SaaS for the sake of SaaS

(Leland Fiegel) #1

I know SaaSing is all the rage these days, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes it’s not so well thought out, especially when it comes to desktop software.

We saw it first with Adobe, and now JetBrains, the maker of popular IDEs such as PHPStorm.

With Adobe’s monopolistic grip on their market, pricing starting at $10/month is not going to cause long-term waves, despite pretty strong initial backlash.

JetBrains, on the other hand, does not have that luxury. Even though PHPStorm seems to be wildly popular in the WordPress community, there are plenty of suitable alternatives, like Atom.

People are getting tired of the “we’re a business so we need money” line. These decisions should’ve been made way more early on than they were to avoid such backlash.

MemberMouse comes to mind as one example of a WordPress plugin that charges a monthly fee. It’s not quite clear if the what “phone home” features are used to justify the monthly price (outside of support), but people gladly pay it because that’s how the pricing always was and the plugin works well.

I know we’ve discussed recurring payments for theme/plugin licenses, but I’m talking about software that just locks down when you don’t keep up with payments.

That typically doesn’t happen with WordPress-based software, but what if it did? Wouldn’t it push you to not so DRMy alternatives, and open the doors to competition if there weren’t any?

(Jason) #2

You know, I’m not really as opposed to the SaaS movement as I feel is natural to be. I like the idea that I will always be given the best the company has to over me, I have reasonable access to their support (as opposed to, “I bought your software 10 years ago, so you should always support me using it”), and I’m happy to feel like I have an ongoing partnership with the company providing the service.

Interesting you bring up PHPStorm vs Atom, as it represents an interesting competitor: the open-source community. If it has little-to-no overhead (e.g. no server costs), the open-source community will likely eventually come up with their own solution. If you’re comfortable with possible quirks and having to dig into the community for support, then it’s a great way to go. But if you just want a phone number to call when things to bad, then stick with someone like Jetbrains. Personally, I use Atom. :smile:

I’m also able to calculate the expense easily: If it’s $30/month, I want to believe it saves me at least $30/month worth of my time to otherwise be used on paid work. So if I charge $100/hour for my time, then the service must save me at least 20 minutes/month.

I do believe it’s a bit aggressive to have the software stop working altogether if payment ends, but in some cases that genuinely makes sense. Whenever you allow someone to continue using a legacy version of your software, you’re still responsible for, at the very least, patching up security, as well as making it possible to even stick to that. The business then has to spend considerable resources working on legacy software as well as determining at which point they can safely say, “You’re too far behind, please upgrade or accept the risk.”

Lastly, I really enjoy the way this is shaping things up, as services are becoming increasingly specialized and integrated. You can do a suite such as Harvest, Proposify, Slack, Github, Xero, etc. – all of which integrate in a sort of web. That allows each team to focus on what they do best, and make just that specific feature awesome. In single mega-application, various features often get left behind or cumbersome. I’m happy to pay each service monthly, and I enjoy a modular approach to what I need to do business. I know that doesn’t directly tie in to the SaaS payment method, but I believe it’s certainly closely related.

(Brian Ross) #3

Glad I’m locked in at $49 a year for PHPStorm… at quick glance it doesn’t look like they will force current customers over to the new plan anytime soon.

(Mike Schinkel) #4

I applaud JetBrains for making sure they have a continuous revenue stream. PhpStorm is by far the most important piece of software I use on a daily basis, they have given me (and everyone else) eight (8) new versions in 1/2 as many years, and I want to make sure they can continue to add new features that I need for development.

You provided Atom as an example as a comparison to PhpStorm. While Atom is nice, that is like comparing Nissan Leaf to a Tesla. Yes, a Leaf is an electric car as is a Tesla, but beyond that there is no comparison. The features and functionality of PhpStorm is so far beyond Atom that it would take Atom years to catch up, if they even can (given the nature of open source developers to only work on what interests them vs. fully rounding out a product based on customer needs.)

Now if PhpStorm languishes for several years I might have a different opinion. But right now I’m super happy to pay JetBrains an annual fee. And I’m even going to go for All Products because $149/year for an individual is a great deal!