The Expensive Update

Another new updated raw converter product that's added Lightroom-like organization and image management features: AlienSkin Exposure X3. 

If you've forgotten the story of Exposure, it started out life as a series of presets via a Photoshop plug-in that gave you film-like styles and choices. That evolved to a standalone/plug-in that did full raw conversion. And now we've evolved to a standalone/plug-in that basically becomes a complete photo and organization tool. 

So far, so good. I'd certainly argue that there are many interesting looks and features in Exposure. Especially if you are trying to get those film-like effects. 

But what we're seeing as all these software companies try to develop out a full Lightroom competitor is that they're getting a little persistent about asking for a new pile of cash from users.

OnOne, for instance, just asked for another US$80 from its customers less than a year from the last for-sale update. Now AlienSkin is asking US$99 from its existing customers for the X3 update (regular price is US$149). 

Let's put that in perspective. I pay about US$100 a year for Photoshop and Lightroom CC updates. Why isn't that US$120? Because I wait until someone has the annual package on sale during the Christmas period and just pop for that (last year it was Amazon). In other words, everyone seems to want a minimum of about US$8 a month average for their software updates now. All that does is make the Adobe monthly program look better and better, as much as we dislike what happens when you stop making payments (products that can open but not modify your images). 

If you're charging basically the same amount Adobe is for a continuous user, then you'd better be able to say your product is better than Adobe's. I can't say that any of the ones I've seen to date—MacPhun, OnOne, AlienSkin, etc.—are there yet. They're all in a mad scramble to get there and beyond, but none have out-Adobeied Adobe yet.

Yes, I know software development done right isn't free. Not even close to it. But we now have multiple companies all chipping away at about the same annual tithe. Worse still, the "new user" prices don't tend to be all that much higher than the "loyal user" upgrade costs, which always raises the upgraders eyebrows.

I'm not the only one that's noticed. Just in the past week I've gotten multiple emails from people who saw the upgrade pricing and balked. 

Here's what I would have done if I were leading one of those software companies: US$10/month pricing for everyone (or US$100 for a year in advance). Update in a major way at least once a year. After a year of ownership, if you let your subscription expire, the product remains usable, but not-updateable. If you lapse for six months and then decide you want back in at US$10/month, your year-to-full ownership period starts anew. Simple system. Provides on-going revenue to a developer that's treating its users well with regular updates, while giving the user confidence that they can get off the tithe wagon whenever they want (after a year). 

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