Features Subscriptioned into Services Are Bad For You

Software publishers have been struggling with a problem for many years now.  We all know about it, and hate to talk about it. It is when the previous or current version of your product becomes the worst competitor for the next version you want to release. What you have right now (or even in a previous version) fulfills all the basic needs of your customers; your customers are so satisfied that they feel little compunction to upgrade.  Combine this with a growing domination in your market space, and suddenly you find yourself with far more upgrade customers than new customers, and a lot of those upgrade customers may want to skip an upgrade or two.

Some companies bloat out their products with unnecessary new features, gimmicks and built in services. They need to convince you that its worth upgrading.

Other companies restructure what features appear in each level of their product. They want to get customers that can afford to pay more to actually pay more.

And then there are others that want to transform their software into a combination of services, content subscriptions and tweaks, so its possible to effectively keep charging customers for the same features again and again. They will tell you how this new system adds significant value. It probably does add value. It just isn’t essential to what you need to get done. Its like going to an all-you-can-eat steak restaurant that charges you in 10 minute increments, only to discover you actually only get one tiny steak but a bottomless supply of french fries and ketchup.

Software companies concerns are certainly legitimate. Any release has its costs, and the cost of software engineering without off-shoring in incredibly expensive. There’s a reason why so many game studios go down before they actually reach their release – they are spending it all on very high salaries, not the electric bill.

What many software companies have failed to do is find a way to provide enough of something that customers want to ensure as many as possible upgrade. The answer for the likes of Adobe and Microsoft (and you can be sure others are going this way) to answering the question is to eliminate the conditions of  the question and keep you paying again and again for the same thing, and making the conditions of your use subject to regular updates to your End User License Agreement. Is this really the answer for you?

How Subscription Based Software is Bad for Customers

Software companies are working hard to convince you that a pure subscription model is good for you.  Sometimes it actually is. But mostly its not, because its implemented in ways that is bad for customers and their businesses. Nowhere is this more apparent than the direction of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Lets start with the painful lesson one user of Creative Suite 6 learned that caused him to invalidate his license and get locked into the subscription model. Continue reading How Subscription Based Software is Bad for Customers

Unheard Voices in Ukraine

As many world powers weigh in mostly against the actions Russia (with a mostly silent and non-committal China trying to remain out of the conflict), inevitably the conflict gets reframed to make it easier to understand.  I think that is a disservice to the people of Ukraine.

I have long relations with ethnic Ukrainians and resident Russians in Ukraine (those who also carry a Russian passport), and first and foremost – among all of them – there is an agreement that a Ukraine that is independent of both undue European and Russian influences is the best thing for all Ukrainians.  That may be a dream that died with the fires of the EuroMaidan fueled coup. Continue reading Unheard Voices in Ukraine

Crimea Seizure, Putin and EuroMaidan

When the Soviet Union came to an end, so did a vast cooperative network of military bases. Ukraine, along with its autonomously ruled Crimea region, provided vast ring of key sea and air bases.  Russia assumed the crown of world recognition (and more importantly, the permanent seat on the UN Security Council), but a separate Ukraine presented reach problems, much as regime changes have wrought problems for US bases found throughout the world.  Russia and Ukraine entered into a treaty to solve just that problem, which included paid for leases and rents. Continue reading Crimea Seizure, Putin and EuroMaidan

Ukraine Finding a Path Between Powers

I spend a lot of time working with technology companies to form their international strategies, and often the country of Ukraine is a part of that.  Id like to share my insight into what is currently in the news in the West about the country and its people. Let me tell you a bit about my relationship with the country. Most people associate me with Japan because I have established so many successful technology ventures there – but my investment in Ukraine is significant. Continue reading Ukraine Finding a Path Between Powers

Who Said You Could Remove Features?

The iTunes loving world was rocked with the release of iTunes 11 and the removal of several features.  After something similar with iMovie ’08 and Final Cut Pro X and how high profile those removals were, you’d think that this is an Apple thing – but that would be unfair, since other companies, such as Microsoft and Techsmith also have done this. Software upgrades consist of fixes, improvements and new features. There are times when its right to remove – but most often not.

Now Apple has gone and done it again with Garageband’s loss of podcasting features and also left out iWork features in their most recent update (though claim they will be restored). Should vendors feel they get a pass when they remove features? Continue reading Who Said You Could Remove Features?

Congress Looking at Patent Trolls; Should Look at Software Patents Too

It is good that congress is finally looking at the problem of Patent Trolls, who are notorious for shaking down companies for fees that are just under the cost of litigation. Patent trolls are known especially for pursuing the small fish first and building up a legal warchest of money that allows them to pursue larger and larger targets.

But congress shouldn’t just be looking at patent trolls, they should be looking at the food that makes patent trolls, too. That food comes in several flavors:

  • Patents that are “softwared” versions of something else. If the process exists already in the real world, commonly used or not, an implementation into software isn’t something original, especially if the end result is a process that duplicates the steps of a real world process. Europe has already figured this one out – why can’t we?
  • Patents that are modest extensions onto something else.  Patenting a the behavior of a list on a computer display that provides a “bounce” feedback when you reach the bottom, aka List scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display. The implementation is modestly original, but not really notable – and its effect, is similar to reaching the edge of anything in software.
  • Patents that are incredibly broad. What is a process that is incredibly broad and applicable to just about anything? Not a process, an idea.

Patent abuse happens for several reasons, but it is systematically allowed because the USPTO rubberstamps just about anything. Our legal venues are packed because of poor governmental management.


Illinois court throws out ‘Amazon tax’ online sales law

The Illinois State supreme court ended up having to school the Illinois State legislature on where the state borders end on taxes, by throwing out their “Amazon Tax” on online sales.  Amazon cut their affiliate program in the state of Illinois as a result of this law passed in 2011, and rightly so – all state legislatures understand the concept of tax nexus. Now many are very creative in defining exactly what that is, but what it has always meant was a physical presence within a state. It is quite simple – if you aren’t there, the state cannot demand you pay taxes. It is the same reason why US online retailers and catalogers do not collect VAT (value added tax) when shipping to European customers, even though many European countries demand it.

Internet Brain Suck: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P)

That’s Correlation does not Imply Causation – and its the blogger heaven of logical fallacies. Roughly, it means two (or more) events can occur without one being the cause of the other. This is a logical fallacy, but there is often wiggle room. Two causes may be present in a result in a way that is extremely suggestive but not proven to be 100% true – like obesity and diabetes. There could be some science that will prove the link one day. Or there could be yet some unidentified event – or numerous chained links of events. Continue reading Internet Brain Suck: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P)