure being simple: plug in the computer and the phone line/network cable; insert the CD; and then turn the machine on. Your software company will then happily install all the software they think you'll ever need for a nice, (moderately) low, monthly price. Nice idea, however I don't think I trust commercial software enough for them to force this idea down our throats just yet. Do you?

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Re:Trust (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#420370)

remembah: all yer base arebelong to us []
f1r5t p0st4 ya!

Re:Trust (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#420372)

Don't you mean "411 j00 8453 4r3 6310n9 +0 u5"?

I kiss you!

Re:Trust (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#420373)

\/\/47 u s4y!

Teaching consumers.... (1)

xinit (6477) | more than 13 years ago | (#420379)

This move to subscription based software just pushes the average consumer away from buying (or more likely pirating) that $1000 "word processing" suite. Rather than paying a "small" price like $80 per month to rent an application that they use four features from; bold, italic, center, and font changes.

StarOffice isn't that bad, and on a 600+ MHz CPU with 256MB or more, running it is actually believeable. So long as you're not attached to the email side of it. :shudder:

Re:Not worried... (1)

Darkstorm (6880) | more than 13 years ago | (#420381)

This can only be good for the open software movement in the end.

I hope your are right. The thought of subscription based service scares me quite badly. I personally have no trust in most large corporations since they do what is good for their profits and not good for us.

Now let me give an example of what I forsee happening. M$ comes out with Pay Per Use (whatever time period) Windows. Now every so often you must have an internet connection or a phone line to keep you updated (or just to check you out and get any details they might need for history..stuff like that). Now after a year or so M$ decides its earnings are low, oh well, for a fix everyone gets their price per use jacked up. Now, not only are you paying more, but since they have such a hold on the moron population of the country that don't understand unix, they are releasing crappy os's to go with it. Buggy isn't a problem any more...M$ can patch it whenever they want...assuming they want to.

There are a few things I do see as subscription based software, and have no problem with it. Utilities that perform certain functions for you which requires some work on the companies part.

Honestly, people have been comparing software to cable tv. How is office like cnn? does office provide you with late breaking Does office change to show you the latest stock prices, give hints and some Well what does office provide? Word processor, Spreadsheet, Orginizer, Flat file Database, and Presentation software (Frontpage in v2000). So now what is it about any of these static programs that is so valuable that they deserve regular payment. In reality M$ has to do absolutly nothing once it is on my machine to make it go. My computer runs the program, stores the program and resulting data, and provides all the needed things for the program to run. M$ designed and sells it, but why would I myself want to lease something that M$ only really needs to do is the bug fixes. Paying for tv is paying for a continual set of changing entertainment. Office doesn't come close to providing half what my cable tv does.

I wouldn't mind an option on games to be able to pay a smaller fee to play them for a couple months and then not again. But I would still want the option to pay a higher price for the "run forever" version.

I think too many people have grown too complacent with big business running our lives. Trust them and we will eventually be reduced to mindless slaves.

Fee notices up front (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 13 years ago | (#420382)

If software goes this route, I really want to see the requirement that the billing notice comes at the front end.

"Welcome to Microsoft Office Ca$H, using this product costs $0.10 per hour"

I don't think many people will be happy with back end billing.

"Thank you for using Microsot Office Ca$H last month. You used 720 hours and now owe us $72.00."

Think of the effect of instant messaging and other "hidden effects" that can trigger applications and keep them alive in the background.

.NET services had better come with an upfront desktop meter shown current price/hour of the active software.

Personal grip: I wish long distance carriers would tell you the price/minute of a call before the call is connected rather than not know the cost until it shows up on the bill.

Re:No network access (1)

kaptin (8996) | more than 13 years ago | (#420386)

But it is not like you have to upgrade what she has in the first place. If she's fine with what she has (it sounds like it's a little behind the times as it is) then why upgrade? Or why feel the need to upgrade?

Business as usual... (1)

yabHuj (10782) | more than 13 years ago | (#420389)

I guess for OEMs business will be as usual. Just that they will be selling a "1 year subscribtion of newest BuzzWordWare(tm) software included" instead of "Newest BuzzWordWare(tm) software included". The only problem I see is that the hotlines will have a boost in calls during 12-18 months after the first rollouts, when the customers start complaining.

Then it depends how the "BuzzWordWare(tm)" company will be handling OEM rollouts - and rollout of the updates. Will the OEM hotlines be able to offer immediate help ("just keep on paying and we prolong your subscription for you") or will they have to forward that to the other company?

Another problem may become orphaned device drivers. What if the "BuzzWordWare(tm)" company decides that this or that driver is outdated (as has happened to some of the Win9x drivers)? Then all of a sudden the whole system will stop working - no chance of keeping on using the old driver. You have subscribed, so you have to update or stop using, remember?

Welcome to "lite" software (1)

Dinsdale (15098) | more than 13 years ago | (#420393)

I suspect your brand new Windows box will come with a collection of "lite-ware" or "barely there ware" if you prefer.It will do very basic stuff but to get the real function's you will have to rent. An example would be an office suite that prints but does not allow you to fax.Perhaps a spread-sheet that allows limited calculations or cells.Or maybe the whole lot will be on a free trial basis and just time-out on you.

I personally believe .Net will be Ballmer's Waterloo.He & Microsoft have *grossly* over estimated the average users bandwith (no we don't all have cable,dsl or T-1's!).The downloads will be horrible in respect to time & disconnects.Hell it will make the average AOL connection look downright speedy.. ;)

On the flip side...a great day for GNU/Linux and Open Source as people flock to distro's that offer ease of install & FULL applications.

This is a good thing. (1)

linuxghoul (16059) | more than 13 years ago | (#420394)

I think the idea of subscription-ware is a blessing in disguise.

This is how:

  • i can't believe companies which can't get their software to run well locally, would do a better job on net-based once, with all the additional hassle that goes with them. This will increase the user frustration level from commercial crap even more than what it is now.
  • with subscription-ware, piracy would be pretty much eliminated, and piracy, i believe is one largest single enemy of open-source. With no piracy, no home user would be able to afford all the software he/she generally needs. The option: free-software. Till there is piracy, there is no tangible benefit to a regular luser to shift from one illegal-free software to legally-free software.


Re:No network access (1)

Zoltar (24850) | more than 13 years ago | (#420400)

In theory you are correct. In reality the problem is that the new products will eventually not have any backward compatability built in. This happens naturally over time as technology advances, as well as intentionally to attempt to force people to upgrade to the latest and greatest to generate more revenues.

That's why companies hold onto and try to lock people into using their own proprietary formats/protocols. Once something is an "industry standard" , ie MS word, then if you want to do busines in the real world you will need to be able to talk the same language, which means you better be prepared to start shelling out the bucks.

Yes it's evil, but it's not anything the software industry invented, it's just big business. It is, however, very well suited to software and MS has done it very well.

Bill Gates is not a innovator (1)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 13 years ago | (#420401)

Gates and company keep using the term Innovattion.
but M$ never inovates they look for what appears to be the next innovation
then they asimilate it and claim it's thier idea. I think M$ jumped the gun on
software as a service Idea. They jumped on an idea that wasn't proven yet because they saw
all these companys getting into the ASP market and thought they were missing the boat
so they came up with .NET and shifted the focus of thier whole company. By the time they
figure out that it wasn't the next big thing I think it will be to late for them.
Bye Bye M$

Re:LOL - stop smoking crack.. (1)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 13 years ago | (#420402)

Just because I don't live in reality dosn't mean I'm not right ;-)
M$ is just a sofware company software comes and goes practically over night
One major screwup on M$'s part like .NET and they might never recover

Re:subscription ware helps the consumer and the SA (1)

Flower (31351) | more than 13 years ago | (#420406)

So, what you are saying is I should pay money to get my software automagically patched? Windows can't supply an apt-get update; apt-get upgrade I can 'at' everyday to keep my software current? They can't put it an option in the installer to look for patches daily or give me a 'check for patch' option under help?

And I have to pay for this? Their software has bugs and I have to go get a subscription to have those bugs fixed?

Can we say *whap!* "Homey don't play that." I thought we could.

subscription and custimer expectation (1)

Froqen (36822) | more than 13 years ago | (#420409)

An intresting angle to a subscription service based software is that people have different expectations then with a stand alone product. People will have higher expectations in terms of reliability, and can switch software with less financial impact. The result is potentially a more competative market model (esp compared to the OEM giving you everything you need).

Re:huh? (1)

Tower (37395) | more than 13 years ago | (#420411)

the trick is:

1a) ...but they are in most places the de facto standard, and because of that...


Re:That's all very well.... (1)

dimnet (42376) | more than 13 years ago | (#420413)

I think you've got it all wrong here. Microsoft would stand to make a lot more money if it secretly started causing cancer, then they could get kick-backs from the us medical system for extra business. Then, when the medical system fails, Office XP Cancer Edition will be used to treat the then trademarked MS Cancer. What a plan! Who needs a hospital when you've got MS Cancer.

Stamp out software diversity (1)

lildogie (54998) | more than 13 years ago | (#420420)

Picture the day when all computers are downloading Microsoft Works (ha) and enjoying "improved security."

One single, trusted source of reliable, secure software.

A whole internet of cookie-cutter systems.

Now, any given security hole would be
A) plugged immediately in the next download,
B) exploited with unimaginable ease by crackers.
Iterate these options over the range of security holes.

The moral is: a diversity of security implementations protects the internet by limiting the amount of damage that one security hole can do.

Re:Fight the Feature Bloat! No Forced Upgrades! (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 13 years ago | (#420427)

> I wholeheartedly disagree. I still run Office 95 on my P3. Why? Simple - it runs a *lot* faster than any of the more recent versions, and it offers all of the features that I am interested in.

Exactly!! I still run Office 95 on my AMD 1.2Ghz. I don't need all the bloatware of Office 2000.

P3-500's ARE fast enough to run office. People don't upgrade their hardware to run office faster.

Tip of the iceberg (was Re:Not worried...) (1)

MZoom (93667) | more than 13 years ago | (#420431)

Actually subscription based upgrades are being utilized by opensource based companies. SuSE for example sells a subscription based CD for their distro. (See this link for what I mean oose.html)

Red Hat even promotes it's Red Hat Network service. What this is in effect is a subscription based service to ensure your machine(s) are current and up to date if running thier distro. (Here is the link

Subscription services have been in the Linux community for some time now. If I recall correctly even Cheapbytes used to offer a subscription service to send out updated CD's of various contribs and/or distro's.

The distinction, no matter how slight, is the issue of forceing a subscriber (or potential subscriber) to use the subscription service.

I do not see this type of marketing in the future of Linux. But that is not to say some form of "subscription" services will not be available to Linux users.

I personally think any software company who only offers thier software via an "internet subscription" service would be committing fiscal suicide. They may enjoy some success with typical home desktop users for a while, but this would grow old quickly me thinks.

I also believe "internet subscription" services aimed at business intranets would fail miserably. There are too many customized setups out their for any company to automagically "upgrade" anything and not run into problems with a corporate lan. I see M$'s .NET as a way to circumvent this problem a little by selling the server side software/paradigm to businesses so that customization to fit particular needs could be realized.

The real issue here is not whether subscription based software is good or bad, but who is in control of the software being delivered.

Imagine the EULA M$ uses. It can be argued that you do not own the software but simply license it to be used. Now think about the implications of software distribution via automagic delivery and installation through the internet. With CD distributions gone the enforcement of thier EULA takes on a whole new meaning. You no longer would have the ability to sell your licensed CD of Office to Joe Blow if you wanted to because there is nothing to sell. No CD's, no manuals, no printed license, nothing!

This method of delivery would simply be internet distributed, time limited software.

And thats only the tip of the iceberg. I do not even want to get into the privacy issues this could open up, or the security implications.

I think subscription based services are OK if you want to utilize them. But it should not be required

not necesarily (1)

Li0n (110271) | more than 13 years ago | (#420441)

I think that even Joe Sixpack wont like the idea of spending regularily money on software. People who spend a couple hundred dollars on a piece of software don't want to hear it stops working after a year, so they have to pay more money.

There are people out there who use old software. I know lots of people, (especially Joe S. types) who are still using Office 95 or 97 for example. Just because it's old doesn't make it a piece of junk. Hell you can even use WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS to write perfectly good-looking documents!

I'm not saying suscriptionware is bad. The inminent lack of choice is.


(OT)Flat-rate telephone pricing (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420449)

Personal grip: I wish long distance carriers would tell you the price/minute of a call before the call is connected rather than not know the cost until it shows up on the bill.

They do. AT&T was the first, with 15c/min One Rate. Then there was an explosion of 10-10 services (10-10-321 16c/min but 50% off all calls over 10 minutes; 10-10-220 99c first 20 min 7c each addl). Then Sprint countered with A Dime Anytime. You can always look up current rates on a telco's web site.

All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

¹EverQuest is subscription-based (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420450)

Anyway, as long as this [subscription] pricing doesn't move to games, I'm not too worried about it.

It already has. It's a good thing you don't play EverQuest.

All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

Full of holes (1)

linderdm (127168) | more than 13 years ago | (#420455)

Say I use the internet so much at work, tht I don't need it at home. What happens if I want to buy new subscription based software that NEEDS an internet connection to load? Also, what prevents these same companies from turning off my software after a certain time, to force me to upgrade? Companies that don't upgrade software as often as they should would be killed if this were done.

Re:Trust (1)

BMazurek (137285) | more than 13 years ago | (#420462)

Maybe it will force them to make the upgrade process simpler. (Probably wishful thinking...)

It may be unpleasant for administrative types, but depending on how they do it, the whole concept could be very nice for occasional users: "Hmmmm, I'm unhappy with my job, let's reactivate my word processor this month, upgrade my resume, then let the license expire." Granted, they could make this very unpleasant, but if done correctly, could be nice to use.

Comsumers will decide this (1)

pigeonhed (137303) | more than 13 years ago | (#420463)

If people run out and buy this it will become the standard and we all will adjust. Some will switch to a new OS but my guess is MS will not allow there base to go running. There will always be plenty of packages and ways for all of these companies to take your money. This is just another way to grab some cash.

Word docs (1)

Salsaman (141471) | more than 13 years ago | (#420466)

Why not just use antiword [] instead ?

Works for me.

Subscription vs. Purchase (1)

SunlightMoon (142186) | more than 13 years ago | (#420467)

The current strategy for the use of brand-name software (from the home user point of view) follows:

1. Buy package for ~$100 - ~$300 (that covers most Windows-ware, right? assuming that you have failed to move from a lifetime of MS-DOS/Windependence to the open-source arena)

2. Haunt the user support groups/sites in order to keep yourself up-to-date on drivers, patches, and such - they are all exclusively online at this point, so you already need Internet access.

3. Within one to three years, we'll be forced was it put so recently..."upgrade or miss out."

I see three main differences between one-time expenditure and subscription-based software:

a. Increased dependence on internet connection for up-to-date software means less value for those with less bandwidth. 56k is plenty for surfing, but not so great when downloading whatsits/registering for your software upgrades.

b. Perception. Many of us choke on the "subscription" term, understandably. I don't need help managing my finances, thank you. I find it interesting how many of my utilities have offered to "help me with my budget" by "spreading out" the costs that differ according to seasonal use. All I tend to see is a desire to earn interest on my money.

c. A user base that upgrades simultaneously. You're already paying to be on the Forefront of Technology, so why not be like everyone else and upgrade to the latest ASAP? Such a scenario guarantees that the software company will spend less to support older versions.

I *really* don't think any of this will ultimately benefit the consumer. It's a winner for the company, though.

Re:Not worried... (1)

clink (148395) | more than 13 years ago | (#420470)

Wow, I think you just captured the essence of liberalism. Average people aren't smart enough to make their own decisions so we have to "help" them make the right ones. How arrogant!

Re:Could be a good thing! (1)

elfkicker (162256) | more than 13 years ago | (#420476)

I see this as working to the PC seller's advantage because you can cut the price of the hardware when you're getting a kickback on those software subcriptions that pay a lovely annuity every month. Just like those free/$400 PCs they pawn off these days when you promise to sign up for an ISP service for 3 years. Microsoft was probably the most successful at this and they've clearly seen there's more money in subscriptions than hefty one-time price. PC sellers will be able to ship cheaper systems with greater margin than ever before. Gateway also had pretty good success on their lease PCs where you trade it in and get a new box every 2 years for set monthly fee.

I wonder what this will do to the accelleration of power the average user has on his desktop. Will it become in software seller's interest to write software that will run on slow computer to cut your overhead on the free/$400 computer?

Re:No network access (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 13 years ago | (#420479)

But what happens when the hard drive, or the motherboard, or any other component goes out? Does he go looking for the older OS disks, and hope they still work on the replacement components; x86 compatiblity may be non-existent 5 years from now when the components give up the ghost. He has a very valid point, not every computer wants, or needs internet access 24/7, especially not for simple things like word processing.

LOL - stop smoking crack.. (1)

GameGuy (203355) | more than 13 years ago | (#420490)

I agree - MS has never innovated a thing.

But if you think MS is on the way out, put down the crack pipe. Just makes you sound like another linux person that doesn't live in reality.

That's a very interesting point... (1)

GameGuy (203355) | more than 13 years ago | (#420491)

If you can switch month-to-month, the software will have to really be worth having. Of course, they are going to try to rope you into a yearly contract (which basically means you buy the software)...this whole things stinks. They way they are trying to control our computers is unreal.

Re:Software Packages (1)

marcovje (205102) | more than 13 years ago | (#420492)

Except that (at least in European countries) government keeps some control, and has something to say in what is extra, and what is free/non subscription based.

With the software subscription mechanism, that isn't the case, and nothing keeps them from tying them in with the hardware.

(big) OEMs are already forcing useless licenses down our throat, and if I hear the rumours about Windows eXPerimetal, that will only increase.

With .NET, I only expect that to increase, and the amount of control over your own computer to decrease.

e.g. What will happen to Open Source OSes when Microsoft creates an OS that doesn't allow other OSes partitions on the HD?

Like they bundle ISP services now. (1)

Gannoc (210256) | more than 13 years ago | (#420495)

Their computers will come "Free" with one year of Microsoft .NET access!

Remember dongles? (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#420497)

I think this has the same chance as other encumbering software. Not everyone has a high speed connection which makes the delivery of bloatware slow. Unless they package a TV/Music download (like cable) with it, I don't see a subscription service going far. Even though much of the open source stuff is free for the download, I still buy the retail distributions to get the CD and Manuals.

I just bought Star Office and was pleased to find it runs on Windows, Solaris, Unix and Linux. It will read and write MS Office files. It comes with a relational database. It will install on a network without legal troubles. It was less than 100.00 US. I think the competiton will show the value that the bean counters and the legal department can see. How can Microsoft compare with that. (besides trying to declare OSS illegal)

I doubt this idea will really catch on (1)

Arethan (223197) | more than 13 years ago | (#420502)

Why pay a monthly fee when I only have to wait for some cracking group to post a fix that skips over the code that ensures my subscription is still active?

If software piracy is already getting around current CD-ROM anti-piracy schemes, what makes anyone think that it won't get around the monthy subscription idea?

Obsolecence (1)

SlashSim (229766) | more than 13 years ago | (#420506)

What's going to happen when the computer I purchased 3 years ago isn't powerful enough to run the latest greatest version of office, I'm perfectly happy with the version I have and M$ forces the new version down my throat? I guess I will have no choice but upgrade my hardware.

'What your still using That old POS! no, no, no! Spend some more money if you still want to compute.'

The Pros and Cons (1)

The Z Master (234139) | more than 13 years ago | (#420508)

For many people this will be a very good technology, allowing them not to worry about their computer. You just plug it in and it will have all the latests software. You want a new game? Well no problem, you click a button and get charged at the end of the month. Schools and other large institutions with many computers would most definately like this because upgrading all their computers is quite a tedious and time consuming process. On the down side, not everyone wants this kind of autmation. There are many people, even those not using Linux or other free OSes, that want to have much finer control over what gets put on their box. For these people subscription ware might not be a viable option. What happens to the bandwidth? What happens when every time a computer boots up it logs on and checks for updates to every single program it has installed? If subscription ware is put on millions of computers, people will definately be able to see a drop in the available bandwidth. For that matter, what about people who use this service but only have a 56k modem? Currently the update for a fresh install of halflife is 53 megs. If all your programs needed to be updated, it could take quite while on a slow connection. The Z Master

Support? (1)

DocStoner (236199) | more than 13 years ago | (#420509)

If I have to pay a subscription, I better be getting support 24/7 for the application for as long as I'm a subscriber. Of course, If you load any applications that aren't MS approved, that would violate your EULA for the support of the subscribed application.
Now I really need to find a local Linux user group to help wean me away from MS.

Support? Yeah, right. (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 13 years ago | (#420512)

If I have to pay a subscription, I better be getting support 24/7 for the application for as long as I'm a subscriber. Of course, If you load any applications that aren't MS approved, that would violate your EULA for the support of the subscribed application.

You get support alright, but you'll pay on a per-incident basis for it... and for your $100/hour you'll get to wait on hold forever, then finally get to talk to some bubblegum-smacking teenager who only knows how to parrot the owners manual back to you over the phone, exactly just like the quality of software support available today. Think about it.

i don't like this... (1)

Pheersum (243554) | more than 13 years ago | (#420514)

For the simple reason that when I buy a piece of software, all I want is a simple, shrinkwrapped solution. If I want a constantly (monthly/yearly/etc.) updated piece of software, I'll compile from CVS thankyou.

Witty Subject Line Goes Here (1)

Art_XIV (249990) | more than 13 years ago | (#420516)

Money can't buy me love, so I guess I'll just have to rent it. - Weird Al

What Micro$oft and others really want is for us to RENT software. "subscription" is a semantic-games/marketing-weasel term.

I find it strange and odd that a company wants us to rent software. The reason that I normally rent/lease items is that they are too costly for me to purchase out of hand. I am accustomed to renting/leasing cars, apartments, etc.

But software? This seems to me to be a left-handed way of getting people to (pay for the updates and patches that either shouldn't be necessary in the first place) or (given away for free so that people don't think your software is crappy, even if it is).

I expect that the RENT-based model will be a big success for Micro$oft and others, but that's because I can always bank on the vast majority of consumers being dumb & lazy.

Its all about the money (1)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | more than 13 years ago | (#420518)

Once software makers realize that they can start making loads of money by making people re-subscribe after 3, 6 or even 12 months, everyone will start doing it. Now the only problem that I have with these sort of products is they are making us pay to use a product that we have already paid for orignaly. So what is one to do about it. Who knows, write oodles and oodles of emails telling them to stop it, but thats about it. Someone will probably say to boycott the software packages, but that never works either becuase there are always people who must have it in order to run the business'. I guess this message is just more of a personal statement about that type of marketing, but like I said before, what can we do about it if they decide to take this route in marketing.

The IP Monster (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 13 years ago | (#420523)

Subscriptionware is the result of taking the Intellectual Property meme and taking it to its ultimate conclusion. Remember: You didn't really buy the software you think you bought; you merely licensed it. The battle between IP giants and Open Source is looking more and more like the war between heaven and hell, a collision of extremes between whom there is no quarter, battling over the "souls" of machines rather than humanity.

One good thing about this subscription model is finally you won't be forced to buy your operating system with your computer; instead of paying that monthly or annual fee, you can simply toss the installation disc and use a BSD CD. My only worry is that Microsoft and its ilk will finally coerce hardware manufacturers to tie the OS so tightly to their machines that there is no way to switch.

Re: The parent thread is taint. (1)

derf77 (265283) | more than 13 years ago | (#420526)

You might not want to click it.. unless you're into that kind of thing.

piracy (1)

sonny317 (300865) | more than 13 years ago | (#420529)

If,say, Adobe produced a pay-per-usage based Photoshop, theres a good chance they could cut piracy way down, as people like me who only occasionally need that powerful of a graphics program wouldn't need to be intimidated by the $600 up-front price. I don't advocate eliminating the buy-once use-forever version, but a subscription service would be very convenient for joe public.

Software Packages (1)

sn0wdude (317116) | more than 13 years ago | (#420547)

Well, it's already a fact with TV.

Here in the Netherlands, we have a basic
TV package, with some non-commercial, and
a few commercial TV stations. If you want
to have more channels, you pay an extra fee
per month. The same counts for the Canal+ movie
channel, you pay extra for it if you want to
see the latest movies. You can even make a selection, 5 standard channels and 2 extra
to choose from.

I don't see how this is any different from what
you are saying. And there will always be
Free Software to use.

Re:Subscription-based software (1)

RotateLeft4Bits (317629) | more than 13 years ago | (#420548)

/* This is the way forward, and it's not something to be afraid of. What people always forget, is that TCO is the only thing that matters. By having a regular upgrade/subscription cycle, we have the following: */


Your working on the assumption of hard working, straight up and down software companys that believe in producing a good product, that people want, and will use.

If we look at Microsoft Office, On subscription we suddenly have to pay extra for Office 2000, we have new bugs, that weren't there before, we have more bloat so our computer run slower, we have all these extra features we don't want but we get given every upgrade. So really what weve payed for is the priviledge of having to Upgrade Hardware more often and have different kinds of Bugs than before, and an increase in the amount of useless stuff.

Who here finds that Office 2000 does anything they need to do that a poxy 5 year old version of Microsoft office can't do?

So what it will do is just invite companys to be even more lazy, if you've got a subscription then you have guaranteed income, apart from that it adds the holy grail of 100% registered products,
imagine the joy of all that extra demographically aimed crap landing on you.

Subscription is Like Communism, It would work in an Ideal World but not in this one, because the people who have the steering wheels are motivated by greed.

Dumbing Down the consumer is NOT GOOD (1)

RotateLeft4Bits (317629) | more than 13 years ago | (#420549)

/* For a start there's the fact that for Joe Sixpack and his family, installing and configuring software is a task that they don't want to be dealing with. */


They probably don't want to worry about who to vote for either, or worry about paying taxes, or worry about where to send there child. But they have to worry about these things.

But they are willing to let someone else take control of there computer the same computer they ahve invested a couple of grand in, yet they won't invest a couple of hours to learn how to use it how it works.

I disagree, Subscription may be a way to dumb down the population to computing, But i think we should drag them into digital sentience kicking and screaming.

# You start letting someone else recompile your kernal, and your children will be next! #

Re:Precedents (1)

RotateLeft4Bits (317629) | more than 13 years ago | (#420550)

/* There are precedents for subscription-based services out there, and if the software business handles this right, they can do the same.
There is the cable service lots of Americans already use */


And also the satillite TV/Digital in the uk, theres a lot of subscription services, but they all have one thing in common. A very small minority of the population use them.

Why? because We already ave to pay £100 for a poxy tv license i don't want to pay an extra £20 a month to get extra rubbish. I can't afford extra rubbish.

So what happens, you have sucessfully alienated 90% of your market because they don't want to use a subscription service.

So what do you do, you keep non subscription and subscription, Now that is just a little pointless no?

of course never underestimate the momentum of Microsoft. (despite the recent flagging of late)

Subscriptions? (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#420551)

This is a joke... here is why...

EMC sells units that are designed for high-end storage, usually RAID 5/10 arrays for redundant and protected storage. They have a "service option" which allows them to dialup through a telephone line into the EMC unit to do maintanence.

When EMC recently came to our business trying to sell us this product, we asked a simple security question of, "How can we be sure you can not view the data located on our unit?" Their answer was less than acceptible. Basically, we couldn't trust them with the data located on any of our units due to the sensitive nature of the material (we deal in pharmacutials).

This is similar to what subscription based software will be. What's to say Company A isn't going to try to download C:\My Documents when they are upgrading me to the latest version of Office? In a corporate environment, especially in one similar to mine, this would be unacceptable as it would pose a security risk to not just the individual workstation, but the entire network (which we have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure from the Internet).

And yes, people (I'm speaking to all you open source advocates), speak all you want about the value of open source projects, but corporate America (or Europe or Asia) is not running Linux w/ StarOffice for various reasons, which I will not get into. But because of this, subscription based software will fail miserably since you figure a good percentage of commercial software is purchased for corporate environments. The ONLY reason I run MS Word at home is to read the MS Word documents I create at work! Otherwise (g)vim would work fine for me (I dont care if I can bold or not). I'm sure I'm not the only one! Apple did this for years, selling systems outside of the education environment to parents of kids who used Mac's in the schools, despite the acknowledgement that IBM compatibles were more highly regarded in the business world.

Anyway, I'm done now.


Buy now! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#420558)

Buy now, for you will never get better terms than you will now!

Microsoft is moving Office to Office.NET, and if your internet connection goes down, so will your word processor. You will rent everything, and the government won't even have to take your computer to steal your stuff.

You will have no privacy, and no freedom. This is the future as written by Corporate America. And now, with G.W. Bush at the helm, we can expect them to be rewriting history for us, as well.

Anyone want to start a country? We could take over Mexico, or Canada, easily...

Encouragement to improve software, or discourageme (2)

Alan Shutko (5101) | more than 13 years ago | (#420561)

I could see this going two ways. First, it may be that since software developers no longer need to depend on feature checklists to keep money coming in, they'll concentrate on fixing and improving core functionality. This would be good.

OTOH, it could be that with sufficient customer lockin and difficulty of changing apps, vendors no longer need to offer any improvements at all, since customers will be forced to fork out cash periodically just to maintain access to their data.

Problems with it (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 13 years ago | (#420568)

I see three problems with subscriptionware that should ultimately doom it:

  1. Bandwidth. The vast majority of the users on the Internet are still connected by 56K modems or slower. Packages like Office run in the 20 to 100 megabyte range. You think Joe SixPack's going to accept having his computer sit there for 3-4 days downloading software?
  2. Reliability. Everyone can point to a situation where a company screwed up and flubbed crediting one of your payments, or where they had to let a payment go for a few days to a week to let the paycheck hit the checking account. When a flub or being a bit short this week makes your computer shut down at the beginning of the month, Joe SixPack willl scream bloody murder.
  3. Upgrades. We all know about the conflicts when upgrading software, and the reasons lots of people can't/dont' upgrade specifically because upgrading would break their systems. Joe SixPack isn't going to be happy when a forced subscription upgrade breaks half his system, and every fix/upgrade breaks other things. He's gonna be even more unhappy when his local geek shrugs and says he can't do anything, Joe doesn't have the older software and the subscription service doesn't provide it.
Frankly, I think this, if implemented, will be the nail in the coffin for the worst of the big software companies. Right now their practices are headaches for the geeks. Under this model, they become a headache for Joe SixPack, and there's a lot more Joes than geeks and various people can't afford to ignore him.

Re:Subscription-based software (2)

Zoltar (24850) | more than 13 years ago | (#420576)

***1. improved productivity, thanks to the improvements in software effected between upgrades***

This is one of the biggest falshoods propagated by big software companies, and for the most part they get away with it. It's almost like saying you should buy the new Mrs. Smiths cookies because they are new and improved and have 25% more flavor than the competitors cookies. If you say it enough it becomes true to the general public.

****2. no compatibility issues - again these cost money; by constantly being up-to-date, we have no risk of not being able to read that vital document.****

In theory, yes. I think reality might be a different issue though.

***3. better budgeting.****

Here you do have a good point. However you must also realize that the goal of any company is to increase profits. Thus you can be sure that your costs will contiue to rise and after you have committed to this platform you will have very little choice. Thats why competition is a good thing. If we are not going to see competition between similar services then you should be aware of the dangers.

And who is responsible (2)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 13 years ago | (#420577)

when M$ updates your sofware and it conflicts with another app on your system?
I've seen to many updates cause problems with a system thats running fine to
believe that these magic auto updates are gonna fix more problems than they create.

Re:Fee notices up front (2)

radja (58949) | more than 13 years ago | (#420588)

the fee notice up front will probably be mandatory in europe, just like it is for non-standard phone-numbers (1-800 and the likes). ofcourse.. international rates will vary but those are conveniently placed in a table in my phonebook(I count interstate and international in the same category, because in europe it is)


plug in [...] the phone line ... (2)

psergiu (67614) | more than 13 years ago | (#420589)

Just a little bit of good'ol'time phone line hijacking and the d-net client will be installed on every new machine munching keys for team 2600 :)


Software Packages ain't no TV (2)

hub (78021) | more than 13 years ago | (#420592)

You can't compare TV and software. You can compare DVD (or video tape) and software. You can compare TV and www (in some manner).

Making software available by subscription if IMHO the worse way for the customer to pay for this software. Why ? Because he will pay for a time lapse during he can use the software, whatever how much he does effectively make use of it. The current pay per release is more fair because he pay for an unlimited in time use of the software.

Currently they are some companies that practice the upgrade strategy to artificially force their customers to pay more. This can be done in two ways:

  1. fix bugs in next paying release. Introduce new one in the meantime for the next upgrade. The customer that is annoyed will purchase the upgrade. Example: Win95 -> Win98
  2. change the file format for the new release, remove the old release from the storeshelves and make it difficult to exchange data back an forth so that most of the previous users will upgrade to the latest version to be able to read document made by new users. Example: MS-Office every 2 releases.
Making software purchase a subscription for limited in time use will introduce a thirs unfair practice for conmsumers: private data file format. Currently, lot of proprietary software does not come with the info to reread their data from another program. This make these data being tied to the software. But since the software supposedly work for an unlimited time you should be able to reread it in the future. Hence not documenting the file format does not specifically tie the user to purchase the upgrade. But, is the software can't be used if the user don't pay, it is unlinkely that software companies will make sure you can't reread your data in the future without paying their software again.

Perhaps this practice will help pushing open source software and it will be a great opportunity for all the Open Source Developers. Just because Open Source software also provide freedom for data format: how can you prevent others to read the file your program generated if the source code for this program is available !

But offcourse (2)

Lion-O (81320) | more than 13 years ago | (#420593)

I have no doubt that this will eventually evolve into some form of distributed computing. And whether or not this will all be sent over the Net is quite irrelevant; I can imagine that companies like M$ will re-discover the likes of shareware and let you use a product for an amount of time once you registered it.

This is the logical next step. Just take a look at the modern computers these days; if you buy a PC and/or laptop you'll notice that the OS license is pinned on the machine these days. You don't buy yourself a computer and an OS, you'll get a computer with an OS. And if you decide to use another OS you cannot use the shipped OS on another computer. Simply because the license is pinned down to the computer.

I dislike that concept and I think this is a very bad thing(tm)as well. Its basicly the search for more money, nothing more nothing less. And I truly doubt if this increase of income will eventually lead to better software. Developing software is expensive, esp. for a company, and therefor I think they will use that exact 'excuse' to introduce this shit. Fortunatly people tend to become aware of all the options and possibilities M$ doesn't want us to know about. My personal & recent experience was with SSL.. Do it the M$ way and pay up ($895 / year). The *nix way would be openssl. Oh; I forgot; you need a brain for that :P

From where I stand, not at all... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#420594)

I didn't buy brand name pre-loaded hardware before. I won't buy it after. That's really the only way to avoid the Windows tax.

Of course this is the only future (2)

blakestah (91866) | more than 13 years ago | (#420595)

The reasons for this move are simple. Computer sales are slowing down, as most places now have computers fast enough to do what they need to do.

Microsoft's profits come mostly from OEM sales of their software. Since OEM sales are down, their insanely high profits are down too. In order to recover, they will move to the .NET initiative, which means you will pay every year to use Microsoft products. Office will be first.

As a side benefit, M$ will see a dramatic decrease in the number of pirated copies of their software. They will force this down everyone's throats. They will claim it is an inherently better model. They will market it. They will introduce problems with backward compatibility. They will do all this to make money.

The real question is what consumers will do. I sincerely hope the day is coming when I no longer need to have a Microsoft box around to look at documents people email me.

Re:Subscription-ware is a great thing (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#420599)

I think you are confusing the idea of updates with subscription-ware.

Updates are a useful thing. But functionality off-loaded to some server while your software merely uploads the input and output may not be a great idea. Besides the issue of cost, there are issues of privacy, and control to consider.

This is not to say that subscription-ware is necessarily bad. The consumers should have a


of which version to get.

Precedents (2)

jvmatthe (116058) | more than 13 years ago | (#420600)

There are precedents for subscription-based services out there, and if the software business handles this right, they can do the same.

There is the cable service lots of Americans already use. You don't get to pick the channels that your service provides most of the time. You can purchase upgrades, like premium channels, for more money. And you can't control most aspects of the system. This is pretty close to what I can imagine a company like MS would want to do with their software.

Perhaps closer to software subscriptions is AOL. I've never used AOL, but my impression is that it takes over your desktop and network connection and presents you with lots of highly processed online content and online interaction for a monthly fee. Here, the software is probably "free" in that you don't ever see a bill for the software itself. But the line between "software" and "service" is pretty blurry already.

The extension of the cable and AOL ideas to software like MS Word and even games seems like the natural next step, from the point of view of the creators of that software.

That doesn't mean I like the 1984 and Brave New World taste of it.

Parts of the software will run server-side (2)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420604)

Why pay a monthly fee when I only have to wait for some cracking group to post a fix that skips over the code that ensures my subscription is still active?

Not if the clip art, spell-check, grammar-check, thesaurus, etc. features run server-side, and the program authenticates to the server with a name and password. And if name and password are shared like serialz, the app server can easily bankick known pirated licenses.

All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

If you don't need prepress, use GIMP (2)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420605)

If,say, Adobe produced a pay-per-usage based Photoshop, theres a good chance they could cut piracy way down, as people like me who only occasionally need that powerful of a graphics program wouldn't need to be intimidated by the $600 up-front price.

Remember, if you don't need Photoshop's prepress capabilities (and bloat), you can always run GIMP [] on your GNU/Linux, BSD, Darwin, or UNIX box or WinGIMP [] on your winbox. It's a nice tool for web graphics (more powerful than Paint Shop Pro), and it's both free and Free.

(Yes, I did mention Darwin. Read the comment before replying.)
All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

Subscription-based BIOS??? (2)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420606)

6. Make it relatively easy to transfer licenses between computers. Once that old P3 reaches the end of its life in 4-5 years, you should be able to submit a web form, register the other computer as "killed"

You said it. If BIOS (the ROM boot code) moves to a subscription licensing model (silly but a possibility), a computer without a BIOS license really will be "killed."

All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

Drivers won't be subscribeware (2)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#420607)

What if the "BuzzWordWare(tm)" company decides that this or that driver is outdated (as has happened to some of the Win9x drivers)? Then all of a sudden the whole system will stop working - no chance of keeping on using the old driver. You have subscribed, so you have to update or stop using, remember?

Windows Update does not currently work like that; driver upgrades are voluntary. (Do NOT get the NeoMagic video driver update; it'll remove all ability to use DirectDraw.) More to the point, drivers are tied to the hardware (video card, sound card, CD burner), and you don't license hardware; you buy it.

All your hallucinogen [] are belong to us.

Maybe the best opportunity... (2)

Bad_CRC (137146) | more than 13 years ago | (#420611)

for the OSS movement to get it's foothold.

I'd guess if open office was stable and usable by the time this net stuff comes around, and companies like DELL could ship it without liscensing worries, it'd be pretty damn attractive to them, and everyone else. Not to mention beneficial to the customer.


Re:Subscription-based software (2)

clare-ents (153285) | more than 13 years ago | (#420617)

1. improved productivity, thanks to the improvements in software effected between upgrades

BigCompany Inc has noticed your software is out of date. We are upgrading it automatically for you to version 365. You are currently number 7890 in the queue and your computer should be reenabled in the next 4 weeks, 3 days, 12 hours, 4 minutes and 8 seconds.


Unfortunatly your computer does not have enough memory to run version 365. Please contact your hardware vendor for an upgrade.

Seriously - If the software version I am using now works perfectly why should I have to upgrade it to a newer version which may have bugs in that I don't know about and don't want.

2. no compatibility issues - again these cost money; by constantly being up-to-date, we have no risk of not being able to read that vital document.

Congratulations on upgrading to dull office software version 365.

Unfortunatly compatibility with verions prior to 362 has now been removed. You will find the dustbin by the door for your CD document backups.

3. better budgeting. If we know that our software will cost $x/year, every year, we can budget for that. There is then no risk of unseen costs.

Vicious Software company Inc regrets to inform you that we have gone bust. All copies of our software will now be disabled. Regretfully no conversion filters exist to rival software manufacturers.

4. reduced impact on cashflow. Subscriptions mean that there is a lower initial cost - this means there is more money available to develop the business *now*.
You have a point there, but only if you're talking about non-free software.


The thing is, subscriptions are just being realistic - if you pretend that you're still going to be using those P3's running Office xxxx in 5 years time, you're wrong.
Ever been to a university / school / educational / public sector computer.

Many of these are still Pentiums with the odd 486 lying around.

All the subscription/ASP approach acknowledges is that we have to upgrade anyway - companies are always upgrading hardware and software in order to gain the productivity benefits they attract.

The subscription model changes it from

we choose to upgrade for a benefit we want


we must upgrade for benefits we may or may not want

Nothing new. (2)

shippo (166521) | more than 13 years ago | (#420618)

Subscription based software has been around for years in the corporate sector. Over the years I've come across many systems that stop working after a pre-defined period (usually 12 months).

Every single one I've used has been a complete pain in the proverbial when it comes to obtaining the license. I had a couple of really bad experiences.

One problem was with a backup package that was needed to restore a server. I had to contact the supplier's UK office, and was then passed onto a European office to a native German speaker. To obtain the 12 month activation key I had to read out a 40 character string over the telephone, and then wait a hour or so for the activation key in return. Luckily, depsite the langauge problems, the first attempt worked.

The second problem was with an SMTP mail gateway for an obscure system. The system just stopped working with no warning, due to it expiring. The software did require an email account of an adminstrator to redirect expiration warnings to, but my ertswhile collegue responsible for the original installation somehow redirected this to /dev/null.

No network access (2)

DivideX0 (177286) | more than 13 years ago | (#420619)

Another concern is people that buy (or are given) a computer only to use for word processing, spreadsheets, and games. For example, my mother-inlaw has a computer at home, but does not have an internet connection. For one, she can't afford to and for two doesn't need/want to be connected at home. How will subscriptions be validated/authorized. It sounds like a subscription (dis)service would be tcp/ip based rather than dedicated dial-up.

Based on experience (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#420620)

The sales people will push anything in retail stores. So it is merely a bit of marketing hype

but Joe sixpack will gripe about it. He can see a monthly fee for AOL, similar to his cable bill, etc. He can put up with this.

But a monthly fee to use his own computer that he just bought?He will choke on this.

Joe Sixpack has signed of on software licenses for a long time, blissfully ignorant of what it means. But to sit there with this same thing applying to his hardware will provide a rude awakening.

Expect lawsuits all over the place. Or laws passed in Congress at this point.

Consumers do not like getting raped in the wallet. It just ticks them off, and you wind up with short term gain of profits, and the long term gain of their hostility.

Hello foot, eat lead! (2)

tenzig_112 (213387) | more than 13 years ago | (#420622)

The idea of subscripts made sense two years ago when the whole industry was swimming in OEM revenue.

I know, let's piss off our only remaining stable revenue stream in an attempt to shore up second quarter profits!

As a consumer, if you didn't have a reason to buy a new computer before when software ran "forever," why would you buy one now (the advantage being increased tech support that you don't trust, anyway)?

[I apologise for the previous convluted sentence. Do not attempt to diagram.]

The solution: Embedded Banner ads! []

Trusting the Megacorp (2)

morkeleb (213547) | more than 13 years ago | (#420623)

FP's aside (hopefully), let's take a look at this. Logical progression? Your corps all bundle packages, yes, but each hardware distributor will try to advertise their "distribution" and the packages that they can offer you as opposed to another company. Deals will be made to offer the subscriptions at lower prices. You may even see "six months free" introductory offers. What's that? 500 free hours? This AOL thing may not be so bad after all! The advantage? You're always going to have the latest distro if you let the corps manage it. After all, it's a subscription. You don't subscribe to last year's paper. Well, most of us. And the competition may actually help the industry and provide John Q. Consumer (who doesn't care who his software comes from) with more for his money. Am I comfortable with the idea? Hell no. But it could have it's advantages. -Morkeleb

the upside of this is (2)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 13 years ago | (#420627)

the fact that if people are really forced to think about having to renew a subscription for some software that does suit there needs, they won't.

Rather than sticking with some crappy office product because you bought it once for x number of years, people will have the chance to say is this really worth y dollars per year.

Who knows, somebody might start competing with microsoft's orifice.

subscription ware helps the consumer and the SA! (2)

typical geek (261980) | more than 13 years ago | (#420628)

Now, rub your knees please, after they reflexively jerked and hit your desk, and hear me out.

What is one of the biggest issues today in desktop computing? Security! Yes, Virii, crackers, trojan horses, worm, etc, any PC connected to the internet is a big fat target.

NOw, for you and I, security is no big thing. We read bugtraq, run SAINT, run COPS, run TRIPWIRE, check out router logs, get decent firewalls, and continually update our virii profiles. But this does take time, an hour there, an hour here, and before you know it, we're talking real time.

Enter the software companies, who see a way to save us time, make them a little money, and increase security. It's the VA LInux model, start selling support incrementally instaed of a program in one fell swoop.

So in the end, it's a win-win situation. We spend less time on tedious security routines, the software companies update our software daily, and they make a business model. It is ironic that the software company poised to make money selling service and support is MS, not RedHat.

It happend to DirectTV (2)

derf77 (265283) | more than 13 years ago | (#420629)

DirectTV, a subscription based service was beaten. Granted, they reclaimed what was their's, but it worked. It may have only worked for a while, but it proves that if they build it, we can beat it.

Do you honestly believe that their software will be uncrackable? And if it is? We all just switch over to Linux or OSX. A taste of corporate stupidity and competition might turn Microsoft into a company that makes quality products (yes, I was joking.)

The bottom line is that if M$ does this, it'll be the biggest gunshot wound to the foot since Apple not liscensing out their OS back in the day.

Also with subscription based software, has anyone considered the posibility that companies could easily install spyware? (Well, they probably have considered this..) But a company could create a piece of software to check to see if you're paying for your other software, then they sell the list of non-paying customers to another company, blam! It's so simple it's horrifying. Subscription based software would be worse than copy-protected harddrives.

Oh great! (2)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 13 years ago | (#420630)

So now we'll be forced to have spyware all over our computers to make sure we've got the latest greatest compatible software from software subscription company x?! I would prefer to keep my passwords, personal financial details, and browsing habits to myself, thank you very much!

Subscription-ware has uses in network computing (2)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 13 years ago | (#420631)

For instance, if your software needs to do a high-computation task that is also distributable (such as a video filter) and you have a high speed connection to the internet and a relatively slow computer, you could farm out the task to a more powerful computer(s). Depending on how the software is implemented, these central computers could charge a per-use fee or a subscription fee for semi-unlimited use.

I know that sounds sort of irrelevent today, but if complex software really becomes popular (like a full-featured version of Apple's iMovie) I do see a future for this.


Subscription-ware is a great thing (2)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 13 years ago | (#420632)

As much as the /. doomsayers would like us to think so, I personally don't agree with the view that moving to a subscription-based model of software is a bad thing :) In fact, in almost all cases it'll bring numerous advantages to the consumer.

For a start there's the fact that for Joe Sixpack and his family, installing and configuring software is a task that they don't want to be dealing with. And for some packages, especially on Linux where user-friendliness comes second place to adding new features, the task of setting new software up is too technically complex for them to be able to do it. For these users, having this process automated will be a godsend, and one they'll gladly choose.

Then there's the issue of updates. Microsoft has already moved in the direction of automated updates, and BSD provides the ports tree for a relatively easy way of getting updates, but the majority of software gets updated far more often than people bother to get the updates. This leads to security holes which script kiddies can exploit, as we've seen dozens of times in the last few years. With automated updates, this would be avoided and the net would be a far more secure place.

Then there's the fact that the business world has relied on subscription-based software for years. Most large packages are paid for by an annual fee from thier buyers, and they get all of the advantages above included. If these people, with far more to lose, are happy, I think home users will be.

Of course there will be situations where subscriptions are wrong, such as with embedded software, but for 99% of people, moving to subscription-based software will be great. It'll just become another payment made at the end of the month with your cable bill and your insurance, and with no more hassle.

The aim of .net (2)

BlueByYou (317684) | more than 13 years ago | (#420634)

I don't know if you are aware of .net, but according to Microsoft's presspass blueprint (to be found here [] ), "We envision the majority of our software applications evolving into subscription services over time" - this is the aim of .net, and so it will happen.

Personally I find it rather frightening - will my letter to my Mom expire in the middle of writing it or what?

Re:Subscription-based software (3)

primebase (9535) | more than 13 years ago | (#420635)

Very well put Yoshi! TCO is something that's often overlooked by non-financial types, but it ends up right on the bottom line, IMHO.

Now, what they need to do to be successful in a subscription model is:

1. Make it less expensive than a full-refresh purchase over the same time period (12-18 months nowadays?). Would you rather pay $350 every year or two so for Application_Suite_XX, or pay $10 a month, and always be current?

2. INCLUDE SUPPORT!! By Odin, if you're paying a monthly subscription fee, you should be able to either call a human for help, or at the very least use a very responsive Web-based help desk for product questions...NOT just access to a knowledgebase (which itself is an oxymoron.)

3. Make the auto-upgrade process reliable, and recoverable. There's nothing worse than installing an update and getting a BSOD or equivalent. You should be able to roll-back upgrades that are of...sub-optimal quality.

4. Have a clear, well written and highly public privacy policy on any and all data you collect from users. Something to the effect of "No one outside our company will know anything about you unless they pry the data from our cold dead fingers, and we won't use it to sell anything to you, ever!"

5. Offer users a quarterly CD mailer with all the updates, at no additional cost. If they can put AOL CDs in cereal boxes for free, then a subscribed user surely deserves a CD every now and then.

6. Make it relatively easy to transfer licenses between computers. Once that old P3 reaches the end of its life in 4-5 years, you should be able to submit a web form, register the other computer as "killed", and set up the new one for no additional cost.

7. Offer a discout to multiple-PC users. To Big_Software_Company, there's very little incremental work required to issue a license for someone with two or three PCs as oppposed to one. So there should be a price break there. Say, $10 a month, plus $1.50 for each additional licensed to the same user.

In summary: If you make the process affordable, reliable, confidental and reasonable, there's nothing wrong with software subscriptions.

Or, put another way, if you don't make friends of your uses, they will make you.

Are you listening, Microsoft? IBM? Oracle? CA? Siebel? Sun? HP? Compaq?

subscription is basically renting (3)

macpeep (36699) | more than 13 years ago | (#420636)

I find it a little odd that everyone seems to be so negative about subscription fees for software. I mean, think about an apartment. There are two ways to get one; 1) buy 2) rent. Most people prefer #1 but cannot afford it and thus pick #2 and rent an apartment.

While most people on Slashdot think everything should be free (as in beer), the typical argument for *piracy* seems to be that "I can't afford to buy CD's / software with the current prices!". Well, with subscription, you *can* afford it so what's the problem?

Subscription already works for many things and nobody complains about it so why complain now? Personally, I'd prefer to own my software (and music) but subscription is a good thing and suitable for software in many cases - especially if it's offered as an option. Don't complain just because it's Microsoft that is doing it.

Re:subscription ware helps the consumer and the SA (3)

ScottBrady (60469) | more than 13 years ago | (#420637)

Enter the software companies, who see a way to save us time, make them a little money, and increase security. It's the VA LInux model, start selling support incrementally instaed of a program in one fell swoop.

You're comparing apples and oranges.

First, this notion that subscription services will make computers more secure is unfounded. The key to security is control of access and I don't see how paying $19.95 a month for your software somehow makes it more secure. In order for that effect to manifest itself the software companies would have to do the following: a) offer security updates immediately upon availability (software would phone home regularly), b) update virus databases regularly, c) audit the security of the box (e.g. clear passwords, insecure daemons, etc.).

Why do you suddenly think that companies like MS are going to produce patches faster and audit the security of their customers boxes simply because they are now being paying a subscription fee? I certainly don't know the answer to that question and don't expect to see that scenario unfold.

The "VA Linux" model (I would have used Red Hat as an example, but whatever) of providing support for software that is Free can't be compared to a closed source software package being sold as a subscription. If you cancel your support subscription with Red Hat you can continue using your software; you just don't get help when you break something. If you stop subscribing to Windows you won't be able to run Windows any more. Big difference.

It is ironic that the software company poised to make money selling service and support is MS, not RedHat.

It's not "ironic." It's called Marketing.

Re:Subscription-based software (3)

k_187 (61692) | more than 13 years ago | (#420638)

if you pretend that you're still going to be using those P3's running Office xxxx in 5 years time, you're wrong.

I plan on using my computer in 5 years. But then again I'm on a Mac.

Anyway, as long as this pricing doesn't move to games, I'm not too worried about it. There is a good explination of the technology over at Ars Technica []

My main beef with this is: My parents bought a Pac Bell in Christmas of '99. While, I can't stand to use it, its fine for them. They don't need any more power than a K6-2 333 for the internet and checking e-mail. It came with Word 97 and that's the biggest piece of software they use. That being said, this computer came with virus protection. Which is all nice, fine, and good. Of course we all know that you've got to update your virus protection periodically. It logically follows that we had to pay to update this virus protection. In my mind, this is a perfect parallel with installing Office XP on a monthly subscription. If I can't convince my mother that we need to update our virus protection every month, how is Micro$oft going to convince her to PAY(I bought this computer it should work!) again just to use Word the 3 times a month she uses it.

This will be bad, because the vast majority of people that buy OEM will not upgrade their hardware every 2 years. This is why I wish those damn Internet Appliances would take off. My Parents don't need a full computer for what they do. and I know they don't need to be paying every month or year for software they don't always use.

huh? (3)

tenzig_112 (213387) | more than 13 years ago | (#420639)

Here's what I'm hearing:

1) Microsoft products suck.
2) Microsoft better not limit my access to their software.

What doesn't make sense here? I'm honestly confused.

"blue screen of death" gallery []

Subscription-based software (3)

Yoshi Have Big Tail (312184) | more than 13 years ago | (#420640)

This is the way forward, and it's not something to be afraid of. What people always forget, is that TCO is the only thing that matters. By having a regular upgrade/subscription cycle, we have the following:

1. improved productivity, thanks to the improvements in software effected between upgrades
2. no compatibility issues - again these cost money; by constantly being up-to-date, we have no risk of not being able to read that vital document.
3. better budgeting. If we know that our software will cost $x/year, every year, we can budget for that. There is then no risk of unseen costs.
4. reduced impact on cashflow. Subscriptions mean that there is a lower initial cost - this means there is more money available to develop the business *now*.

The thing is, subscriptions are just being realistic - if you pretend that you're still going to be using those P3's running Office xxxx in 5 years time, you're wrong.

All the subscription/ASP approach acknowledges is that we have to upgrade anyway - companies are always upgrading hardware and software in order to gain the productivity benefits they attract.

Regularizing this, and making this explicit is not a harmful thing to do.

Not worried... (4)

Psiren (6145) | more than 13 years ago | (#420641)

They won't be doing this with Linux or other open OSes, so why should I worry about it? I'll just point at Windows users and snicker. Much like I do now... ;-)

You have an option to use another system if you're unhappy with the way your current one is heading. This can only be good for the open software movement in the end.

won't work for everything (4)

boarder (41071) | more than 13 years ago | (#420642)

There are a lot of software types for which this type of payment would not work.
Think about the programs that you only use once a month or once a week or once only: financial software, inventory software, OS update/optimization software. You wouldn't pay monthly for something you only use monthly.

What would be nice for those programs and even larger programs (like Windows for us Linux users) is a pay per use program. I only use Windows if I want to play some games or use some random, legacy software. That amounts to a day or two per month. I would pay $2 per month to use Windows (if I didn't get a $5 full use copy through my University). That would be $24 per year and since the design cycle for OS software is about two years you would pay about $48 for an OS instead of $90 or more. Just a thought.

Trust (4)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#420643)

It doesn't matter if you trust them or not, they will do this. The major problem I see is that subscriptions will become the main way to sell commercial software. What scares me is that once you are on the subscription bandwagon, as soon as the new version comes out you will be forced to upgrade _and_ pay up more money.

I'm already in upgrade hell on the PC's I support now, forced upgrades would make it even worse.

But, on the bright side, this will only server to make Open Source Software much more appealing to many consumers, and many businesses. Who knows, perhaps this is what is needed to get Linux on the desktop.

OEMs will be the ASPs (4)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 13 years ago | (#420644)

Contrary to popular belief on Slashdot, Microsoft has no major plans of becoming an Application Service Provider. Microsoft is primarily a software company and doesn't even handle a majority of its support (unlike, say Sun) but instead has an army of Microsoft Certified Solutions Providers [] who handle interaction with customers.

From talks with friends who have worked there, it is unlikely this strategy will change. Microsoft will primarily sell .NET servers to ASPs and corporate buyers who will then deal with the user issues. This can also be gleaned by reading Microsoft's ASP Services website [] instead of assuming the worst of those in Redmond. As for Dell, they've already formed an ASP [] known as DellHost [] , and thus it's very likely that once subscription software becomes the norm they will already have the infrastructure to provide software hosting solutions for their customers.

L4M3R:One who thinks he is l337 because he uses "make" to install software instead of RPM

Re:Not worried... (4)

lmsig (110148) | more than 13 years ago | (#420645)

While geeks may not have to worry about it for ourselves; we do have some social responsibility to protect the average user from "bad things".

Most users will shrug and accept what they are fed. If we want them to "see the light" of open source and free software (and especially non-subscription based products where you do not ever possess ANYTHING and they can just take away your software at their will [oh, you write web pages bashing MS, fine no more frontpage for you!]) then we need to help educate the masses rather than sitting back and watching them get taken for a ride.

I can see it now; the software providers can censor whoever they want by simply stopping service. Average joe blow isn't computer savvy and has nowhere to turn without our help.

Could be a good thing! (4)

bfree (113420) | more than 13 years ago | (#420647)

I can forsee the Dell's et al of this world shipping blank boxes (finally) and a complementary Windows X install CD which requires a internet connection and credit card. It would not suit MS to have Dell pumping out systems without MS getting the feedback they want (and the means to bill for extras) and I doubt Dell wants any more work reselling Windows and it's services (unless perhaps MS is offering them the full source to everything so they can run their own OS and application servers to push Delldows200X (but would Dell really want to do this, and if they did would they base it on the back of a resource that could be yanked from them).

Dell is never going to want to have to deal with customers ringing up saying their computer isn't working anymore only to discover it is because they haven't given MS the credit card details and the 1 year/3 month/whatever length trial has finished. If Dell can no longer ship the MS software they want with PCs as a permenent part of the PC I doubt they will charge for or ship one at all. All we have to do then is make sure all these people know that instead of being suckered for the monthly software fee they can install a number of alternatives (Be, BSD, Linux, Hurd).

Re:Subscription-based software (4)

DarkProphet (114727) | more than 13 years ago | (#420648)

ummm okay, where to being... ah..

1. improved productivity, thanks to the improvements in software effected between upgrades

I hate to break it to you, but as far as software is concerned, "improvement" is a relative term. I can't say that Netscape 6 is any kind of improvement over Netscape 4, in terms of productivity. Newer != better, and updated software is certainly no guarantee that a given individual (or company) is going to be more productive. (The only reason I bother to argue this at all is that your point here sounds about like the standard marketroid blather I expect to hear when companies start to try to convince joe sixpack that he MUST have subscription based software).

2. no compatibility issues - again these cost money; by constantly being up-to-date, we have no risk of not being able to read that vital document.

Only if all your subscription-software comes from the same company, and even then there is no guarantee. Do you really want your whole os/software to be coming in distro form from, say, M$ for example? I sure as hell don't... you can bet your ass that you can't get Netscape xxxx for such a subscription-distro...

3. better budgeting. If we know that our software will cost $x/year, every year, we can budget for that. There is then no risk of unseen costs.

How do you know the company isn't going to change the price sporadically (once a year even?). Other service based companies (electric, gas, etc) do that ALL THE TIME, usually at whim, with no basis for why the price has now changed. Its pretty damned hard to budget for a moving target, as anyone who's gotten a $400 gas bill lately can tell you. What makes you so sure this is any different?

4. reduced impact on cashflow. Subscriptions mean that there is a lower initial cost - this means there is more money available to develop the business *now*.

I'm not sure whether you're talking about the business supplying the subscriptionware, or a business trying to make use of it. If you're talking about a business trying to make use of the subscriptionware, you're right, solely based on the fact that most (smart) businesses try to get the latest and greatest (insert favorite OS/office suite/whatever here). However, for Joe Sixpack, the savings may be in getting good old "foreverware" instead. Why? Face it, most people who have a computer at home, and are not a computer geek/developer/rich bitch, simply will not shell out for the latest and greatest, because there is no incentive for them to, which brings me to your next point...

The thing is, subscriptions are just being realistic - if you pretend that you're still going to be using those P3's running Office xxxx in 5 years time, you're wrong. Still? Hell son, my best box has a P2/300 under the hood, and it suits me just fine (and I consider myself both a computer geek and a developer). In 5 years I see myself probably being right at about P3 level... though I'd much rather have an Athlon ;-)

Anyway, moral of the story is that subscriptionware seems to me to be best suited for large corporations, who stand the most to gain, while Joe Sixpack is just going to go and buy Windoze xxxx and Office xxxx (or better yet, just install Linux or *BSD).

I guess I assume that subscriptionware will require some level of broadband connection, and that alienates most Joe Sixpacks. Hell, I've had a dialup connection for ~6 years due to nothing faster being available (no ISDN, Cable, T-1, or even dual 56K!), but as luck would have it, my DSL connection is getting installed today... thank god I live in town... I feel bad for all those poor saps a few miles down the road who can't get it ;-)

subscription ware jeopardizes stability & security (5)

The Optimizer (14168) | more than 13 years ago | (#420652)

You are making a big, big assumption here. And that is that none of the incremental/update releases are going to cause problems or corrupt data.

One big advantage of using Static software is just that: it's static. Normally, barring some external event like running out of disk space, I expect that my copy of office 96 or whatever will run tommorow exactly the same as it is running today.

What happens when overnight, the automatically distributed and updated version of MyWordProcessor (version brings with it another new version NET.socks.dll that has a huge security hole that was added because the programmers who updated the "Track Changes->Compare Documents->Automatically" command to work fully across the new .net@work document model needed some hooks in the network API?

What happens is that millions of systems have had their security compromised and don't even know it. The first people to know will be the ones looking for it; the security guys and the hackers. Lets hope the former always get there first. Oh wait, that assuming the company supplying the software will want to fix and update immediately, even if no one has been compromised yet.

The other big problem is the automatic updating of my data files. What happens if an update corrupts or otherwise can't handle a tiny (or not so small) percentage of user's files (because of specific feature combos used in that file, for example)?

What happens is that some small percentage of people have been selected at random to be SCREWED with respect to their documents. Will the subscription update models allow users to go back to previous versions? I don't think so. Besides, if I try opening a file with the newer version, and it auto-converts my documents to the newer format, and in the process some of documents get screwed, then if I can go back to the previosu version (why would they let me? Then I'd have grounds not to pay them) I'd better have made backups of my document files that I didn't know I'd need because I didn't know the "upgrade" is coming.

On that train of thought; what happens if I need to load up some docuemnt from four years ago that I've got backed up offline? Will mySubscriptionWare(tm) be able to read it, even though it's been updated every quarter since then (16 updates)? or am I screwed, unable to access my prior work because it was stored offline, and that file version is no longer supported? With no original disk to install the program I used to create it, what will I do?

Ok, the above isn't to say that it's all doom and gloom, but rather to point out that subscription ware it going to be a double-edged sword. And when you are talking about tens of millions of users (in the case of the largest company), problems that slip past testing and effect .001% of users, will be hurting thousands of people.

a la carte software? (5)

Afterimage (44695) | more than 13 years ago | (#420654)

After thinking about it, I think there are some things I would choose to pay a monthly fee for, a good spell checker say, but I think there may be a surprise for bigtime publishers. Their software may not garner as much use as they think. In fact, if monthly payments fall off after, say three months of licensed use, I'd worry. It would confirm what many folks think -- that by and large, folks don't always make regular use of the software they "own."

So, what happens? Well, it could go two ways, people stop paying for bloated SW packages they don't use the features for. They may only want Word's word processing modules, not Word's HTML export functions or the rest of office. Will Microsoft meet the demands of the market, and allow for customizable software packages? Or, will folks continue to pay for what they don't use, like they will a health club "membership," long after they've stopped using it?

Obviously, the SW makers would be OK with the second model, even if they won't come right out and say so. In fact, I'll venture to guess that they'd fight any such indication of that being widespread behavior. They really won't like the first model for a few reasons.

First, what are the natural divisions in the software. You can start with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. But what about common functions between programs as we now know them. The Office Assistant? Templates? Clipart? file browsing services? VB scripting? help documentation, Spell checking, macros, document module sharing (OLE). In my mind, it should all be up for grabs. Otherwise, why pay for it if you aren't using it? Microsoft will likely say nothing is "bundled," that everything is part of a core feature set of Word, or whathaveyou. The real question, is whether or not people will accept that answer.

Secondly, *if* such a distribution model is accepted, SW publishers would likely fight the release of any information that documents how their software is structured, allowing modules or lower or no cost to take the place of their own. This eats into their bread and butter. I foresee a few legal cases testing the ability of consumers to modify and extend products they are paying for the use of, but never really "own."

Thirdly, in order to preserve their own market space, Microsoft, et al, would likely actively change critical bits of their software in the name of improvements, but would oddly appear as actions to prevent competitors from offering an improved product. How this activity would be viewed by the FTC is unknown at this point. How would their customers respond, though?

Fourth, as an active counter measure, I believe SW manufacturers would explictly change their terms of use in an attempt to contractually prohibit the use of third-party software modules. However, from Wordperfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and DOS on, third party modules have had a long, very good history in terms of positively extending functionality for the consumer. QEMM for DOS 5 anyone? Norton AV at any time? What's the backlash when people find out they can't "legally" use these?

If the true a la carte model takes hold (though it may take a while and is dependent upon a few things), it represents what I consider the best opportunity for the open source community to make a meaningful impact to the rest of the computing world. Not to say that BSD, Linux, Apache, et. al. haven't been significant contributions, it's just that most Windows users don't know because they don't see it. If, however, modules for their favorite SW (Photoshop, Word, Excel, Quicken) were able to be replaced with free and open modules, they will see a difference. Ideally (and yes, this is very dependent on "forces beyond our control"), they'll see a smaller bill. And they'll think just how much they might not be spending if the entire package was free.

Obviously, this is quite conditional on other factors, but *if* this is the game the big proprietary SW publishers want to play, this community can, and should, embrace it as a Trojan Horse. The competition would serve everyone well.

That's all very well.... (5)

NTSwerver (92128) | more than 13 years ago | (#420655)

Today Dell ships a copy of Office 2000 that will run forever

Ahhhh.....But will it do what my version of Office does??? []


Fight the Feature Bloat! No Forced Upgrades! (5)

tigrrl (219188) | more than 13 years ago | (#420658)

I can see the intuitive appeal for many of these arguments, but I suggest that this only serves to highlight the pernicious nature of the commercial software business. Often, the "improvements" that we see from one version to the next are minimal, and certainly not worth any significant sum to buy.

As far as the attitude that one won't see P3s running Office XXXX in five years - I wholeheartedly disagree. I still run Office 95 on my P3. Why? Simple - it runs a *lot* faster than any of the more recent versions, and it offers all of the features that I am interested in.

Don't forget that the tradeoff for all those bells and whistles that no one uses (how many people really *need* to run text vertically in a table?) is FEATURE BLOAT. Which is why Office 2000 runs no more quickly on my P3 than did WordPerfect for Windows ran on my 386 nearly 10 years ago.
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