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Software-as-a-Service shapes trend

By Jean-Claude Elias - Mar 26,2015 - Last updated at Mar 26,2015

Is it the end of acquiring and using software by buying and paying for licences the traditional way? It may well be.

If you are following the trend and are happily keeping up with IT terminology then Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) should now be part of your vocabulary. More than just the acronym, what lies behind it is a very interesting concept that is gaining ground each day that passes. It is slowly but surely, radically shaping the way we will be dealing with software applications and programmes in the near and distant future.

SaaS actually is nothing but one of the aspects of working online across network, and in the cloud more particularly, the greatest network of them all. Essentially we do two things in the cloud, we store our data that consists of digital files of various types (documents, multimedia, etc.), and we run software that is not installed on the very computer or mobile device we are using, but in the cloud. The implications and the advantages are many and are significant. Naturally, there are also a few trade-offs that go with all that.

Adobe and Microsoft, to name only two of the big players, already offer SaaS. Instead of buying a licence that lets you legally install and use software on your computer, such as Photoshop, Windows or Office, you pay a “service” or subscription fee to the owner of the product (Adobe, Photoshop, etc.) and then can use it by accessing it from your computer over the web.

Advantages are many and are significant. You never have to worry about doing the necessary but so tedious updates or losing sleep about making backup copies. They do it for you, online, silently, transparently and professionally. This is priceless.

The trade-off? You need a fast and reliable Internet connection otherwise, well, you just can’t do much or your work leads you to frustration. More importantly, you end up pay good money for the service. Microsoft’s online Office 365 service through SaaS, as great and convenient as it may be, is not cheap. The typical subscription to the service is $7 per month and per machine for home use. For office use it is $10 instead of $7. Given that the price of the traditional licence you would buy for a local installation is about $450, this means that over a period of a little more than three years what you would have paid for Office 365 is equal to that of a full licence to install it locally on your computer. But again, with Office 365 you always have the latest, the newest copy of the software application.

Adobe’s online services are more or less comparable to Microsoft’s. For personal use, the celebrated Photoshop will cost you $10 per month per machine, and for business use a good $20. The company proposes an interesting bundle for its suite of products (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) for $30 per month.

Current prices are just not enough to encourage the vast majority of us to move to SaaS subscriptions and give up traditional licence buying. If Office 365 or Photoshop were say $5 per month each, per machine and for business, not home use (i.e. 50 per cent less than the current rate), I would not hesitate. For now I have adopted a “wait and see” attitude. I expect and I hope that prices will soon go down in a noticeable manner.

Adding up even if only the essential applications you need in your daily computing can easily reach $100 to $150 per month. Again, this is per machine! Won’t you rather buy real licences once and for all?

If the trend certainly is going up unabated, another thing is sure: we will keep paying for software significant money, one way or another. More than ever the prediction of the late 1990s is confirmed: soon the price of the machines will be nothing compared to that of software and services.

Besides, even buying traditional licences has always been some form of service and was never ownership. The developer has always been the owner of the product granting the user the simple right-to-use through the license, not the ownership. What SaaS is doing is merely changing the service from one that is locally installed on your computer to one that is delivered to you in the cloud. Not necessarily a bad thing.

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