Jetbrains, a software company that creates a wealth of software IDEs for software developers recently announced that they are moving their software over to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform called Jetbrains Toolbox.
These are the times we live in now, and I think it’s good– for the most part.
Buy or Subscribe?
Traditionally, people buy a software version and own it. For many, they don’t buy an upgrade when it’s available and may only upgrade when money is available or if they feel the new features are worth it.
I once wrote a blog post about Why I recommend Adobe Lightroom. In it I do a quick breakdown of the buy or subscribe payment model. In short, it’s worth the subscription if as a user wants the following:
- Use both Lightroom and Photoshop.
- Really like and use Lightroom a lot.
- Really wants Photoshop, but it’s really expensive to buy.
In Adobe’s case, they still offer Adobe Lightroom for purchase– the Creative Cloud subscription, is just the preferred option they are pushing.
Unfortunately going forward, starting on November 2, 2015, Jetbrains will not offer a buy-to-own model. Past software purchases will work, but after this date it’s the subscription model for everyone. At least for now.
Many of the same reasons will apply for those wondering if the Jetbrains SaaS subscription model is for them or not. Do you use one of Jetbrains products a lot? Is there maybe another Jetbrains product you also use a lot? Do you prefer to get updates often as they become available?
If yes, if you do some number crunching and may see that the subscription model isn’t so bad. There’s nothing wrong with paying for something you like.
Why buying software is going away
I’ve purchased my fair share of software over the past eighteen years– some for personal use, and others for part of my professional workflow. But often times there comes a time when support or the upgrades stop for the software I just bought. This just sucks.
It makes me question why I would ever spend money to own and support software that isn’t going to be around for years. This often times puts me in a position to stay on the unlimited free-to-use software (Examples: Alfred and Plex), and regret buying some software (Examples: Textmate and Sublime Text).
Another pet peeve of mine is the idea of buying a software license for an individual, family, or business. I generally will buy individual at first, then I end up liking it and want to install it on my other computers, but it may well be against the terms of service. I’d rather have a more simple affordable payment plan that lets me install and use it however I want. There’s only one of me and I generally will use one computer at a time.
Why subscription model is becoming popular
It’s better for companies to have predictable sales model. If you were a newspaper, would you rather sell your periodical at a newsstand where the sales can vary a lot, or sell yearly/monthly subscriptions to a dedicated customers?
I’m not saying those who buy off newsstands aren’t good customers– they may not be regular customers.
Another analogy– if you were a dentist, who would you value more as a client, the one that comes in every other year, sporadically, or the ones that come in every six months for a checkup? I would hope the ones that gives you a more predictable amount of money!
From the perspective of the customer, there should also be an expectation of better service. You’re not just a walk-in customer that may or may not return. You’re paying good money on a schedule to keep their business going.
Unfortunately for me, despite me favoring Jetbrains decision to move to a SaaS model, it doesn’t work out for me to be a subscriber. I wrote a whole blog post talking about how good a SaaS model is, yet I won’t subscribe to it. That’s simply because it’s not for me. Software as a service is popular, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
I use Rubymine, but not often enough to warrant paying for it every month or year. I’m currently learning vim and I’m happy to fall back on Sublime Text or even Atom. These are all free options (well, I technically paid for ST).
Jetbrains Toolbox works out really well for the company and their loyal supporters/subscribers. However if you’re like me and don’t use the product daily or even weekly, then there may be a reason not to be their customer anymore. And that’s fine for me, hopefuly for others like me too because there are other options.
I’d like to see Jetbrains offer both purchase and subscription models to their customers. In some respect, they were already doing that with a yearly renewal based on the purchase date. The target for their subscription model should really be the users that use multiple products. Single product users may be turned off by a subscription model if they don’t like or use it enough. At the very least they are listening to feedback.
This post also reminds me that I’m overdue for my visit to the dentist.