Disposable software

Christmas soon, and every year the same concern: what gifts to offer? Ideally, the one that will please most and that will not ruin us.
I was on a forum trying to find information about an MP3 player when a post caught my attention: someone had a problem with a game console and asked if replacing the faulty component would extend the life of the console.
I was surprised: I did not know you could even replace a component on a console. If some component on your PC fails, you change the motherboard. And most often, you end up completely changing the machine if it is a bit old. Beyond 3 years of age, it becomes difficult to find spare parts, and in any case, it is often more attractive financially to buy a newer model.

However, the reasoning of the author of this post made ​​sense: a new component should normally have a higher quality than the original component, and thus improve the life of the console. The answer to his post was as entertaining as mercyless:

  • We are in the era of disposable. If your DVD player breaks, you throw it away because you can find another one at 25 euros.
  • It is inexpensive because it is poor quality. Most people do not want to pay for quality.
  • People want cheap. They got cheap disposable.

In conclusion, a newest component is of lesser quality than the original one, and therefore the life expectancy of the product is lower.

Still one of these paradoxes I like: less quality sells more.

The Americans have understood that “a product that does not wear out is a tragedy for the business.” In this fire station in California, a bulb burns for 110 years. On the other hand, the webcam that takes shots of it did not last more than 3 years. In the 20’s, a group of the leading manufacturers of lights met in order to limit the lifetime of the bulbs, and even penalized members whose products exceeded 1500 hours of operation.
The programmed obsolescence of products supports the demand of consumers.

The same is true in the software industry. Every software vendor announces regularly an upcoming release full of new features one more superlative than the other. And existing features are still improved: more efficient, more accurate, more functional and more more…

And nevertheless, I always notice the same reaction from customers: let’s wait that this new version is stabilized. Let others take the heat first. Too many users are tired of playing debuggers for software vendors who want to save the costs of QA.
But here, you will be asked innocently what is your current version? Ah, it will soon not be supported anymore. You should plan to migrate soon. Also, this version will not work with the new Windows. Besides, soon your current Windows will not be supported anymore.

In short, forced migration. At what cost? Migration is a project in itself. It’s not like simply downloading the new version of your favorite software photo editing or image capture utility. You know well that when SAP introduces a new version, you cannot just install it and keep working. This is a project that represents tens or hundreds of men/days. The same when your DBAs are planning to install a new version of Oracle.

Also count with the unavailability of these systems for your users. Add the costs of training of your team or your users. Also plan some hardware costs, since this new version requires more resources. Of course, your software vendor will offer you all the skills necessary to perform this migration. So additional costs of services for you and additional sources of income for him.

We are living a crisis, not only economical that limit budgets, but also a software crisis, because it is expensive to purchase, to implement and to use. You must train resources that you are not sure to keep. You must migrate regularly to new versions you do not necessarily need, which means even new costs of service, training, support, and more.
And all this for an uncertain result: how many software end on the shelves?

I see more and more customers turning away from this model. They ask an integrator to buy licenses to operate the software for them. They will go for a call for tender to get the best price and guaranteed results. They outsource the costs and the risk on a partner. This last one will certainly support the above drawbacks, but with lower charges.

First, as a reseller, software licenses will be awarded to him at a preferential price. He has more than one specialized resource on this solution therefore is less sensitive to turnover of its teams. He will be well placed to win more bids in this client, and he also wins a better image on the market and win new customers. He is generally good at interacting with the software vendor, both on technical points (support) and sales questions. Investment in migrating to a new version is distributed all over his customers. Hosting the solution also enable him to split hardware and operating costs between them.

2010 and the first half of 2011 show a slower growth of the ‘traditional’ software vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP for the benefit of newcomers such as SalesForce or VMware. In addition, the financial crisis has frozen investments in the banking sectors, insurances and telecommunications, which are the heart of the market and the largest share of revenues for software vendors. Over the same period, we notice that 40% of companies have already conducted a SaaS project and 27% plan to do so by 2012 (Source AFDEL – Barometer first half of 2011).

Software editors have programmed the obsolescence of their products with disposable versions of their products, without that their customers can benefit in return of lower costs. These customers are turning more and more towards integrated solutions around services packaged by competent and reliable partners.

Nobody wants to pay a high price for disposable software. Quality of service sells.

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