When purchasing new computer software, consumers have a few choices today they did not have before. It used to be that unless you had $99 to $999 to shell out for the latest software you were out of luck. People would go out and upgrade their hardware and operating systems just to get their computer up to par to run one program. Software upgrades, and operating system upgrades, have pushed people for the last thirty years.
Well now you can rent your favorite software for a fee. You always have the latest version, you get a license to run the software on more than one computer, and you don’t have to go out and update your computer. Your money actually goes farther than it would otherwise.
But are software rentals ready for prime time? Most people still have slow Internet connections in this day and age. Do the websites work as well on tablets and smartphones (if at all) as they do on computers. Can anyone with a $199 laptop join the fun, and, the million dollar question, do any of these programs work on Linux?
The answer to that last question is no, which probably doesn’t bother hard core Linux users much because $99, which is cheap for Windows and Mac software, is a small fortune in the Linux world. Most tools are free, and in a lot of cases, the same people that use the tools programmed the tools (or can contribute their ideas to the tool they’re using, if they feel so inclined).
Adobe Creative Cloud is a new platform that allows you to rent versions of Publisher, Illustrator, etc. and use them in the cloud. It also comes with 20 GB of storage. For $19.99 a month you can get a full version of one program, and limited versions of other software. For $49.99 a month you get full versions of everything Adobe has to offer, but it requires an annual commitment.
For $74.99 a month you get full access to everything and the kitchen sink and you can cancel at any time. It seems expensive, but it might not be that bad of a deal. Let’s say you want Illustrator 2013, and you don’t have the dough to buy it, or need multiple licenses to run it on more than one computer. It would be cheaper to pay $74.99, finish your project, and then drop the license and walk away from it all. The full version of Illustrator is $599, and if you’re not going to use the software much, you could probably get buy paying $19.99 a month for that one program. Another $10, $29.99 a month, and you can cancel at any time.
Office 365 is another product that has people questioning whether or not it is worth it to rent their favorite software. Microsoft is providing 20 GB of storage through SkyDrive to consumers; SkyDrive is already a key component in Windows 8 and consumers will be able to use this extra storage for anything, not just Microsoft Office files. The Home Premium version of Office 365 is available for $99.99 a year, or $9.99 a month, and includes access to seven different applications, including OneNote and Outlook.
A license to run Office 2013 on one computer is $399.99. Running Office 2013 on five different computers would run close to $2,000. Being able to log into Office 365 on any computer through your Hotmail or Outlook.com email address is tempting. Ten dollars a month is not a lot to ask.
Software rentals make a lot of sense for productivity, graphic design, computer aided drafting, music composition, and other software that typically sells for anywhere from $199 to $999 or more. Software that costs less than $199, if any vendors ever make software in this price range available for rental to consumers, would not be worth a monthly investment. The cloud has made it possible for consumers to purchase software at an almost zero distribution cost to corporations. Whether or not consumers will readily adapt this new method of acquiring software remains to be seen.