By Peter H. Green
The latest wrinkle in the connected world is subscription software. Yes, you read me right. You can now subscribe to the best-known products for accomplishing major computer tasks on a monthly or yearly basis. In the case of Microsoft Office, one of the most widely used computer products for writing, spreadsheets, databases and presentations, it’s almost an economic necessity. For Adobe, whose Creative Suite has become the standard for photographers, graphic artists and the printing/publishing industry, the new Creative Cloud is supposedly an option to the so-called “permanent” license. As to Adobe products, I’ve been unable to learn exactly how or if one can still purchase their traditional product.
Of the two examples I’m becoming familiar with, Microsoft’s Office 365 is the most drastic change. To purchase Office Pro 2013 installation disk, one must invest upwards of $150, even at Sam’s Club, the cheapest I’ve found, and more from the Microsoft Store, Walmart and Office Depot. The catch is, it can only be installed on one computer. For most small to very small businesses or home offices, this is unacceptable – a crisis – requiring multiple purchases to equip two or more workstations.
Microsoft’s answer is a switch from providing the product, which we’ve been used to calling a permanent license, to a service model. One can imagine their business reasons for the switch. Primarily, the company can never let go of the “product,” since various users constantly tinker with its engineering. Developers suggest improvements; malware hackers find ways to subvert its use with viruses to infect–or Trojan horses to take over–our computers. For as long as the software is in active use the company must remain vigilant and issue patches or complete rewrites to update the code. While a new version is sold annually, because of the added cost of supporting older versions, the period during which the company will support the older versions with free updates has been shortened again and again to as little as three years.
The tradeoff Microsoft offers is to provide access to the premium or professional versions, which Include more programs than the standard version, at an annual subscription rate. In this new system the bulk of the code appears to reside on the Cloud and does not overtax the hard drive capacity of your computer. But the most significant feature is that the software can be accessed and used on up to five computers, tablets or mobile phones for the single subscription price. Is this beginning to sound interesting?
Pricing for this new service depends on its intended use. Credentialed students can buy a four-year license at a bargain price. Office Home Premium costs $99.00 per year and includes Outlook, Word, Excel, Access, Publisher, Power Point and One Note, plus a social networking/ conferencing service called Lync and InfoPath, to make the deal almost irresistible. The Small Business Pro package also includes hosting for one business website. This can be done on the YourCompanyName,on Microsoft.com domain, or on your own separately purchased domain. At an average cost of $80 a year to maintain business Web hosting, this exceeds the cost of the entire minimum subscription and becomes a no-brainer.
My fellow writers are grumbling. “That’s a lot of money – especially if I have to pay it every year. I buy a software package and can use it for five or more years at no additional cost.” I had to think long and hard about it myself before committing to a subscription. Writers work under an archaic industry system with an arcane, random business model which sometimes pays and often doesn’t. The traditional author-agent-big press publisher system has been beaten back over the last five years due to its own mistakes, the recession, competition from e-books and the rise of small independent presses and self-publishers. Subscription software such as Office and the Creative Cloud, now will become a new fixed cost. The plus side is that these applications can help make small operators even more productive at a cost many businesses will consider reasonable.
What do you think? Many of us multi station users will have to make a decision soon. To avoid playing Microsoft’s game, some are opting for Open Office software which until now has been free, or promoting the use of Scrivener, a word processing program, which also has some unique outlining, organizational and note gathering features for writers. Would you subscribe to Microsoft’s new program? Do you plan to?
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Until next time, good words to you,
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