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The Flawed Eventually-upgrade Software Model

I think Windows XP was the first real release of Windows–it had finally gotten to a usability and stability point that people could accept.  The Microsoft support model changed shortly after Windows XP was released to basically support any piece of software for as long as ten years (if you paid extra for support roughly 2 years after a successive version was released). To paraphrase a famous law: software becomes obsolete every 18 months.  That was true for a long time; but hardware and software isn’t improving at that rate any more.   Software has basically caught up with existing hardware design and now has the capability of sustaining itself, without upgrade, for much longer than it did 10 years ago.

To paraphrase once again: you can make some of the people happier all of the time, but you can’t make all of the people happier all of the time.  Releasing new versions of software now-a-days is more about attempting to make more people happier than were happier before.  To approach your solution or your technology from a 100% buy-in point of view is unrealistic.  I think we’ve seen the fallout of that model for at least the last 10 years.  People have said that successors to software like Windows XP, on their own, aren’t enough to make people happier than they already are.  To try to force a change is only coming back with push-back.  The friction that once kept people on a particular brand of OS or even particular architecture is gone–people are exercising their options if they’re unable to use what they’re happy with.

I think it’s time for software companies to change their model so customers can buy into an indefinite support model for software.  I think businesses are more than willing to spend more money to get support for some software packages longer than to buy the latest version every x number of years.  If you look at the TCO of upgrading away from XP compared to what a business pays Microsoft for the OS, it’s very much more. Companies are willing to offset that cost and buy support for XP rather than upgrade away from XP.  It just so happens that Microsoft extended support for XP rather than change their core model.

I think a the current model effectively giving customers the choice between abandoning XP and going to the latest version of an operating system (because you’re effectively forcing them to make that evaluation) the more likely that you end up forcing people away from Windows entirely.  People and businesses are re-evaluating whey they need their computers and thus the operating system installed on it.  There’s much more a need to consume data over the Internet than there was 10 years ago.  People and companies are recognizing that and they’re also recognizing there are many more options for doing just that.

With this model, moving forward, innovation will drive software sales more than they do now.  People will upgrade not because it’s the latest version and not because they have to upgrade their hardware; but because the innovation of the software is pervasive enough to justify upgrading.  Different wouldn’t be enough to sell upgrades.

What do you think?  Do you think the eventually-upgrade software model is out of date?

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