An Open Letter to Software Manufacturers

Dear software industry,

I speak to you as a software user. I am your customer, in a sense. I consume information (digital and otherwise), and sometimes pay money for it. I occasionally see your ads, and sometimes recommend your products to others.

However, I am not here to applaud your efforts, as I am sure you know.

Adobe, Microsoft, Google, and Apple are my biggest targets. Others should also take heed, even if they only produce small, inconsequential applications.

You are in the wrong line of work.

First, because of the Free Software movement. However much I use that argument, I maintain it to be true–you are intentionally hurting your customers with your products, and when people realize that, they won’t just stop buying into the pain, they will turn on you, and you will be in more pain than they had to suffer. You should, therefore, familiarize yourself with the reasons we’re mad.

Second, because you are selling one-shot products which come with an indefinite promise for services. That’s insane! If you buy a hamburger, they don’t insure that it will taste good. They don’t even insure that it will stay together long enough for you to eat it. Often, though, those services are motivated by an aversion to bad PR–which bad PR is usually already mitigated by the fact that your customers are completely oblivious to anything digital, or they would realize that the first argument was enough to motivate leaving your clientele.

No, rather than selling something once, and moving on to giving away services forever, why not reverse the situation? It’s a far more lucrative way of doing things, so long as your software is worth something. People will continue to use it as they always did, then move on until it breaks (which it probably will–not because of your incompetence, just because of Murphy’s Law), and finally come back to pay you *even more* than they would have paid originally in order to fix it. In the meantime, you can be adding more, cooler features to the product to entice more people to come around. Eventually, you’ll have a lot of products and even more customers–you’ll have to spend most of your time working on clients’ issues, and develop features only as an afterthought. That’s how a business should mature–towards more money, not less. If you have to engineer new features constantly and build hype around new releases just so you can get more money, you’re probably doing things wrong.

This business model, I think, is a little more risky, but a lot more reliable in the long run. It also frees up the software industry to stop thinking that users’ freedoms are a necessary sacrifice at the altar of profits, which will very quickly make the digital world a better place as people are free to share ideas about how to solve certain problems, instead of watching each other solve it in secret and wasting time reinventing the wheel every day.

This is not a petition, but I don’t think I need the force of public opinion for you to take heed to a good idea. Think about the money, if that’s what you need, but this idea will prevent a big fall and instead lift you and your products (along with your customers) to far greater heights.

Thanks for reading.

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