History Software Engineering

Subscription Software “Popularized” – 2013 AD

Return to Timeline of the History of Computers


Subscription Software

“In 2013, Adobe stopped selling copies of its tremendously popular Photoshop and Illustrator programs and instead started to rent them. Microsoft and others would soon follow. The era of “subscription software” had arrived.

Despite providing many economically sound reasons why this move was in the interest of its customers (and of course equally good for the company’s bottom line), Adobe’s announcement was met with a wave of negativity and petitions to reinstate the traditional purchase model. Why? Because many customers didn’t upgrade their software every year, and they resented being put in the position of having to pay up annually or have their software stop working.

Purchasing subscriptions for digital services was not new—cable TV, streaming video, and telephone service are all sold by subscription. Software as a product, however, had been different since the birth of the microcomputer. Even though Adobe’s Photoshop is as much a series of 1s and 0s as a streaming movie, consumers did not experience it that way, because they traditionally did not receive it that way. Since it first went on sale in 1988, Photoshop had been sold as a physical object, packaged on floppy disk, CD, or DVD. It was a physical, tactile, or otherwise visible exchange of money for goods. But once the CD or DVD “packaging” of those 1s and 0s was replaced with the delivery of bits over a network connection, it was only a matter of time until the publisher decided to attach a time limit to that purchase. People were not just confused; they were downright furious.

Over time the advantages for most customers became clear: subscription software can be updated more often, and publishers can easily sell many different versions at different price points. The subscription model also gives consumers the flexibility to make small, incremental purchases without a big up-front investment. Now people who were interested in, but not committed to using, a professional photo-editing suite can spend $40 to try it out for a month, rather than spending thousands of dollars up front for a product suite that might not precisely align with their needs or interests. The advent of subscription software brought with it a new model for enabling fast evolution and innovation in software products that in turn drove competition across a landscape of ecommerce services.”

SEE ALSO: Over-the-Air Vehicle Software Updates (2014)

Purchasing subscriptions for popular software programs has become increasingly popular, replacing the previous model of buying and owning the software.

Fair Use Sources: B07C2NQSPV

Pogue, David. “Adobe’s Software Subscription Model Means You Can’t Own Your Software.” Scientific American online, October 13, 2013.

Whitler, Kimberly A. “How the Subscription Economy Is Disrupting the Traditional Business Model.” Forbes online, January 17, 2016.