Subscription services are here to stay and they are growing in number. Microsoft has Office 365. Adobe has Creative Cloud. Hundreds of iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have moved to the subscription model. Even Apple has subscriptions.
Think iCloud and Apple Music to start, but expect more subscriptions in the future as online apps and media move from the old fashioned purchase model to ongoing subscriptions. Is this model as good for customers as it is for content producers and application developers?
As always, it depends.
Personally, I appreciate how an ongoing monthly or annual subscription helps to keep a budget in check, but it has a negative effect on how many applications I’m willing to take for a test run, or how many content services I try.
Microsoft has Microsoft 365 for Windows and Office and management tools. Each is available independently, and each as a subscription. Our company subscribes to Office 365 which gives users access to the Office suite of apps– Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, et al– plus cloud storage and other goodies, for a low per-seat price tag; per month or per year.
Adobe has a similar suite of subscription services. Get access to almost every product Adobe publishes for a monthly or annual fee, or get a few in a skinny bundle– Photoshop and Lightroom come to mind– for a less fee.
Apple has subscriptions, too. For the rest of us there is Apple Music. Pay monthly for all the music you want. Stop paying and you stop listening. iCloud beyond the free 5GB level works the same way. Tiers give you options for up to 2TB of storage, but stop paying and the storage goes away. Even AppleCare is something of a subscription service.
Subscriptions are more like renting or leasing than a purchase and rather akin to newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
What else could Apple offer to customers that fall into the subscription model?
First up, and expect it soon, will be a news subscription service. The News app for iPhone and iPad has become a popular application and publishers appreciate the traffic the app sends their way. Apple bought the subscription service Texture– which provided dozens of magazine subscriptions for iPhone, iPad, and Android for a monthly fee– and word on the streets is the obvious. A subscription-based news and information service is on the way.
Second, while Apple has a few hundred million subscription customers already– Apple Music, iCloud, and Apple Care– the translation to hardware seems like an opportunity waiting in the wings.
Customers can lease a new iPhone under the iPhone Upgrade Program but other products could fit into such an ongoing arrangement, too. I would jump at a Watch Upgrade Program in a heartbeat, mostly because Apple releases a new model each year, but the same cannot be said for Mac or iPad which see sporadic new product releases.
I like Microsoft and Adobe’s ongoing subscriptions because there is plenty of bang for the buck. I use the iPhone Upgrade Program, less so for the price than for Apple Care, but would like to see it rolled out to Watch, iPad, and the Mac.