$43,262 and all I got was a lousy t-shirt

How many of you are as frustrated with software licensing costs as I am? I actually had one publisher ask me for our tax return. When I asked why, I was stunned with the answer. “Our pricing is based on how much you can afford to pay. We have found most companies fudge on their license counts.” What? Really? Great way to start a relationship, right? I had a conversation with another publisher last week regarding their “optional” enhancement fee. Turns out it is only optional if we never add another seat. Oh, we can continue to use all the seats we have, but to buy a new seat we have to be current on the enhancement fee for all the other seats.

Think about this for a moment. Let’s suppose you go to buy a car. After spending countless hours pouring over specs, visiting showrooms, taking test drives, you’ve selected the perfect make and model for you. You whip out your wallet and plunk down your hard-earned cash, but before you drive away in your brand new ride there a just a few forms to sign. The first states, you don’t really own the car, you just have a license to use the car. Sounds like a lease, right? Wrong, there is no residual value to the car at the end of the lease, you can drive it forever, but of course at some point it will become obsolete and cease to run.

The next form for your perusal is a maintenance agreement. Yes, that’s right, there is no warranty, the car is not actually guaranteed to run and when it breaks (and it will break) you have to have a maintenance agreement for them to fix your car. You also have to pay this maintenace fee to even contact the service department. Of course, its extra if you actually want to SEE the service department, because the first level of support is in, well, some other country.

The final form in the pile is the Automobile Evolution Fee (AEF). This fee can be as high as 25% of the price of the car. What is the Automobile Evolution Fee? This is the Fee you pay so that when the manufacturer adds a new feature to the car, you can install it, whether you actually need the new feature is, well, irrelevant. The other great part of the AEF, is when the manufacturer releases a new model of the car you get the new model “free”. Of course, you have already paid for it through the AEF, and on top of that you get to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to bring the new car home, learn how to use it, and reset all those comfort settings you were used to in the old car. Not to mention, the car no longer fits in your garage, so you have to remodel it as well. The great part about the AEF, is that it is optional, unless you want to drive the car to a different state, of course, because that is a different license and to add a license feature you have to be current on the AEF for all the other states you have purchased.

Ok, all this sounds ludicrous, right? You would never stand for that at the local dealership, right? Yet, this is what the software companies expect us to do every time we buy a piece of software. I, for one, am looking for alternatives, such as open source, SaaS models, or companies that will stand behind their products.

I would love your thoughts on the approaches you are taking to combat the ever increasing cost of software and software maintenance.

Comments

  1. Tim Holtz says

    Outstanding article, Jeff! Love the analogy. I usually try to punch holes in comparisons between digital good and physical goods, but I actually think you’ve nailed this one. By the way, we are three years into our relationship with ServiceNow (service-now.com) and cannot be more pleased. I’d love to give you a more recent demo of what we’ve done with it since the last demo I gave you way back when 🙂 See you soon! -Tim

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