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How Will Subscription-Ware Affect OEMs? 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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How Will Subscription-Ware Affect OEMs?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    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...
  • I most certainly do remember dongles. They plugged into the parallel port and were queried when the software cranked up. Microsim PSpice used that back in the late 80s and early 90s. It was jack booted.

  • I'll harp on this since a couple have touched on it but nobody has harped on it.

    If M$ can update software on your machine, they can do other things like snoop around. How is our apriori Joe Sixpack going to like that?

    All his finances are on his computer. He's got online banking. He uses Quicken. He uses TurboTax. He's got some excel worksheets and word files with sensitive info in them.

    Not only has he shelled out a couple grand for the the latest computer and is none too happy to find out that his software turns back into a pumpkin after 1 year but now he learns that somebody has been lookin' thru his shit. He'll find out because they will sell this info which might have some tidbit in it that can be found nowhere else. He'll know it had to have come off his hard drive. He will not be able to articulate how it was done but don't take Joe Sixpack for a fool. He may be the salt of the earth but he's not stupid.

    Every company and every police organization these days wants to get in your mess. What do you have to hide comrade?
  • 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.
  • Once she has a Delldow she won't need you anymore.
  • If a company was found to snoop through your personal files without your consent they will get fucked up the ass by class action lawsuits and criminal charges. If they put a line in their EULA that they can access all of your Microsoft-made documents and you agree to it then you ought to have read more carefully that to which you agreed to. It has always been caveat emptor with retail software what exactly is changing?
  • What exactly was so bad about DIVX's distribution plan? You supposedly could go to your local Blockbuster and pick up a DIVX disc for a few bucks and watch it for a couple days then if it turned out you liked the movie you could pay a couple more bucks to have the disc unlocked so you could watch it all the time. I rent a movie and decide I like enough to own it, rather than make a separate trip out to find that disc I pay to have it unlocked and can watch it forever. Fuck your "over-commercialization of closed source software", do you have any idea what the fuck you're talking about? They make tools and you buy them, this model has worked for a very long fucking time. If you think software companies are nickel and diming you to death turn your eye upon your local banking institution. They are fucking you with their rates and charges. So is the phone company and your municipal utilities. Wah wah.
  • If your music PC only does music why the fuck are you worried about Office XP or any other subscrib-o-ware? You're using it only for music right?
  • Are you all fucking daft? If you don't want to subscribe to Office XP DON'T BUY IT. If you don't want subscrib-o-ware at all DON'T BUY IT. If you don't buy it the producers of said software will not produce it in the form they are not selling it in. Besides which, the question is about OEMs. OEMs stand to make a killing with subscrib-o-ware. As it stands Dell and Gateway and everyone else have to pay for software licenses in bulk. Not only that but OEM software's support is the responsibility of the OEM and not, say, Microsoft. This also costs the OEM money that could be better spent elsewhere. With a subscrib-o-ware model the OEM simply bundles a subscrib-o-ware capable OS and lets the user decide which software packages they want. Support for this subscrib-o-ware is now the responsibility of the developer rather than the OEM. Your next Dell or Gateway may just come with Whistler preinstalled and let you pick and choose from a list of options what software you want. Not only do the customers save but OEMs get to put a little extra money in pocket from not having to pay for a bunch of software people may or may not use or even want. Case in point; my grandparents bought a new Gateway last year that came with a mound of software. Most of this software has to this day gone unused which means both they and Gateway paid for a bunch of stuff that is essencially useless.
  • You wouldn't pay monthly for something you only use monthly.

    Sure you would. Lots of people already do it for lots of things. People pay for garbage collection, but that only happens once a week. People pay for lawn maintenance but that only happens once a month. People pay a monthly fee to have someone come and shovel their sidewalks when it snows.

    How often you pay for something and how often you use it aren't really related.
  • 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.
  • Brrrr. You really know how to get a guy's goat, don't you? Microbilt's Credit Commander comes with a floppy dongle. We use it to run credit reports for bond issuance, and it's a pain in the butt if we have to replace a PC.

  • I'm sorry, net://word.microsoft.com is temporarily unavalable to serve your request. We apologize for this temporary interruption of service and any damage to your buisness that this may cause. We're so sorry that the critical document you needed is only accessable by our software, and we're sorry that there is really nothing you can do about it. I think you should get an account on workopolis.com or monster.com, because once the boss sees that you were the one who insisted on purchasing .net, you'll be the first to go.

    Have a nice day.

    it's funny.. laugh.

    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1
  • AFAIK, its a big ASP (application service provider, not .asp) type system where you need to connect to Microsoft in order to use their software.

    * you always have the latest software
    * free bug fixes
    * easier to protect against piracy
    * ummm

    * Everything is controlled and run by Microsoft
    * Central distribution of software (yuck).
    * Monthly payments
    * Loss of freedom
    * Microsoft can watch everything you do...

    It's 6am... do you know if the .net servers are up?
    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1
  • http://arstechnica.com/wankerdesk/01q1/wpa-1.html [arstechnica.com]. .. if you haven't already.. it's about the new WPA scheme.. I didn't know much about it...

    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1

  • I believe that I have rights when I pay for anything that is not physical. Just like a service, they are accountable to me in terms of ownership. However, I also believe that the people who create content must be rewarded for their efforts. I should not have the right to dictate to someone else how they release their creative content. If they give it to me... fine. if they sell it to me... fine. THEIR CHOICE, not mine.

    I will agree that the MPAA goes a bit too far. When I buy a DVD, I want to be able to do ANYTHING I WANT with it - including, and especially, decrypting it so that I may play it on my Linux PC (since they seem to not want to license any players with a key).

    What a lot of people seem to forget is that someone worked very hard in creating something and should be able to decide how their stuff is sold. Whats worse than the MPAA is the way that the music industry sucks the life and money from artists.

    I believe in a Napster-like system where payment for music goes to the ARTISTS (and then a cut going to the record companies for their service to the artist). What record companies forget is that they are providing a service to the Artist, and not the other way around. The artist should pay them for services rendered... instead it has become a state of the label 'owning' the artist through anal agreements.

    Back to the subject at hand, subscription-ware affecting OEM dealers, you can see that Microsoft wants to control consumers and dictate what we buy. Lets look at the way 'normal' buisness works and then look at the Microsoft way. A normal consumer oriented buisness will manufacture a product and SELL the resulting product to wholesalers or distributors who, in turn, sell their product to consumers. Microsoft does this partially, by signing off all support to the OEM, but retains the rights to all the stuff that leaves their factories. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't help when the OEMs sit back and get fat off a small markup on Windows (and a large one on hardware). Currently there is a downtrend in PC sales - everyone and their mother now has a PC. OEMs aren't buying as many licenses for Windows because they aren't selling as much anymore. But Microsoft is doing an end-run around them by selling upgrades in stores. The consumer upgrades the OS and the company that sold them the PC w/OS gets nothing. Furthermore, Microsoft knows that most consumers rely on Windows so much so that they force silly things like monthly subscriptions. Sure, they'll say you get free bug fixes (which we do now) and new features at no extra cost. Ummm.. at no extra cost from the monthly fee. I don't think Windows is worth even $10/month let alone what they are planning to charge.

    Now read my wording carefully here:

    End users get ripped off, content creators FEEL ripped off, and standing in the middle is the content providers. This is a perfect analogy for the movie and music industry - where artists get ripped off and exploited by mega companies (and the mpaa). In the software world, though, Microsoft is both a creator and provider. They are trying to now dominate the entire industry and dictate to others how to create, distribute, and innovate.

    If your government lets this .NET thing happen, it could spell doom for true innovation. However it could presumeably add to the software liberty movement (I prefer not to be flamed about which one is best) by forcing people to realize that they don't have to pay for software.

    I'm sorry that I wasted your time, please forgive my rambling nature... also, the left shift key of this terminal seems to be broken. I have to use the right one and it just feels wrong and has added to my irritation level. Please accept my apologies if this text seems ranting and raving.

    I would like to also apologize for the above apology (for this one as well).

    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1
  • Consumers are a funny animal - they especially hate subscription based services, especially ones that make no sense to them. I'm a consumer and I'm still wondering why Microsoft is turning the product line that they have into subscription based services. "No Johnny, you can't do your homework because Mommy didn't pay the Microsoft bill" - I think not. Consumers enjoy ownership. Why don't we all have a an internet Jukebox that has every song ever recorded so on demand we can listen to a song? Why wouldn't this fly? Because people like to own things like music, cars, movies, and computers. If they feel that is being threatened they will just go to another Vendor. I'm quiet sure that Apple, RedHat, Linux-Mandrake, and TurboLinux wouldn't mind the business. Hell, I'm really just waiting for Microsoft to do this to more of the product line - it's going to be a great sweeping time for "alternative computing solutions" as people tell Microsoft to stick it.
  • Their computers will come "Free" with one year of Microsoft .NET access!

    Yup. I can just see the bundling agreements now. Dell shall install the .NET bundle on all PCs it sells. Or the site licenses - XYZ Megacorp shall install .NET on all of it's PCs globally and pay pay pay megabux to Microsoft per year for the priveledge.

    And thus Microsoft gets it's dream - defacto ownership of the internet - because .NET requires Microsoft servers.

    Makes me want to puke.

    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • ***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.

  • 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.

  • It's perhaps less obvious in the Ask Slashdot colour scheme, but the Slashdot style is to put the submitter's comments in italics, and the editor's comments in the regular font. It is Cliff who doesn't trust closed source software, not TomCampion (although he probably doesn't).

  • Your exactly right.

    I was thinking about this article earlier today and as a consumer, which I am, am not happy with the idea.

    I believe that Microsoft has it's far-reach because of how easy it was to get ahold of software and install it because it's there and it's easy.. take care of the licensing later.

    This might not be the case for mega-corps, but as a small business owner (about 20 people).. this is definately the case. As a consumer and owner of 3 computers at home, this is definately the case.

    I have installed windows 2000 prof. onto two machines at the office that I am going to definately have to pay a license on because it's there, and it's working.

    I believe that it's right that I pay for software that I use.. no doubt there.. but I believe that I am going to give the Macintosh or Linux/KDE a good look once WinXP comes out and starts demanding subscriptions on all the different software packages etc. I just think it's a pain in the ass....

    Again as someone who pays for 'most everything' I am using.. Geez.. such a powerplay by microsoft. They must be feeling that they are going to loose market-share regardless and might as well get while the getting is good?

    ... I honestly can't believe that someone as inteligent as Bill Gates (Not ethical, but definately not an idiot) would agree to such a thing...

    Hmm.... anyway, rambling now.. ;-)

    Would you like a Python based alternative to PHP/ASP/JSP?
  • Scenario:
    I buy a new computer for a specific purpose in my organization... It's going to be a dedicated [yadda yadda yadda] server with no other functionality needed.

    So, I unbox and assemble it, connect all the cables including the LAN ethernet line and the modem for the one outside connection in my tiny little company. On first-boot the system detects my LAN and tries that to connect to the software server. The LAN fails to connect to the designated target (Duh! It's internal access only.) so the system autodetects, installs, and configures my modem for the task.

    Here's where the fun starts! This box is roughly 12,000 feet from the nearest telco CO. Even with my spiffy new 56K/V90/X.2/V.Fast... modem my maximum connection speed is consistently around 21,600 bps. Assuming a connection can be maintained for the full download it will be about 3 weeks before everything is downloaded and installed!

    After I have waited about three weeks for my now geriatric system to install what somebody else thinks I need, I can go about the task of uninstalling the stuff I don't want, unsubscribe from the automatic updates that won't be needed because none of that stuff is installed anymore anyway, and install the one application I truly need.

    This type of service will never be successful so long as we are still transferring data through a bottleneck.

    Code commentary is like sex.
    If it's good, it's VERY good.

  • One type of software that IMHO should be rentable is games. I believe games will play a major role in the future of selling software (creating new games in pace with gamers is a job that needs lots of resources). But games aren't day-to-day utilities - you play with them until you get tired of them. After that they are paperweight.

    Rentable games would be cool. You could test them for a while and play them as long as you like. And you would only pay for the amount you play. Of course, for those who really like the game there could be a version in a cute box that would work forever, or long rental periods for a low price.

    This model may be becoming true also with GPL games where the server-side space is rented.
  • One nit: health club memberships are actually two contracts, one to get access for N months for X dollars, and a second financing contract to spread those payments out over N months, plus interest. The contracts are completely unrelated, which is why some people have been forced to pay for their membership for years after the health club itself closes.

    The connection with software subscription is that the software may be sold in the same way - pay X dollars for N months of access, and if the software is unusable for any reason (e.g., you had a disk crash and had to reformat/replace it, changing the SDMI(?) keys then you're SOL - you'll have to buy a second, separate subscription).
  • Yeah, I wasn't clear when I made the original post. If you read this post I made [slashdot.org], I explain what I meant a little better.

    Pretty much, I meant that it wouldn't work as well if the tax preparation software had to be paid for on a monthly basis or if they charged the same amount as a program you use everyday. Another way to look at it is if MS made people pay $10 per month for Office (which is used every single day by people in a business) and you only use it once a week at most (for school or home use); would you be more likely to pay for software that costs one person $0.30 per day while it costs you $3 per day to use?

    Subscription services only work well for programs that are guaranteed to be used a certain number of times by a majority of users (tax software and OS's) and not as well for applications like Office and such. I'm not an economist or businessman, so maybe I'm wrong.

  • You are correct about the monthly payment for monthly use programs. I guess I didn't really make my point very precisely.

    What I meant was for payment programs that are designed to be used on a daily basis (like an OS) applied to software used only on a monthly basis. This would probably not be a problem for VERY specific programs like inventory software that is designed for the low use area, where designing a payment programs for its usage isn't pretty simple. It would be nice to pay per use on something that only needs to be done rarely.
    On the flip side, though, would be if they tailored their payment model based on the usage statistics and you only use a daily type program (like Windows) on a monthly basis. That is where the problem occurs with this payment model. Some large offices pay to have their trash taken every day because they need it. Would you pay the same amount to have your trash taken once a day when you only need it once a week? The trash companies have set their pricing around this (I'm guessing), but would the software industry? I'm sure the large companies (Sun, MS, etc) would and already do to a certain extant. But what about the small companies that just don't have the clout to make a business pay more than an individual (or even the technology to check to see how often someone is using their program)?

  • OK, I know everyone has already replied to this, but...

    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.

    If you use open, non-proprietary formats for your data, you have no risk of not being able to read that vital document. If you use closed, proprietary formats, you always run the risk of not being able to read that vital document. Remember documents don't cease to be valuable after three days. Can you guarantee you closed subscription software can read the documents that another vendor's closed subscription software produced three years ago? You can't. The only way to protect your data is always to use only open, non-proprietary data formats.

    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.

    There's no financial difference between this and using Open Source software with a good support contract. Certainly no benefit to the user.

    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*.

    If you go down the open source road, you don't need to pay anything up front. You can start your support contract at the point where you believe the business risks justify it.

  • Well, with subscription, you *can* afford it so what's the problem?

    Actually I expect subscription software to be more expensive. First, there's the infrastructure needed to support subscriptions (bandwidth, databases, employees) the cost of which will have to be recovered. Second, it will likely take advantage of most people's inability to to do math. ("Well, you could pay $200 for this software, but with our new E-Z-Save subscription plan it's only $10 a month! (forever).")

    Don't complain just because it's Microsoft that is doing it.

    I'm complaining because in most cases it's a bad idea, whether it's done by Microsoft, Apple, or RedHat. Subscriptions make sense when there is an ongoing service that the vendor is providing. Cable TV and ISPs fall into this category; software does not. (Upgrades don't count, those are discrete events.) What I see Microsoft doing with .NET is introducing an unnecessary dependency on the network so that they can claim to be offering services (i.e. the 'service' of not revoking your license) that they expect you will be happy to pay for in perpetuity.

  • Yeah, if we're only getting screwed one way, that's bad, but if the whole world is going to hell, well, that's okay.
  • 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)

  • 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 :)

  • I don't think I trust commercial software enough for them to force this idea down our throats just yet.

    This seems like a rather odd comment to make without justification - TomCampion, why don't you trust closed source software? I'll assume you don't mean commercial software (as this would include many Open Source projects, such as Red Hat Linux), but rather closed source, as many Slashdotters fail to undertsand that Open Source != Non commercial.

    This seems liker a broad statement - why don't you trust closed soruce software? Reliability? Privacy concerns? Evil business practices? Many of these aren't unique to the closed software world (eg, Ximian a couple of weeks ago). And while Open Source usualy has a positive effect on reliability, it does not always. As someone who plays with OMS, Xine, and Videolan regularlarly, if you were looking for a reliable DVD player for Linux that works on a PII 400, I'd tell you to wait for LinDVD.

    Open source might help these things but doesn't guarantee them. As a professional Linux writer, I'm forced to use Microsoft Word because

    * Staroffice can't do a word count on a section. I need this to be able to do pages for my editors
    * WordPerfect Office 2000 is incrediably slow in its UI, and not aprticularly stable, because of its Wine basis
    * Applixware lacks word counts completely, and handles MS imports poorly
    * Abiword still isn't finished.
    * Text editors aren't usually visually oriented, and having headings, for example, in a large font makes

    So I use MS Word for the same reason I use Linux, GNOME and KDE, Postfix, Apache, PHP, ProFTPd, etc - its the best tool for the job. Sometimes beiong Open Source makes them the best tools, but not always. I think blanket generalizations about closed source being hard to trust are unfair, but I'm interested in reading your own rationale behind this rather odd statement.
  • Anyway, as long as this pricing doesn't move to games, I'm not too worried about it.

    I never really thought about that before, but now that I do, it sounds like a great idea. I'd like to pay for my own low usage of the game. I don't install every mod, spend all my time LANning, or do anything much than enjoy the game once in single player mode (Generally no time for naythoing else these days).

    I'd love to rent Alice this way, for three months until I'm done with it. If I really like it, I could buy an indefinite license...
  • 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 !

  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I would argue that if your revenue model was subscriptions, they could give away upgrades ande software (certainly much cheaper than now). In an ideal subscription-based world (an oxymoron is some people's mind, I know), this means that the reason for the new release it to make their product better (compete better, so you get more subscriptions, so you make more money), rather to get people to upgrade (give people who have your product a reason to buy more, so you make more money). The first is much closer to what I'm willing to pay money for: good software.

    If your upgrade process is buggy, then you're not helping yourself compete better. Moreover, you don't need to add the kitchen sink to your word processor in order to make it seem like a `new version,' so you can focus more on making what you have work better.

    The question is, of course, how subscriptions would work, which beyond the Everquest-like version of, I haven't seen an example of for consumers (the Everquest problem is that they are charging for the software, a mistake in my opinion...Everquest is a drug, so they might as well give free samples on the playground). Are we talking pay for a month, a la Everquest, or pay for usage, a la long-distance telephones, or your choice, like local telephone service in the States? How much are you talking about in each case?

  • I can see it now. We will start geting CDs in the mail from Microsoft, "New Windows Version 5.0! Amarica's most popular operating system, now with 500 free hours!". It'll be just like AOL all over again.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\
  • stay out of accounting!

    Like most people who don't understand the time value of money, you have been suckered into a serries of payments. Look up the total present value of $20/month for a couple of years some time. $800 and a series of payments is not a good deal.

    What's sinister is that the makers might try to make the computer ONLY work with the subscription service. Think of it as the "Naked PC" reaction taken to it's logical conclusion. Such a box would be a finacial liability, security risk and would end up pushing adverts on you, as long as you want to use it and MS supports it.

    No thanks. I'll stick to my free subscription service, Debian.

    Bill Gates says, "Thanks for your interest in working for MS. As you gave us your best idea, we'll forgoe paying you. We look forward to screwing you again."

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • I just thought of something.. Software Certification. What if you have software (for running.. The power grid of a major area) and its certified for version 1.2.3 of some OS.. they decide you have to upgrade and upgrade you to 1.3.0 and it fails.. What do you do ? you won't be able to back grade it.. You won't have any legal recourse to sue them (you would have waived your rights as part of the DMCA)... This is something people need to think about...
  • This is the opening the Linux community has been waiting for. If the Linux companies can get their act together and build a distro that typical offices can use out of the box, they have a real answer to Microsoft.

    Get behind StarOffice and push.

  • Somehow I don't think MS will be renting out their Windows software for $2 per month. Try $45 per month.

    I don't use windows at all, but I'm telling you, if Apple ever tries to put copy protection deep into their OS, or tries to rent me software, I'll finally just switch all the way to Linux.


  • 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 [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • 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 [gimp.org] on your GNU/Linux, BSD, Darwin, or UNIX box or WinGIMP [gimp.org] 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 [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • 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 [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • 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 [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • And how does a company propose to do this for those people who do not have external access. This is a very REAL thing...there are many Windows machines I have seen that have no connection beyond the firewall. Internal liscense servers? hmmm..just another excuse to move to another product.
  • 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.

    Actually, there's an excellent example of a software package that people are pretty much guaranteed to use only once a year- tax preparation software. It's already built on essentially a subscription basis; every year they update their software to deal with changes in tax law and people pay the fee to get the latest version. It seems that people are willing to pay a periodic fee for software that they use only occasionally, so long as the value of the updates is high enough.

  • 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

    If you really think that constant upgrades are the route to increased productivity, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Every time your software changes, users will have to be trained in how to use the new functions, which is expensive, and even with training they'll lose productivity while they're adapting to the new way of doing things. If you figure an hour of training plus an hour of total lost productivity every month, you're talking about effectively three days of lost time per year per user to deal with constant upgrades. Counting salary, benefits, training costs, etc. that's several hundred dollars in costs per year on top of the software costs. And that's assuming that there's no downtime because slight changes in the way that the system software works prevent your admins from being able to fix problems.

    I can tell you that real businesses don't change their software lightly. My employer, for instance, is sticking with NT4 and Office97 with the computers it's buying today rather than upgrading to the 2000 versions of both despite their potential advantages. Why? Because they know that they'd have to retrain the whole damn company to use the new versions if they switched and it's just not worth it. For most users good enough is good enough, and the endless upgrade cycle is a pure, 100% waste of time.

  • 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.


  • Two points.

    > and especially non-subscription based products where you do not ever possess ANYTHING

    Same holds for software. You don't own your windows or office copy. Or your ORACLE copy. And those become useless as time passes, as ORACLE is useless without technical support, oor windows without upgrade for new hardware.

    > and they can just take away your software at their will [oh, you write web pages bashing MS, fine no more frontpage for you!]

    When you buy ORACLE, you agree to a license that prohibit you to publish benchmarks of ORACLE. It'll, of course, be the same with those subscriptions-based software (to protect the 'corporate image', you'll have to agree to shut-up)

    I am ROTFL with this. It is so... gross. As soon as you start subscribing, the they will send you more and more deadly EULAs (because they'll have your files in hostage), and just start milking more and more money.

    In the mid-80's (wov that starts to be old) I recall all industry pudits predicting that the future cost of a computer would be 20% harware and 80% software (recall, it was before open-source for the masses). Subscription based may get this (of course, hardware will be free. You would just sign for a 2 years subscription). And, as this is a business model that needs to be protected, stay tuned to see laws to prevent you to hack this (Example: no-reverse engeneering, no-possibility to run untrusted code <ie: not-subscription based>, no right to use open-source software)

    All-in-all, I am not worried. Such ugly proposals guarantee that there will be a pool of brillant people to develop free(dom) alternatives. And, after all, if joe random clueless user want to run subscription based software, I don't give a fuck...


  • I'm a technology worker and so far the fastest PC I've worked on is a PII-266. I'd love a faster PC, but I'm only going to get one when the department upgrades to Windows 2000 and it will be necessary. The 233 I've currently got is plenty fast for Explorer 4.01, Office 97, Lotus Notes, and various other software. Why upgrade any of the software. NT is good enough (although annoying at times), Office 97 is good enough and although Notes is horrible, that's nothing to do with the PC.
    Another question is: will companies be prepared to sacrifice network bandwidth for the latest and greatest Office? Can you imagine Citibank ATMs with a message up saying 'Our systems will be unavailable for the next 12 hours while we update Office'? It might catch on with home broadband users, but IT management are fairly conservative so, as with Windows 2000, the take-up may take years as most wait for the technology to be proven.
  • Yeah fair's fair. My family are always asking for help and being embarrassed because they don't know. I don't sneer at them, they know more than me about other stuff, but as you say I would be steering them towards Linux or BeOS should Microsoft make Windows and apps subscription-only.
    In fact if the next Mandrake is up to snuff I'll try and steer them towards that.
  • I agree with your sentiments, but my father, the accountant, and my brother-in-law, the law professor are not morons merely because they don't understand something complex. Are you a moron because you don't understand the taxation system or the legal system? Of course not.
  • Not morons, just nervous about something they don't understand, like I am about law and accountancy, or flying a jumbo jet for that matter. Knowing about computers makes me knowledgeable about computers, not a superior being.
  • "
    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

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Maybe your data is just squirreled away on the vendor's server somewhere. Convenient mechanisms to get the data into their system from open-source applications, but no easy way to get it back out. (Maybe even none at all, you know that whole DMCA circumvention thing.)

    Nah, once in a while - due to crashes of the service providers servers - your data gets blown into oblivion.

    Of course it's only then when you realize paragraph 9) of the service agreement, which states that the vendor is not liable, and never liable, and under no circumstances liable and if you want to sue anyway, you have to do that at the village court of Bogobogo, whose wise men get together at every third full moon.

    The same paragraph of course blabbers something of unlikely event and every reasonable care which will do you real good, when you try to prove that indeed you filed your tax declaration on time, when the two IRS guys come knocking on your door.

  • 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! [ridiculopathy.com]

  • 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
  • There are lots of nice parallels in the non-software world already. Buying is generally preferable to renting because it's cheaper. Rent an apartment for 30 years and you have nothing. Pay a little bit more and you own a house, and have zero housing costs for as long as you choose. Similarly, you can lease a car and have a car payment but have to give the car back, or you can buy a car and keep it. Buying is, in the long term, nearly always cheaper. It seems intuitive that software manufacturers would only push rental or subscription software because it offers them (not you) a financial advantage.

    Subscriptions are only worthwhile if you know you'll want every or at least most edition for some period of time. There are a number of software magazines that I buy on the newsstand only because they often don't have anything new I want to pay money to read. The same will apply to software subscriptions. I bought Quicken last year. I probably won't buy Quicken 2001 this year because the 2000 version still meets my needs. If Q2000 became unusable on 01/01/01 I wouldn't buy Q2001, I'd become a gnucash developer.

    Overall, I don't care if MS or major software houses move to a subscription model. I can say with fair certainty that I'm not going with them.

  • There's no reason to subscribe to software. Let's see:

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

    There is zero productivity increase involved in upgrading so-called productivity software. Are you really trying to tell me that an office drone is substantially more productive using Office 2000 than Office 97? This technology became mature in the early 90s. As far as creating documents, the MS Works 2.0 on my 486 is almost as adequate as MS Office 2010 - there's no reason to upgrade. The difference between recent Offices is negligble. Face it, we're talking about mature technology here. No one pays perpetually for

    This is why Microsoft wants to introduce licensing - so they have a perpetual revenue stream on products that no corporation can justify upgrading. There won't be any upgrades to subscription software because 1)There's no incentive to produce them and 2)There's no incentive to upgrade - word processors and spreadheets are already maxed out.

    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.

    Backward converters always exist. Many major corporations have just skipped Office 2000, which means that people with brains are voluntarily choosing not to be up-to-date. There's so little incentive to upgrade that installing backward-compatiblity utilities would often be a better choice.

    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.

    Nonsense. The contract will be 6-12 months long. Once everyone has subscriptions, the price will shoot through the roof. All you know is that there will be a guaranteed outlay for software every year, you have no idea how much that outlay will have to increase.

    Also, there's no control over costs. If the budget is tight, an upgrade can be delayed x months in the current model or re-assessed in terms of value entirely. There's no way to reduce software costs under subscriptions.

    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*.

    Total cost is higher, see above.

    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.

    You may not be using the P3's, but why would you want to pay for Office xxxx+n when Office xxxx is a perfectly adequate system?

    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.

    Not completely true anymore. Hardware upgrades are made for largely network connectivity anymore. There's also strong evidence that hardware purchases are slowing since the marginal benefits of upgrading are lessening. Companies have started asking, "Is there any benefit to moving to Office xxxx+n? Is there anything we want to do with Office xxxx that we can't?"

    Add some negatives

    -1. Productivity depends on connectivity. What if subscriptions expire during a network outage? No memos can be written while the server's down? This is pretty unlikely, but it's the magnitude of risk involved that matters here. What sane person would make all business operations dependent on a somewhat unreliable resource - Internet connectivity?

    You assume the subscription system itself will work flawlessly. This is a stupid assumption - someone will need to work on that valuable document one morning only to discover that Word insists it hasn't been resubscribed, despite the invoice indicating that the monthly payment of $20,000 was made last week. Unlikely? Yes. Catastrophic? Potentially. Gonna happen to somebody? Definitely.

    -2. No control over upgrade costs and scheduling. In attempt to make so-called "upgrades" seem worthwile, MS will have to redesign products superficially. We'll hear crap like, "we put the Spell-Check function in the File Menu because our million-dollar Human Factors researches tell us that it's more intuitive to put it there." That's all well and fine, but there is a substantial drop-off in immediate productivity, with a very low possiblity of any substantial increase in long-term productivity. And everyone will be told when to upgrade, they won't be able to select an optimal time to migrate anymore. Do you really think a tax law firm wants to upgrade their software in April? They'd most likely prefer September or some other time of year. But they won't have that choice in a subscription system.

    -3. TOC will be higher. Assuming I realize that office software undergoes minor incremental changes between versions I'll only purchase every second or third version, at most. The TOC is most likely lowered more by avoiding worthless uprgrades than moving to a subscription model. And if you have to deal with a monopoly, (likely for the forseable future) you're gonna see continous price increases to justify ever-decreasing improvements.
  • It is not in Microsoft's interest to separate hardware from software sales. Despite the wide availability of Linux, not paying for Windows and other Microsoft products on computers from Compaq, Gateway, and probably others is very difficult. Why would Microsoft want to give up the competitive advantage of per-unit licensing and bundling? If they can charge not just for every Windows machine but every Linux machine, why shouldn't they?

    Probably, you'll get the worst of both worlds: you buy the PC with a one-year subscription, to be activated when you first plug in the machine. You won't be able to get the PCs without those pre-paid subscriptions.

    Besides, the PC and Windows platforms are so messy that things have to be preinstalled; the "put in CD and turn on" isn't just undesirable from a business point of view for Microsoft and PC vendors, it is technically hard.

    If hardware vendors went back to selling plain hardware without any software, that would be great for Linux and Windows-alternatives. It's not going to happen.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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!
  • 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.


  • 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.

  • One of the biggest things holding back open source software in the desktop market is the fact that a lot of people already own the software that they want to use.

    If people were suddenly required to pay for software every year, there would be a greater incentive to switch to alternative solutions.

  • by primebase ( 9535 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:40AM (#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?
  • by macpeep ( 36699 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @07:00AM (#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.
  • by ScottBrady ( 60469 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @07:06AM (#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.

  • by k_187 ( 61692 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:33AM (#420638) Journal
    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 [arstechnica.com]

    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.
  • by tenzig_112 ( 213387 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:54AM (#420639) Homepage
    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 [ridiculopathy.com]

  • by Yoshi Have Big Tail ( 312184 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:18AM (#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.
  • by Psiren ( 6145 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:18AM (#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.
  • by boarder ( 41071 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:25AM (#420642) Homepage
    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.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:14AM (#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.
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:32AM (#420644) Homepage Journal
    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 [microsoft.com] 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 [microsoft.com] instead of assuming the worst of those in Redmond. As for Dell, they've already formed an ASP [aspstreet.com] known as DellHost [dellhost.com], 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
  • by lmsig ( 110148 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:42AM (#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.
  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @09:15AM (#420646) Journal
    Good points, all of them. That said, nearly everyone in our computer consulting company is still using P-133 to P-233MMX machines. (except for managers, of course--fuck!)

    There are some other points though.

    1) The home user will be screwed by subscriptionware. This is NOT what I want on my home PC.

    2) Code bloat happens, and will continue to happen. With a forced software upgrade path, the software and hardware manufacturers can get together to substantially ramp up the overall cost of hardware upgrades required for the new software.

    3) Schools and other charities will end up getting more hardware, but be unable to run anything on it! If a school gets a P-166 and runs Office95 on it, it's still a productive machine. If in a few years they get a P4-1800, because it can't run _any_ available version of office, it's a paperweight.

    Although there are some real benefits to the subscription model, we have to keep in mind that it is ultimately and fundamentally a way for the software companies to make _more_ money. They wouldn't do it if it weren't.

  • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:20AM (#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).

  • 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 ;-)
  • by big.ears ( 136789 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @08:29AM (#420649) Homepage
    They will make you an offer just like the free year of AOL/MSN. When you purchase a computer today, you get a free year of Microsoft Office. (Who wouldn't like a free year of microsoft office?) This will bring the initial price of the system down, making the $1000 pc an $800 pc. Then, a year down the road, once all of your documents are in Word, the price of changing to a fixed-price or Free word processor is not worth the inconvenience.

    And don't expect them to allow you to purchase JUST microsoft Word. The least you will be able to get will be a Word/Excel/Outlook/Explorer package (You heard it here...they won't be giving explorer away anymore, but maybe they will pretend that you get it "Free" with your rental of Office.) For a slightly larger price, you might be able to add powerpoint/access/picture editor etc. By requiring the bundling, enough copies of their products will exist out there that nobody in their right minds would choose to use anything else. And they can charge more, because you are getting 3-5 pieces of software for one low price.

    For example: If the rental price was $5/month/application, many home users would buy Word, maybe get outlook, and probably move to Netscape. Net sales/month: $10 if they are lucky.
    But, if the rental price were $20/month for a package of four applications, and this is the least you can get, more than half of those same people who only got Word and Outlook would probably go for it. Net sales/month: $15-$20/month easily.

    If the microsoft marketing department is looking to hire, I'm available.

  • by j-jahnke ( 187900 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @08:26AM (#420650)
    I think for the most part we have been looking at this problem all wrong. While I agree that renting software shifts the balance of power from the consumer to the producer of software, it also forces the producer of the software to sell you the software each month.

    This opens up an opportunity for people to compete with the large hemonogy that is Microsoft. Think about it, if MS Word is installed on my machine I am stuck with it out of sheer laziness until something catastrophic happens to my machine and I need to upgrade and reinstall.

    I paid once and I can forget about the software forever, until something changes. BUT if I rent software each month as I pay my bill and I will wonder, am I using this software? Does it fit my needs, can I skip it this week? It becomes something I do quite often, and if something else comes along that suits my needs better I will go with it.

    I am sure that Microsoft will find pricing and license lengths that will make it inconvenient to leave the fold, but if the opensource community is looking for an in, software licensing is the way. People don't buy MS software becuase it is better, they buy it becuase they can get "professional" support.

    The idea behind free software has always been that the code is free, the support isn't. If anything Microsoft is validating half of the open source philosophy. I see a great opportunity for companies to begin to compete with MS now. Because people will NOT buy a copy of MS Word and then forget it, they will be forced to think about and pay for it, and this means that other companies can compete by providing a quality product with good support for comperable prices.
  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @09:21AM (#420651) Homepage
    gee, all your files aren't readable by your friends anymore?

    You seem to be making the assumption that you will even have files.

    Maybe your data is just squirreled away on the vendor's server somewhere. Convenient mechanisms to get the data into their system from open-source applications, but no easy way to get it back out. (Maybe even none at all, you know that whole DMCA circumvention thing.)

    Who said you would have files and get to keep your data that belongs to the vendor? :-)

    Those who can, do. Those who can't, get their MCSE.
  • by The Optimizer ( 14168 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @07:27AM (#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.

  • by verbatim ( 18390 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @07:33AM (#420653) Homepage
    I think it all comes down to the end consumer wanting at least the feeling of owning something. I mean, you fork over upwards of $3,000 for a new PC and what do you get? Some hardware that won't do jack shit without software. You own the hardware (physically, so you can sell it, trade it, give it away, etc, but aren't supposed to reverse engineer it and clone it - but you can) but you do not own the software. Somehow they managed to rip the pages out of the book...

    Let me explain why a computer is very much like a book. When you buy a book, you own that copy. You can, if you choose, give it to someone as a gift, sell it at a garage sale (eg. private non-commercial sale), rip it to shreds, and/or read it. You can do any of these things in any order you choose (eg. read it and then rip it up) and the author/publisher has very little to say about it. However, you have no rights in terms of the contents of the book - thats copyrighted, and you do not own it. Computers, otoh, you own the hardware and can do what you please with it. Like a book without pages, however, the computer is pretty much useless without software. Using the book analogy, and as an honest computer owner, you could do what you like so long as you do not duplicate the software without permission (just like the book, and this is very fair).

    Microsoft will have you believe that the software is more important than the hardware and thus justifies a subscription service. They are partially correct in that you need an operating system to do anything other than look at the blinking lights and listening to the whirring fans of the hardware. I wouldn't mind it if it were an option; perhaps make WindowsXPUpdate a subscription service (although, one wonders why the customer has to pay MS for fixes to their buggy software)...

    I guess what people are really upset about is the fact that Microsoft wants its customers to pay for the bugs in Windows. Yes, Windows is not perfect but it is widely used. Yes, Windows ME did include SOME new features not available in Windows 98. It is, however, debatable if these _new_features_ were worth the upgrade cost - you decide that when and if you decide to purchase the upgrade. Some people are still on 95, because it does what they need it to do, and Microsoft is fuming about this. They want you to constantly update and feed their R&D engine so they may engrain themselves deeper into our computers and our pocketbooks. Now Microsoft sees a chance to force consumers to pay and pay and pay for the rest of eternity... Hrmm... I guess the so-called "Microsoft tax" (per computer) is fast becomming a monthly tax. Geez.

    I think the thing to do is for every Windows user to record each time Windows crashes. At the end of each month, send a bill to Redmond. Lets see who laughs when consumers start holding them responsable for the crap they want us to pay for.
    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1
  • by Afterimage ( 44695 ) <nwalls.ismedia@org> on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:49AM (#420654) Homepage
    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.

  • by NTSwerver ( 92128 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:18AM (#420655) Journal
    Today Dell ships a copy of Office 2000 that will run forever

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

  • by ichimunki ( 194887 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @07:49AM (#420656)
    They are listening, and here's what they heard:

    1. Customers would rather pay a smaller monthly amount than a single purchase price. Your subscription fees will likely be larger than the total cost of the same package divided by the number of months the average user keeps the software before buying the next version. We're going to have a startup fee, too. [ $20/month + $20 setup ]. It will sound cheaper so people will buy it. Just like they lease cars and apartments.

    2. Customers want support. Well, we may as well take a note from those Free software fanatics and sell a support subscription, which must be maintained over the life of the software subscription, whether it's used or not. [ $5/month ]

    3. Rollback upgrades that don't work? Yes, we admit it. Our software does not work. NOT.

    4. Customers want a privacy policy. Yeah. Okay. We keep secrets well. Besides they really think they're going to file lawsuits when we have a human error that lets some private data slip?

    5. Subscribers want CDS. Here. [$5/month or $50 one time fee]

    6. Transfer licenses between computers. No. You'll be bringing your old computer in for a trade. A service tech (i.e. "high school senior") will perform the transfer of old data to new system. We keep and wipe your old computer. [ $100 rebate for trade-in computer, $100 for service fee, net $0 ]

    7. Off a discount for multiple PC households. This is a good point, a lot of families are getting a second PC. Tell you what. We'll forego the setup fee on your second computer. Same monthly subscription cost [$20/month].
  • 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.

    You think as a technology worker...of course you will have a P-IX or an AMD-Superlon in 5 years. Not everyone will, believe me.
    For instance our family computer (home usage) is a Pentium Pro 200 running NT4 that is 5 years old and we happily surf, wordprocess and 'spreadsheet 'on it. Damnit, with a Voodoo2 it even plays Halflife and Unreal very well at 800x600. I only did three major upgrades over those 5 years: a Voodoo2, more RAM and an ISDN adapter.

    Now you may argue that I'm a computer geek that takes pride in runnnig older systems in todays usage...(which is absolutely true, I munched up a P166 for my sis so that she could do her dactlyography exercises). But let's go to my professional field: one of my clients is a government institution. Their old IT system (until 1999) was based on a Novell Server with plain XT's...as it did since 1987! For Y2K they got shiny new P-II-350's and a funky little server. Remember : Government institution + I did my job right: they *will* use these babies in 5 years. Heck they will use them in 10 years if they can!

    Everything depends so much on your needs. And if you choose a computer based on your current needs plus a certain margin (for normal users power +25%, for power users +50%, for graphic users +100% or more) you can keep your computer for a great amount of time.

    Oh, something I want to vent too: you talk about TCO for businesses. Now, your arguments may stand, but it should not be mandatory over the internet (like .NET?) Why? A technical reason would be low-bandwith connections but I see another issue: what about financial institutions? They don't want a connection to the internet, they don't want their documents on internet servers. With the security history of Microsoft, I don't think financial institution will trust this kind of option. For normal businesses (who don't really have critical data...hmmm, sounds weird to me) it could be a cost-saving approach, but for businesses where data == hard money forget it: they prefer to have full control and everything inhouse on servers with triple backup tape.

  • by tigrrl ( 219188 ) on Monday February 19, 2001 @06:32AM (#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.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.