Will We Soon Have to Rent Computer Software?

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Adobe's Photoshop software now requires a monthly rental subscription, rather than a flat fee to purchase. Microsoft Office also has a subscription option. What's next?

When you purchase a DVD or a paperback book, there’s little question you own it.

It’s a physical thing in your home. You can hold it in your hands. Definitely yours.

But with digital, the ownership question gets a little murkier. E-books and iTunes singles are treated more like long-term, licensed rentals. It seems like some computer programs are moving in that direction too.

Microsoft, for instance, now wants you to pay $100 a year for its Office suite of programs. You still have the option for buying it for $140, which is less expensive in the long run.

Adobe has gone a step further: It now requires users of Photoshop to pay $30 a month or $240 a year for the latest version. For the whole suite of design software, it’s $600 a year. For people who didn’t use many of its programs or didn’t upgrade versions often, this is a steep price increase. The New York Times did the math:

If you use only one or two programs, you’ll pay much more by renting — especially if you were in the habit of upgrading only every other year, for example. Here’s the math: Photoshop CC alone will cost $240 a year. In the old days, buying the annual upgrade cost $200, and you didn’t have to upgrade every year. In three years, you might have spent $200 or $400; now you’ll pay $720.

Even though costs are unavoidably multiplying for such people, maybe it’s not all downside. New features will come as they’re developed, rather than in annual updates, and there are other perks that didn’t come with the purchased version.

The scary part, though, is that Photoshop is an industry standard for design professionals. Although there are free or cheaper alternatives, its tools and file formats are widely used. By requiring a subscription, “the 800-pound gorilla of the creative world has become the 1,600-pound gorilla,” the Times says.

If other major companies decided you had to pay regularly to use their software, would you? Is it fair to require people to pay continuously to acquire new features, or should we be allowed to stop paying if we like what we have? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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