Tell Tale Tech: Such Is Software


(Lucy Sutton/Observer Archives)


Microsoft Office. Adobe Creative Cloud. Google Play Music. Netflix. Amazon Prime. That’s pretty much everything I do on a computer on a daily basis. And nearly all of them are moving to subscription based models.

Subscription software is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of paying a one-time fee to be able to use software, you will be charged on a monthly basis. You will get all the updates for the software, but only as long as you keep paying for it. It’s like leasing a car, with monthly payments and then maintenance services every once in the while. But at least with a car there’s an end date. And an option for purchase for a reduced rate. Not so with subscription software.

So, why the change? It hasn’t always been this way. Simply put, this is more profitable for corporations and easier for them to maintain. Instead of having to try and sell each new software version to its consumer base, it just becomes another part of the update process. And from their standpoint, a consistent revenue stream has very few downsides.

I understand their motivations, but I still like actually owning my software. If I purchase something, I expect to keep it. In case it wasn’t clear, I’m personally not too thrilled with this trend. And while I’m going to hold out as long as I possibly can, there’s really no way to fight the entire software industry. At this point anyways. In the meantime, there are definitely ways to skirt around some of these traps.

For example, as students, we should all take advantage of as many subscription deals as we can. Many companies are willing to offer reduced rates at the beginning, knowing that we will likely continue to pay for that software for the rest of our lives. I know that’s kind of grim outlook, but that is the reality and it still beats paying full price. With that in mind, Microsoft Office can be had for $60 for the four years that you are enrolled in a university. A full Amazon Prime membership can be found for half price if you sign up as a student as well.

Also, as you know, many subscription services are based around the distribution of content, whether that be through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Spotify. It might then be worthwhile to look for “free” content. We all know it exists, and more importantly where to find it. Additionally, streaming and mirroring services are getting more and more accessible, and aren’t nearly as riddled with malware anymore. Make sure to cover your tracks though, as Internet service providers will do as much as they can to prevent this kind of traffic.

And if you are truly desperate to save your hard earned money, there is always freeware online. You could use Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. Gimp instead of Photoshop. Inkjet in place of Illustrator. There are options out there, but for the most part they just aren’t as good as the software they try to emulate.

In that light, some software is unavoidable. Talk of making entire OS’s, as vital as Windows, subscription based is one such case. It is a scary concept especially as a student, when disposable funds are a distant fantasy.

And in that case, it boils down to a couple all important questions. Do I pay for food this month?  Or do I pay to log in to my computer? Maybe I’m being dramatic though. After all, I’m sure my laptop’s battery is quite tasty.