High priced software, the industry, and barriers to entry

I've never run any studies or polled any college students, but if I had to guesstimate as to the numbers of high school and college students who own pirated software, I'd say it were nine out of every ten. Unfortunately, the software producers are making the same guesstimate and thus spend countless hours of research time to make their software crack proof. They're so scared to lose money on every pirated copy that they don't realize that they're hurting themselves more by locking people out than by allowing the insignificant pirates a lift over the barriers to entry.

Let's pick on adobe for a while. Adobe's Creative Suite software package has become and industry standard. Their flagship applications Adobe Photoshop is arguably the most powerful image editing and manipulation software on the market. However, it had two huge problems from the end user's point of view. First off, the application is a behemoth.It's almost like mastering an ancient style of martial arts; you could practice your entire life and never fully master it. Secondly, and even more important to potential adopters, it is far too expensive for the average person to justify trying it out. The full version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended retails for $999. The applications costs almost as much as the computer you're going to need to run it at full capacity.

How can your average Joe, wanting to get into Photoshop, afford to throw out that much money just to attempt to adopt a new software platform? The fact is that they can't. And they don't. If your average Joe is going to pick up Photoshop, he is going to have to pirate it. But is this really as bad for Adobe as they might thing? In my opinion no. In fact, I think your average Joe pirating Photoshop is actually going to potentially make Adobe more money in the grand scheme of things.

It's simple logic: Only people who are extremely skilled with photoshop are going to justify paying for it. Furthermore, only people who use it on a normal basis are going to be extremely skilled with it. Therefore, you need to get copies of Photoshop into the hands of your average Joes so they can become your future customers.

Here's an example: Back when I was Junior High, a friend of mine gave me a copy of a CD that his father had brought back from Japan for him. The CD was called "The Installer" and it contained somewhere around 200 different software applications and their corresponding serial numbers. One of these applications happened to be Adobe Photoshop (4.0). At this point in time, I had never heard of photoshop, never seen a copy of it, or really even knew what it was for, however I installed it and started playing around in it. Over time I fell in love with the program and I'm now an Adobe user for life. My learning on Photoshop didn't technically cost Adobe anything, however, it taught me how to use and appreciate their products.

Once I began working in the industry, and photoshop became a business model and not a recreational activity, the companies I worked for purchased copies of the Adobe Suites with complete site licenses. They would even purchase the upgrades every time Adobe changed the software. So in the end, adobe was making money. The thing is, without the skills I'd learned from my pirated copy of Photoshop 4, I wouldn't have the ability to get the job in the first place.

The barrier of entry to being a photoshop purchaser is far too high. The fact of the matter is that Adobe needs to get copies of their software into the hands of youth so that they can grow up learning on the software. Only then will they be skilled enough to get the jobs that keep Adobe's pockets filled. From what I've heard, Adobe Creative Suite 3 is the currently their most protected and hardest to crack releases in the companies history. While they likely view this as an accomplishment, I view it as helping the competition by driving potential new customers to cheaper alternatives. I'm more willing to use a $50 program that just gets the job done, than a $1000 program that does far more than I need.

posted by Christopher Schnese