[chart: Digital Inspiration]
Adobe’s taking a pretty big step here, but a smart one. In order to fit in better with other cloud- and subscription-based services, they’re giving their Creative Suite (Photoshop, Premiere, Flash, etc.) an alternative pricing model: subscribe for a month or a year, but never buy. They also apparently lengthened their release schedule to 24 months, though I can’t find a source for that — which makes constant rental a slightly worse deal (over two years) than just buying the software.
Having a flexible pay structure is a good thing all around. The thousand dollar cost for After Effects is prohibitive even for some professionals, when budgets are tight. Piracy is a serious issue, of course, but most would rather do their business on the up-and-up, and forking out $50-75 for a month-long license fits easily within existing schedules and budgets. Facilitating people paying for your software on their own terms is a recipe for sales, plain and simple.
Do I wish I had After Effects or Photoshop every once in a while, when I need to do some heavy work? Sure. But 90% of the time, I can get away with using Paint.net or the built-in tools in Premiere Express. The pricing scheme seems to show a significant break to “yearly subscriptions,” but displaying it as a monthly cost (as Adobe does, not the chart above) is kind of disingenuous. The monthly cost for Photoshop is $49. If you buy 12 months at once, it’s $420 — $35 per month. Unfortunately rental payments don’t go towards a purchase, but that would be a little bit too good of a deal.
Some will say “this is idiotic, renting software is absurd.” And indeed, it’s not the best choice for everyone. Are you a professional web designer, editor, effects artist, or some such? You probably should just buy it, especially if you plan to buy the next version (or upgrade) as well, since often there’s a discount. But not everyone is in your situation, and there’s plenty of precedent for subscription- and use-based payment systems for software tools. Cloud music services, Flickr (to Mike’s despair), that sort of thing. Remember, the standard method of paying for software is based on selling boxes in stores. We can do better.