A modest proposal

Computers are brilliant, aren’t they? More so if you’re someone like me and for the first ten or so years of your life they were things that only really existed in the media as huge boxes covered with flashing lights and spinning reels of tape, and then the 80s came along and you could actually own a real computer. Most members of the one a day gang seem to be of a generation for whom home computers have always existed. That’s just weird.

I love the way that computers enable you to undertake, single-handed, all manner of tasks that previously required lots of expensive equipment. As an inveterate creative dabbler, that facet of computing has always been right up my street. I love to muck about with creative projects, but I’m always stymied by the same idiot fact.

Software. It’s too expensive, isn’t it? Way too expensive. Indefensibly expensive.

You see, I can understand how and why something like Photoshop used to cost a fortune. It was a heavy-duty piece of software with a fairly small market. If you had the hardware to run Photoshop then presumably the cost of Photoshop itself wasn’t a big deal. And Adobe priced accordingly. Fair enough. And to be honest, if you’re using Photoshop or indeed the entire Creative Suite professionally then I don’t mind you paying the full Adobe whack since it’s frightfully tax-deductible and should pay for itself if you’re any good.

If you’re me, or I suspect a large number of similarly-inclined people, it’s a different matter. I’d love to have a copy of Photoshop, maybe Illustrator, a bit of Flash and some Premiere, not to mention a copy of Ableton Live and Reason. Not because I want to set myself up as some self-facilitating media node, but because I love to fuck around with that sort of stuff. And perhaps if I fucked around with them for a bit I might find myself in a position to set myself up as some self-facilitating media node.  But because they’re so stupid expensive and I’m not prepared to steal them, I can’t.

Now, I’m well aware that there are free or cheap alternatives. You can get Photoshop and Premiere Elements, there’s a special Intro version of Live, then there’s freeware stuff like Gimp and Reaper and Inkscape. But I reckon the makers of the major apps are seriously missing a trick; they’re turning away potential customers because of their rigid, pro-focused pricing policy.

Amazingly, this is where I hold up Microsoft as an example of an enlightened attitude to this sort of thing. Microsoft Office, Home & Student Edition. Pretty much all the Office you need, yours for £70 if you shop around, no questions asked. Brilliant! I get a copy of Office rather than slumming it with OpenOffice, Microsoft gets some of my money rather than none of my money.

That’s basically a win-win, isn’t it?

So here’s my entirely reasonable suggestion to everyone who makes expensive software whose appeal stretches beyond the professionals: do a home version. Don’t cripple it unnecessarily; give us the same goods as the pros get to use, but charge us £70 (or $100 or €100) for it. Granted, you’ll end up with a few skinflints who should be buying the proper version getting the home version instead, but you’ll also get a lot of people who’d have either not bothered or found a torrent giving you their money.

If the packages I’ve listed up there were £70, I’d buy most of them in a shot. They might go unused for long periods of time, but hell, I’d have to own them and at some point I’d find myself at a loose end and learning to use them properly and maybe making excellent stuff with them. And I think plenty of other people would do the same.

£70. It’s an excellent price point for this sort of thing; a bit too pricey to be considered throwaway, but just right for a serious piece of software that you’d quite like to fuck around with. And stuff like that is what all these computers should be about. Just saying.



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5 responses to “A modest proposal

  1. RiK


    Photoshop Elements – £70
    Ableton Live Intro – £89

    They provide pretty much all the functionality that any casual user who just wants to have a noodle with the ‘same’ software the pros use and tbh anyone who is only having a fiddle won’t miss any of the high end features that are only in the full version anyway.

  2. jedburgh

    Yep, well aware of them, already mentioned them. Pretty sure I’ll spring for Live Intro at some point, too. My point is that Adobe and Ableton and others could save on development by selling essentially the same package as a Home version at the magic £70 point. No loss to them, and people buy into that package’s way of doing things, its UI and everything.

  3. josephruss

    One of the reasons that professional software such as Photoshop is so expensive is that contained within them are a lot of bits of technology and code from third-parties. All those companies that make plug-ins, filters, codecs, etc need to get their licence fees, so Adobe has a lot of money to recoup.

  4. jedburgh

    Although I’m sure there’s room to negotiate. If you’re licensing your tech to Adobe then you milk the deal for all it’s worth, but if there’s a cut price Home edition for which you’re offered a reduced rate coupled with lots and lots of sales… You’d be mad not to, no?

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