Those who depend on professional software for video editing, engineering and imaging have good cause to be concerned about the future. The tech market has been undergoing a dramatic but largely unheralded change that is just now beginning to cause some consternation among professionals who depend on big software applications to make a living.
The symptoms of the change have been apparent for some time, but the first real alarm came when HP announced a 20 percent drop in PC sales. The hardware industry was quick to point fingers at Windows 8 as the problem, but the change that’s happening now in the tech industry goes deeper than any one operating system.
The World Goes Mobile
As 90 percent of the world discovers they can get by just fine with cloud-based productivity software running on smartphones and tablets, the whole concept of a “seat” for software packages is quickly becoming outdated. This will certainly roll up on the big software providers like Microsoft, but the first wave of the tsunami hit the shores of hardware manufacturers.
It’s no surprise then that Meg Whtiman, CEO of HP, put some distance between her company and Microsoft, suggesting the future for HP is “multiple operating systems, multiple architectures and multiple form factors.” In other words, HP is diversifying their product line as fast as they can make the changes. When it comes to revenue in 2014, HP is not counting exclusively on Windows machines.
PC Sales Hit Leaves Software Companies In a Quandary
Fewer people buying PCs and big laptops means fewer people buying big software packages. Adobe addressed this problem by moving their entire product line to a subscription service in the cloud. A bold move that solves the problem for Adobe by turning their user base into walking ATMs, but it remains to be seen if users are going to stick with them.
Apple solved the problem by trying to make their professional applications, like Final Cut Pro, into an application that was more friendly to non-professionals to spur wider sales. What they fielded was called FCP X and professional users abandoned them in droves.
The Problem For Professional Users
Adobe claims the subscription model is better for professional users but no one is really buying that logic. The problem is that big PCs and laptops are becoming a specialty niche resulting in diminished software sales and fewer profits to pay developers.
Before they were purchased by big companies, most of those professional specialty applications were built and managed by small companies. The bigger fish in the software industry went around buying them and bundling the applications into software suites. Now there’s not enough profit for the big companies to keep working on desktop software and those companies are turning to their user base for more money. Even users who don’t use the software every day would have to pay the same monthly subscription fee as those who use it every day in most subscription plans. I see many part-time users saying no to that deal and jumping ship to other products.
The real question here is do we owe any of the big software companies a living on the terms they set? These applications would be profitable if managed by a smaller company without all the corporate overhead. Cool Edit Pro was doing just fine before being purchased by Sony, as was Acid. Professional software would be a successful niche for many companies, just not for the big players.
Most professionals will probably sign up to the new business model, they don’t have many alternatives and a subscription payments are just a cost of doing business to them, but some won’t be able to make the transition. Video editors are having a very big problem with the new cloud software model and Adobe isn’t helping matters by being less than clear in their user communications. It’s generally not a good business practice to have to prove yourself all over to your customer base. Sony has an alternative to Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC in Vegas Video but if they go subscription users will be turning back to turnkey systems made by Avid, where many of them started.
Any way you slice the old PC software model is changing, profits are shifting to mobile development and developers are moving along with the market. Before long there will be video and high-end image editing programs for tablets and other portable devices but whether those new programs on low-end hardware will be adequate for professional use is unknown.
Right now professional software users are feeling underappreciated and cast adrift by big software and the future is cloudy for both parties in this dance.