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Sustainable application development

After years of a single-unit pricing of software, also known as the “box licenses”, the software engineering industry seemed to fully embrace the perpetual subscriptions.

The problem though, is that while it’s a theoretically sustainable business model for a company, it’s punishingly expensive for the customers. Imagine a monthly license for an office suite, task manager, notes management, communication software, storage, etc.

While most of these subscription-based services need the funds to operate, run servers, and maintain the infrastructure, for some the subscription model is a stretch. Like note-taking software that uses Google Drive, OneDrive, or iCloud for storage.

At some point, cost-savvy customers caught the companies red-handed, and started being more selective over which and how expensive subscriptions to continue.

After a short rise of the subscription model, a strong customer resistance seems to slow down the trend of perpetual licensing. After all, you only seem to rent the software while paying, and the costs pile up quickly.

To be honest, I was wondering how this is going to end, and I’m happy to report, that I’ve encountered a new, interesting pricing model that is both sustainable, and fair.

Enter the premium unlock licensing. Imagine a subscription license, that unlocks premium features for a longer period of time, forever.

Two of the applications that adopted this new model, that I know, are Sketch and Agenda.

While Sketch is a subscription-based software, after the first year you can stop paying and just use the version of the application you’ve received last. Apart from a server-based Sketch Cloud, nothing is disabled and you can continue using the application like a standard box license. It’s a step into a good direction, for people who want to dip into a new experience, but don’t want to break the bank.

Another, even more attractive, pricing model was adopted by Agenda. While the application is in most use cases free, and syncs across multiple devices using iCloud, there’s a year of premium features unlock, that also keeps the unlocked features free forever. It’s a very fair approach, offering the best experience to the customers, while keeping the company making the software sustainable.

While the best option for customers would be using free software, the reality is that high quality software is expensive to build. Some companies pretend to be free, but true cost is our privacy, and personal data being sold to 3rd party companies.

These new pricing models can prevent this gloomy future, because company that earns enough money, can focus on being transparent, and privacy-focused.

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