Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Different Perspective on the Cost of Software

As I have researched the web for news and views on the new eCraft cutting machine, one thing stood out.  And, that is the number of comments and complaints about the cost of the Pro version of their software.  Frankly, while I never want to part with more money than I need to, I don't happen to think the currently projected cost of $159.99 that is floating around the web is out of line.  In fact, I'd be MORE worried if it were less.

First, lets take a look at what is probably an early version of the software.  It was posted January 26, 2010.

As you can see, it's not a full drawing package like Photoshop.  But, it's not a trivial software package either.  Even in this short video it is apparent that some very sophisticated programming was required.  And, that costs money.  I know, because I'm a programmer and software designer and I am well aware of the level of effort that went into programming something like their application.

But, the fact that it cost them a lot of money to create the Professional Version is not why I'm not too exercised by the price point of the software.  I'm thinking ahead. 

I want them to MORE than cover their initial development costs and have money coming into their coffers to pay for the improvements that all of us are going to demand.  If they price the software too low they will not have the budget for significant improvements.  And, THAT is a BAD thing.  In fact, that is a VERY BAD thing.  Buying the eCraft and it's companion software is an investment.  And, the best way to protect that investment is to have continually expanding capabilities being add to its arsenal.

For instance, right now it can import a a 2D SVG file.  But, I have an interest in 3D design.  And, an automated cutter is perfect for creating the layers needed to complete certain 3D objects.  So, how nice would it be if, down the road, we could import a Google Sketchup (.SKP) file that would automatically parse out the layers based on the thickness of your media and cut them for us.  This would take your craft designs to a whole new level.  In between these two extremes is a lot of room for incremental improvement.

But, adding that capability is NOT going to come cheaply.  Remember, every new update for Photoshop is MORE than the cost of the Professional version for the eCraft.  And, the reason why Adobe dominates the image software business is because they have used the income to add to an ever expanding feature set.  I have been using Photoshop for about 20 years.  And, what we have today is a far cry from those early 1990's versions.  And, the reason is that, while others had lower prices, Adobe had more RESOURCES to improve its product due to it's wise pricing structure.

So, let's let Craftwell make good money on their software.  But, let's also keep their feet to the fire by demanding that they help us protect our investments with new software upgrades that add more and more value to the product over time.

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