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The Future Of Software

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For the end user, obtaining software was traditionally an easy process – they either bought (or “borrowed”) the program they needed to work with, inserted the disc into the computer and copied the software onto their hard drive. But today, with software giants Adobe and Microsoft guarding against piracy with Fort Knox-like effectiveness, many users simply have trouble swallowing the bill ($1899 for Adobe CS6 Design & Web Premium) for the privilege of having a “legit” copy of the software suite on their computer.

Consider this: A recent call to Adobe to inquire about “volume discounts” yielded no savings on licensing CS6 for twenty five users, but I was hectored by the sales rep (multiple times!) to consider Adobe’s “Creative Cloud” rental service ($49.99/month). Similarly, Microsoft recently released its $99/year “Office 365” suite for both Windows and Mac (more on this later). Plus, the latest incarnations of the iMac and MacBook Pro do not even include a built-in disc drive, so it looks like software on physical media is traveling the same road as the floppy disk.

My call last month to Adobe was interesting to say the least. Here, my intrepid sales rep pointed out a number of reasons NOT to buy the traditional Adobe Creative Suite in favor of Creative Cloud. Trust me – I once sat in a cube and sold computer stuff over the phone and know for a fact this guy was simply parroting the corporate mandate, not opining on his thoughts about buying vs. renting. And I’m sure there was a bonus in it for him for how many sales he “converted.” Oh, that darn Kool Aid…

That brings us to Office 365, Microsoft’s “Software as a Service” offering. (They really seem to hate the “rental” tag.) Like Adobe, there are a dizzying number of different versions available, but since you’re reading this, the “Home Premium” option should suffice. This will allow you to install the latest version of Office for Mac (2011) on up to five devices. Just as with the traditional Office for Mac, Microsoft will issue periodic updates.

Bottom line: The “rental” scenario is probably a good deal for most people. I work with a few starving graphic artists, and signing up for the Creative Cloud for under fifty bucks a month is an easier pill for them to swallow than plunking down over a grand in one shot. Same with Office, although the list price is far more affordable for the “Home & Business” version, which goes for a semi-reasonable $219.99 (at Best Buy, last time I checked).

Full disclosure: I haven’t tested either package, but plan on installing Office 365 on my laptop this month, because if it’s all what Microsoft claims it is, there should be scores of users ready to install this rather than spend a couple hundred bucks on buying the traditional media. Stay tuned.

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