• Novus

The rise of subscription software


Collection of adobe products on a Macbook air screen.

It seems that, these days, any software you want to use requires a subscription. Gone are the days of buying a one-off licence for a piece of software and not having to worry about it. Now, software requires a monthly or yearly subscription. I believe that this is largely a positive thing—but not for businesses, and here’s why.


To start with, a lot of software, you won’t use more than once. There are times when you need specific software for a specific reason, but after this, you’ll probably find little to no use for it. If you pay monthly, you can use software for one project only, saving you hundreds of pounds on a full licence. You also get more for your money. Previously, you might spend a large amount on a licence for such as Adobe Photoshop, which would be the only thing you received. Now, you can subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud and get Photoshop, as well as Premier Pro, After Effects, and many other strands of Adobe software.


Collection of Microsoft Programs on a phone screen

Microsoft Office takes a similar approach to Adobe. As a home user, you’ll probably pay for Office and get a range of different applications; the difference is, now, you’ll pay yearly or monthly. This is no different with business accounts. You can scale the number of licences to suit your business, meaning you only pay for what your company needs. This ultimately leads to cost savings.


Scalability is much easier when subscribing, versus outright purchasing. As your business grows, you can alter which tier of subscription you have, in order to meet the demands of your team. This could be upgrading to more advanced software or because you have more devices that require access to the programs.


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Software will also automatically update when you pay a subscription. This can be both positive and negative. Updates occur much more frequently than they did previously, and this represents a much more agile way to release new software. On one hand, you consistently have the latest version, meaning you have the peace of mind that your program has the latest optimisation and/or any bugs fixed. This sounds great, but sometimes, when programs update, your settings and preferences can change. This can be really frustrating if you have a piece of software laid out so you can be more productive, or, if you have add-ons installed, these may be subsequently reset or removed altogether.


Businesses will end up paying more in the long run. There are anomalies to this, but in general, the upfront cost will be small but the constant flow of money leaving your account in subscriptions will soon add up. The software company also has more control over you using their software. Whereas before, when buying a licence, you would still have that software if you fell out with its provider, for example; with subscriptions, should you have a disagreement with the provider, they could cancel your subscription and remove your license, and thus, your ability to use the software.


It does seem that, soon, you won’t have any option but to subscribe to use software. It’s a better business model for software creators, so this seems inevitable. It does seem a little unfair to not give users the option to buy a perpetual licence, but because subscription models are profitable for software developers, there’s no onus for them to veer from this.