Nerd Day – Let’s Talk Subscriptions

Today is day two of my new gig as a design consultant / job seeker.  Mind you I have not consulted on anything yet.  I’m working on getting things organized and working on some promotional items this week. I applied to another position today so we’ll see how that goes.

I really like the new iMac computer, but there are aspects of the experience that are maddening.  I’ve been battling setting up my email for almost a day now.  Thankfully all my non-email files are migrated over to the new machine, but getting the various email accounts to fire on all cylinders has been a challenge.  If you’re into this sort of thing, here’s kind of where I’m at.  The stock Mail software that came with the iMac works okay, but it oscillates functioning between my home and our fine are business email accounts….sometimes one works, none work or they all do.  So I thought the answer would be to abandon Mail and go with Microsoft Outlook.  At work I used Outlook on my Mac and it was fine, so why not here.  I downloaded the Microsoft Office Suite to my Mac and tried to set up my three email accounts on it.  Well I never successfully got the fine art accounts to work…I could send but not receive (or vice versa, I forget).  At this point I’m back to using Mail, since 2 of the 3 accounts work (for now) on there.  I’ve got a friend who can look at the situation for me and maybe resolve it.

One major trend I’m seeing right now (or maybe I’m late…”major” means my backwoods self finally noticed ) is subscription based software licensing.  In the old days you bought the software and loaded it with a disk onto your computer.  Now you can save a few bucks by essentially “renting” the software.  This is perfect for me because I don’t know what my future holds, but for me to work my magic from home I need some pretty heavy-duty software that costs a lot. The aforementioned Microsoft Office software is available a few ways.  Normally it runs about $170 for a suite of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint   For $70 more you can add Outlook (email).  At that price you get to download the software onto one computer.  The other option is to rent the Office software for $10 a month and get all those programs, and some more for up to 5 computers.  At first blush this sounded good to me so I signed up for a 1 month free trial today.  But now I can’t get Outlook to process the art business email mailboxes so….   Now I’m thinking maybe scuttle the MS Office rental and just buy the base software for $170.  Word, Excel and PowerPoint are the only three programs I need, especially if Outlook won’t process my art business emails properly (by the way the reason may be operator error…I am no computer expert, by any stretch of the imagination).   And I don’t need the suite on 5 computers.  While we actually have six computers, I don’t want to mess with the ones that are working now by switching out the Office suite.  I love the new versions of the software, but I’ll really only use it on the iMac.  If I purchase the software, I’m not too concerned about updating it anytime soon.  For $170 there isn’t much risk here, I’ll likely buy.

From a design perspective I use Adobe creative products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and In-Design as well as Acrobat Pro.  Adobe offers a rental program as well.  If I buy it costs $1,200 for the aforementioned products only.  To rent it’s just $60 a month, with a one year contract.  Plus the subscription gets me ALL of Adobe’s creative products and instant updates to the software. As an aside, that’s the nice thing about subscriptions is that the subscriber always has the latest version of the software.  I can use the product on multiple computers but only one user at a time.  In this case I’m going to sign up for the subscription.  It will be easier for me to pony up $60 a month (I spend more on beer and pistachios currently) than it will be to jack up my credit card another $1,200.  With access to all of the web design tools also, who knows maybe I’ll pick some of them up and teach myself some web design tidbits.  It couldn’t hurt.

Unintentionally this leads me to my soap box.  I really like the idea of this subscription based software business model.  I read a good article today that said from their perspective the software companies like it because it flattens out their earnings reports.  No more spikes in sales when new product is updated and released.  Anyone can join at any time, no more waiting for the next release.  No more troughs in revenue between releases.  They also save on making discs and packaging; actually I think they do that regardless because most software is just downloaded these days with higher speed internet connections everywhere.  It also broadens the number of customers the product appeals to because the cost of entry is so much less, at least the short-term cost.  Take me for example, sure I can buy an Adobe suite at $1,200 but boy it’s a hell of a lot easier paying just $60 a month.  I also gain access to all kinds of other Adobe products.  Next thing you know I’m hooked, and my growing business is hooked and we’re buying up, or renting software, in between picking out drapes for the new office.  A little far-fetched but you get the idea.  It’s innovative thinking and an example of a company challenging traditional business models to stay viable in the marketplace.

Beyond that what if more companies migrated to a subscription model.  Car companies already do it with their leasing options.  Why not other durable consumer goods.  I believe this was a hallmark of Cradle to Cradle thinking (one of the best books of all time by the way).  Design products to live eternally so consumers can have their cake and eat it too.

I love buying stuff.  I love selling stuff.  I love just walking through a good old brick and mortar store or perusing online shops.  But then there’s the guilt of all this crap in our house when in reality there are just a handful of durable goods we need.  The marketplace would be better off if consumers demanded new business models and embraced subscription based goods.

A good example is any computer.  They’re obsolete in as little as 3 years, so they should design them for disassembly and upgrading.  Personally I don’t need to own a computer other than making sure my information is secure.  If I could trade out a part, or components then the case can last me for a decade for all I care.  Same goes for my television.  Wouldn’t it be cool if Sony sent me a new television every other year and I sent the old one back in the box the new one came in?  Then Sony could harvest all the bits and reuse them, re-mold them, do whatever the hell they want with them.  And they could control their supply chain more effectively….no longer having to dig up mountains or drilling wells for raw materials.  They’d have a steady predictable stream of material from me…you…your neighbor, friends…everyone.

This type of thinking isn’t new by any means but I think its time has come.  And it’s not meant for everything.  I like my Jeep, I need to own my Jeep.  Our bee hive, yeah we need to own that (I’ll rent it out to you though).  Washer and dryer though…we could work something out, especially as efficiency improves.

I didn’t really plan on talking about this tonight but did anyway.  Think about it and remember as a consumer you have more power than anyone to decide what kind of world we live in and our children grow up in.  Being a consumer is not a sin or bad thing, but there are smarter ways we can buy, and brands can be brought to change their business models if the market insists.  Insist with you penny or dollar that goods and services are designed, built, distributed and disposed up in a responsible nurturing manner.

I’ll leave you with today’s pics.

My home office feel cold so this is my favorite window sill to warm myself up on around lunch time or break time.  The south facing passive solar windows allow a ton of heat in during the winter.

My home office feels cold so this is my favorite window sill to warm myself up on around lunch time or break time. The south facing passive solar windows allow a ton of heat in during the winter.

View from my window sill while I wait for the cafeteria worker (my wife) to finish my lunch at my new job.

View from my window sill while I wait for the cafeteria worker (my wife) to finish my lunch at my new job.

The noon sun comes in about six feet (2 meters) into the kitchen.  The Silestone soaks up the heat where it's hit by sunlight.  The light wood floor relects the light upward eliminating the need for lights during much of the day.

The noon sun comes in about six feet (2 meters) into the kitchen. The Silestone soaks up the heat where it’s hit by sunlight. The light wood floor reflects the light upward eliminating the need for lights during much of the day.

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