Nothing is worse than an old cliché, but today more than ever the adage stands true: “the only constant is change”. We live in a world of constant change, surfing the rising wave of the Information Age. And no industry changes faster than that of computer technology and software development.
But constant change requires constant adaptation, and those who cannot adapt will fall by the wayside. Constant change means that everyday everything you own — be it an automobile, a telephone, a television, a computer, or thousands of dollars worth of software — are slowly and inexorably fading into that dark and dismal abyss of obsolescence. Who wants to spend several thousand dollars on software that will become obsolete in two or three years? Who would buy a car knowing it will not be able keep up with newer cars in a few years time? Probably no one. But this “planned obsolescence” seems to be the norm in the fast-passed world of computer technology.
Today, thanks to advances in manufacturing, the cost of computer hardware has dropped relative to the overall cost of software. As a result, while you may pay $500 for a new computer, the final cost may end up tripling after you add software. Additionally, newer versions of software packages are often released on a yearly basis, while some software giants even require annual subscriptions forcing you to pay every year to continue using their software. And what about when you buy that flashy new computer? You might think you can install the software from your old computer on your new one, but the electronic registration methods now being employed by many companies cripples your ability to freely use the very software which you purchased. In fact, the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) on most commercial software is so restrictive and rigid that one might think you were signing a pact with the Devil simply to install the application.
So what does all this software ultimately cost? Let’s take a look at the numbers for some common software applications that might be found on a writer’s or artist’s computer (retail prices as of June 2008):
Microsoft Windows Vista Home: $129
Microsoft Office Professional: $499
Adobe Acrobat Pro: $449
Adobe Photoshop CS: $649
McAfee Internet Security Suite: $69
All told, that comes to over $1795! And expect to pay that every 2-3 years to keep up. Granted, you may not need Photoshop or Acrobat, and may get a “deal” for the other software if you purchase a computer from Dell, Gateway, or HP, but the cost of software, combined with highly restrictive EULAs, has simply become unacceptable.
…That is, especially when you consider that there are perfectly viable Free and Open Source alternatives for all of the above mentioned software… and more.