The IKEA Bomb

Two days ago there was a bomb explosion in an IKEA outlet in Dresden which is about just 100km away from where I live. Except for some minor damage and 2 mildly injured people that in itself would be rather insignificant, but obviously it brings up an interesting question: Why do feel people the need to go this far? Is it simple customer frustration? Making a political statement? Simply unfeathered hatred towards"big " companies? Whatever it is, this is nothing exclusive to the world of physical products of course and almost inevitably also brings us back to software companies like Adobe and how people just can’t come to grips with this being a business, after all. This week seemed to have been particularly troll-heavy and I know there’s gonna be another one tomorrow eventually, so let me try to preemptively provide some counter arguments for the most common wrong theses based on genuine forum quotes.

One of the main reasons Adobe charge customers outside the US more for their software, is because they think they can get away with it.

Ah, isn’t it amazing how the Internet allows us to download software from any place in the world and how quickly this has made people forget that until a few years ago you couldn’t do it and had to use physical shipment all the way? The first common failure with this argument is that people forget that whenever you legally buy software, you are bound to the vendor’s distribution system. In case of Adobe and most other companies, this means everything is handled via local subsidiaries which in itself are independent companies. So when you buy in Germany, you buy from their German branch, not the US mothership and services and orders are pre-paid or handled via budgeted contingents per unit (boring economics on which I won’t go into details). Now certainly this in part may appear as relic of the old times, but of course there are other, very rational reasons for it. On the most basic level it simply comes down to different legal regulations regarding privacy, taxes and consumer rights existing in different countries, requiring the companies to have a local representation to sort it all out. Now that does not automatically imply that products need to be more expensive, but it is actually very simple math once you start thinking about money exchange rates, customs fees and how much VAT (or not) you pay. and of course anyone in the chain wants to at least make a few bucks of revenue. There is nothing wrong with that. And it’s also common not just in the software world. A Korean car costs more in Europe than it costs in Korea. LCD screens, digital cameras and other hightech gadgetry costs more in Europe than elsewhere. Hell, Apple stuff is even considerably more expensive, but does it stop anyone from buying iPads?

The second thing that this implies is that there would be something fishy going on and that there might be an antitrust issue somewhere. That is certainly not the case – if there were, you’d have heard about it by now, yet everyday companies way bigger than Adobe buy other companies to grow even more, others split up and again others just dissolve into nothingness. You cannot even prove a monopoly as much as you wanted to. For pretty much any program (other than Flash, which is of course utterly proprietary) in the portfolio you can find alternatives, many of which are even free – in place of Photoshop, you can use CorelDraw and its companions, you could use GIMP etc., for Illustrator, Inkscape and again CorelDraw come to mind, for InDesign you can use QuarkXPress, Scribus and others, for Premiere Pro you could use anything from Final Cut Pro to Vegas, Audition can be replaced with Audacity, Soundforge and tons of others. Given that, how would any judge and jury be able to make any ruling and not dismiss the case right away?

As a last, and that’s probably the saddest part in the whole matter, is the psychological component. Essentially it comes down to that those people are saying "I want to use Adobe software, because I consider it useful, but I want to do it on my own terms. " which is really what they do, because once such discussions start, they will quickly reveal how Open Source programs do not deliver the goods or how disappointed they are by competitors already. Could this get any more insincere and jaded?

Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING will drive people away in mass then trying to force upgrades upon people for no other reason that someone sneezed and they thought what came out would make another great feature.

This lad got it all wrong. Nobody is forcing anyone to upgrade. It has been Adobe‘s policy for years to allow upgrading up to 3 versions back for very much the same price as upgrading from the immediate previous version. If you don’t need a specific feature, you can always wait another year. Of course after you have skipped a few cycles, you may find that you need to buy a completely new version, but you have saved the money from the upgrades, have you not? This argument is also lame in so far as that the only real pressure here comes from the fact that naturally support for specific older versions stops after a while and, which is probably more important, those old versions will no longer run on modern operating systems and hardware. Well at least there’s no guarantees they will. However, I would consider that a moot point. There’s only two kinds of users – the ones, that can happily work with older versions on old computers because they are hobbyists or their business is not dependent on complying to the latest and greatest standards, and on the other hand there’s the ones who always need the new shiz. You know, when you are a digital photographer you can’t possibly do without support for your camera and likewise, what would a video editor do with an old version of Premiere Pro when it doesn’t support his tapeless camera? An absolute nonsense argument, if you ask me. But wait, this is getting better…

What seems to be missed here is the overall investment I have made in the last three years in this software. Its not just the cost of the software which has been quite substantial, its the time, and effort to learn said software, Its the supplemental books purchased to make the most of said software, its the new certifications or in my case required classes to verify and validate my knowledge of said software, its the fact my current education systems REQUIRES we have the latest and greatest version at our expense.

Ridiculous, isn’t it when someone is blaming a software vendor for being in a pinch with his education? Instead of being happy to be able to actually use the latest versions, we have someone complaining that he must learn something new and he even makes it even more melodramatic by whining about books and certifications. In almost 20 years in the digital media business, I have spent so much money on software and complementary materials now stowed away in boxes, I could have had many nice holidays instead. But do I complain? Certainly not! Every decision to move on to a new version or switch to other programs was a conscious decision because at the time it made sense and allowed me to work better. Yes, of course learning takes time and effort and it does even more so while working on the job as opposed to some cosy school or university, but that is true for any job. It’s part of your normal work life. On the other hand, if you need a book for every new version, then probably you are not as smart as you think and should consider doing something else….

Upgrading your software every 18 to 20 months is bad enough, but 12 months or less…..Boy you sure as hell had better reinvented the wheel to get people to bit on this BS.

Probably the most easy to dismiss of all the points, even if you just limit yourself to the creative business – Autodesk brings out new versions of their products every year. There is a new version of Cinema 4D every year. and do people buy these annual upgrade? Certainly! Everything I said before applies. Why would I even want to stick with my old versions? This would even be on some level impossible – I and our company regularly collaborate with external people so what good would it do me, if I stuck with my old versions only to find that a freelancer gives me a newer 3D scene file and it can’t be opened at all or it breaks down because the old version hasn’t a specific feature yet?

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