Subscription all the things

2017-04-21 2 min read

    Reading modern technology and business news it seems that every single thing is moving to the subscription model. It’s no longer just the obvious stuff that’s being turned into a subscription with the help of technology. Software is becoming a critical part of many systems - ranging from powering cars to tractors to juicers - and would be hilarious if it weren’t so real. Software has transformed the world and now we’re trying to find the remaining places that software can be jammed into. And once the software sets in everything can be turned into a subscription model.

    Just last month there was a piece in Motherboard describing how John Deere is building software protection into their tractors that farmers have been bypassing with Ukrainian firmware. The software is incredibly sophisticated and allows tractors to become more and more automated. Unfortunately this also allows John Deere to protect their code in such a way that only authorized technicians can make the necessary repairs - something that farmers may not be willing to wait for during a busy season.

    In lighter news, this past week it was discovered that Juicero, a new age wifi-enabled juicer, serves no actual purpose and the juice packets can be squeezed just as effectively with hands instead of the machine. But of course the machine can scan the packet QR codes and let you know if they’re expired. All this for a $400 machine and up to $8 for a packet.

    In our race to push software into everything and turn everything into a subscription it seems we’ve lost a bit of common sense as well as consumer power. The subscription model is short term cheaper and appealing but comes at the loss of power and control. Unfortunately given human behavior and psychology it seems this approach is here to stay. We’re much more wired for short term thinking and getting something at an immediate discount sounds much better than buying something for a huge upfront cost. Even if we were to compare the two options against one another the subscription model would come out cheaper: businesses would be able to price the subscriptions lower since they’d expect to reduce the unit cost over time and they can monetize in a variety of other ways, possibly by selling user data and information. With these incentives I wouldn’t be surprised if in 20 years everything we consume is sold via a subscription.