Bart van Lieshout

Software per hour

May 2012

If I need to use software for a couple of minutes per month, I have to buy it. Or pay a monthly subscription that insults my intelligence. I want a different model.

When it comes to software, I like to use the best. I prefer to use for example Adobe Indesign and Photoshop instead of Scribus and Gimp. But the latter are installed on my system. The reason for this is the price of the Adobe products. The situation with CAD software and 3d render software is similar. The packages I prefer – and are most accustomed with because I have used them extensively at a professional level – are far too expensive for me to buy. Unlike a large company, I cannot afford to pay thousands of euro’s for software. And since I will not use these packages intensively on a daily basis, but only every once in a while, buying them for me is not an option. I assume I am not the only one with this dilemma and whether I choose for illegal software or for freeware alternatives like Scribus or Gimp, Adobe and Autodesk aren’t making any money on me.
And that is strange, because I am willing to pay for good software. I just can’t spare hundreds or thousands of euro’s for a product I only use every now and then. So I would like to suggest a new price model for this expensive software: I would like to pay per hour.

Pay per hour

I will pay for every hour I use the software, until my payments reach the price of the software. This could work as follows: I get a personal account from the software manufacturer (for example Adobe) and I give permission to bill my credit card, much as an Apple-id works with regard to the App-store or iTunes. With this unique personal Adobe-id I can unlock the software I download from the Adobe website, like for example Photoshop and Indesign. The Adobe-id becomes my personal serial number for all Adobe products. Once I fire up photoshop, a counter will take note of the hours I spend using the program. Every now and then, Photoshop will contact an Adobe server to synchronize this data, enabling Adobe to charge my credit card at the end of the month.

How difficult can it be?

Technically, this is all rather straight forward. Many of these expensive programs already contact servers via the internet to register the use of the software on a particular system, and building in features to prevent programs to function if a connection to the server could not be established for several days won’t be too difficult either. But I won’t go into detail about the security. There is illegal software around today as well, but the point of the whole exercise was to make me pay for what I use – because I want to.


I would be willing to pay € 1,- for every hour I use Photoshop, Indesign, Autocad, Revit, 3d studio Max or any other software package that will cost me more than € 100,- to purchase. And I would do that for as long as it takes to pay the manufacturer the price of the software. That would mean that if Photoshop would cost € 900,- (I can’t explain the huge differences in software prices between countries and continents, but prices are unreasonably high here in the Netherlands), I would pay this fee for the first 900 hours that I use Photoshop. At this point Adobe will have earned as much as when I would have bought the software in a regular old-fashion way, which would have enabled me to use it for the rest of my life. Of course, if there are newer versions available for software like this, and I would decide to upgrade, I would have to pay for some more hours to pay for the upgrade fee.

A software pricing model like this would be a great improvement for me. With this model, if I was to make a few renderings for a personal project, I would pay € 40,- for using 3ds Max for 40 hours, instead of a hundred times that much if I would have to ‘buy’ the package the old-fashion way. This pricing system would enable me to use many products from Adobe or Autodesk without having to go illegal or make unreasonable investments.

Good for business

There are advantages for the Adobe’s and Autodesk’s of this world too. For a start, I would pay them money they don’t get from me today. There would be no impassible hurdle between me and their total range of software, which means that I could try them all. I might like them and start using them more often. And when it’s on my computer and at my disposal, I might use the same software for the holiday pictures as well. Enabling me to use the software with a fair pricing model will probably not only make me pay in the first place, but it will encourage more use of the software.
And then there is of course the priceless personal connection (with billing capabilities) between me and Adobe. Not to mention all the special deals I could get from them to encourage me to try the other products in the Adobe family. I could get a free 30 hours on their newest product to make sure I download and try it out. Nothing special – there are trial versions today – but when the trial period ends, there would be no ‘decision time’ and the question ‘to buy or not to buy’ would be irrelevant. There would just be a seamless transition to payed use. And of course there could be package deals, like 500 hours for half price, but hours with an expiration date so I have to use them this year. Well, there are probably professionals out there who can think of huge ranges of very attractive consumer proposals based on all the data they will gather on how I use the software they make.

But for now, I have the choice between paying nearly a thousand euro’s for something I might only use for a couple of hours a month, or stick to freeware Gimp! Time for Adobe and Autodesk to wake up and make their products available to the consumers.


This article was written before Adobe introduced the subscription model we are now all familiar with. And probably try to avoid using, since it doesn’t solve the problem of users who need a program for a few hours per month.

A card from the future

Some science fiction products need no futuristic technology and should be implemented immdiately. Like the “multipass” from “The Fifth Element”.

April 2012

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