As a Microsoft Employee I am very spoiled. I have the luxury of being able to install most any piece of Microsoft software I want, or purchasing that software for about 10% of its retail cost. Over time I’ve come to realize that this is a pretty amazing perk since we make so many different kinds of Software (OS, Productivity, Games, Development Tools, etc). I can almost get by with not needing any other commercial software of any kind (kinda scarry). Of course there are some notable exceptions as I mention below.
The other day I decided I needed Photoshop CS. So I figured I’ll buy it. However at $600 or so dollars I have a hard time justifying that purchase since I’m only going to use it to edit digital photos (I’m really getting it so that I can use it to manipulate RAW images for my Nikon D70 which I plan on purchasing). I’ve previously owned PhotoShop Elements 1.0 which is a nice lite version of Photoshop, but even version 2 (which is $99) is 1-2 years behind the full version.
Since my wife is a Resident at UCSF she qualifies for the educational pricing of software. However, the Educational price for Photoshop CS is $300. Still not really justifiable for me. But then I remember, that I have an old 6.0 Mac version of Photoshop, and I can use that to do a one time cross platform upgrade for $169. Sold! I *can* justify it for $169. Of course, one upon a time I had to purchase this full version and that surely cost at least $500.
So what’s my point? Software can be expensive. If you are a geek and need lots of software to do various things, and there isn’t a good free alternative, and you don’t know anyone that works at X company that can get you the employee price, you are left in the position of every other normal person in the world that must pay retail. I guess it comes down to the value that is placed on software. And for something that’s completely intangible, it makes it very hard.
I know lots of people that find the price of software so far outside their ability to afford it that pirating is just acceptable. The mentality stems from the fact that because software is intangible, it’s possible to “borrow” it or whatever. People have no problem with the notion that hardware costs $$ and there is no way around that. However, much like the brain is able to think of $19.95 not being $20.00, we also think of the hardware purchase as the end of the money trail. But with things like PhotoShop, Microsoft Office and so on you can easily double (some day triple) the amount of money required to use your hardware for productivity and image editing. That’s obviously not something that the brain automatically factors in when going to get that computer.