Renting Features

The licensing, use, and ownership of software has been quite a contested topic for years. Many people have assumed they “own” the copy of Quicken or Halo that they bought, but modifying or even reselling the bits has been a contested right by many vendors. It seems that courts seem to lean towards the perpetual rental of those bits rather than ownership.

We’ve gotten used to that in software, but what happens when this extends into the real world? There is a piece at Ars Technica about BMW looking to “unlock” features on their cars if owners want to pay for them. These are things like heated seats or perhaps sports suspension that are installed, but not activated. You could subscribe to the feature on a trial basis, and then activate it for a year or two if you wanted to pay a fee. The interesting thing here is that you could even do this with a secondhand car.

The comments from many people are disparaging, and rightly so, since so many vendors have looked to make money with these options, often in a way that isn’t quite fair for the consumer. There is certainly concern and outrage about the cost of these features if they can be installed in every car without payment, and there are weight/fuel considerations as well. While heated seats might not use more fuel, I’d assume something like adaptive suspension or extra speakers in a sound package do reduce mileage.

In some sense, I do understand this approach. I’ve purchased computer hardware with extra CPU and RAM that could be “rented” for a short time, or purchased. In the case of a car, I’d like to be able to “purchase” heated seats forever with a similar charge to what I’d initially pay. Or maybe a rental makes sense if this includes a warranty while the item is rented. Certainly being able to turn this on later on a secondhand car would be great. There’s also the idea that you could turn off a feature you didn’t like and stop paying.

I also understand the cost structure here. If every car is built the same, the costs of manufacturing go down, even if there is some loss on a percentage of customers not using the feature. If too few turn this on, I’m sure BMW (and others) abandon the idea. If enough do, I expect we’ll see other features, especially the electronic ones, being added to the list of options.

Ultimately, the use of software to lock features, and unlock them, makes sense in some cases and not in others. The devil is in the details, and certainly I think companies need to tread carefully here, ensuring they are pricing the options in a fair way. I also think they need to account for perpetual ownership as one of the options.

Cars are notoriously modifiable, and I do think this will succeed. I’m sure there will be jailbreaks and unlock codes available all over the Internet, but I’m not sure this will stop vendors from renting features. There are ways people can modify iPhones already, though I’m not sure most consumers care.

Steve Jones

Listen to the podcast at Libsyn, Stitcher or iTunes.

Posted in Editorial | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Daily Coping 14 Jul 2020

I’ve started to add a daily coping tip to the SQLServerCentral newsletter and to the Community Circle, which is helping me deal with the issues in the world. I’m adding my responses for each day here.

Today I’m asking you to adopt a growth mindset. Change “I can’t” into “I can’t… yet””.”

This might seem silly and simple, but changing your attitude often results in a big change in the way you approach something and it can increase your mental health.

I can’t fly internationally or go to an office, yet.

That’s hopeful. It helps me realize this isn’t a permanent situation, but one that will change. I’ll get to go visit my Redgate colleagues, and I’ll get to go present at a conference in front of a live audience.

Just not yet.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beating the Cloud Vendors

I find the cloud in 2020 to be very interesting. I run into plenty of technical professionals that still dismiss it or think that moving to the cloud is a recipe for disaster. They are sure their internal systems are better, more cost effective, and better built than anything a cloud vendor can sell their organization.

They might be right. I do think that this can be true.

I also think that the cloud is a fairly unstoppable trend for the world, so you better be able to answer Brent’s question: what do you do better than the cloud? Even if your company isn’t planning on moving or pushing you to think about it, this could be a good exercise. In fact, it might be a fun team building exercise over lunch or on a late Friday afternoon when things are slow.

It does mean that you need to learn something about the cloud, which is a very nebulous term. There are IaaS and PaaS services, lots of networking options, plenty of automated tasks built in and even more services available that you might ever want to install. There is also very confusing pricing, limited hardware choices, and a feature mix that could be different from what’s available on premises.

The cloud gives you lots of flexibility in some ways, and little in others. Vendors provide certifications and instrumentation and logging that you might not want to build. Or maybe you’ve built it already. What equipment or contracts that you have might not be cost effective to change now, but when you think about renewing or replacing them, you might have a much different view.

I can almost guarantee that your management, especially finance, will think about this differently than you do.

Depending on what I’m doing, I think the cloud is either amazing or maddening. Some of that is me, and some is truly the cloud and how I use it. You can beat the cloud vendors, but you might not want to. If you do, be prepared to prove it.

Steve Jones

Posted in Editorial | Tagged | Leave a comment

Daily Coping 13 Jul 2020

I’ve started to add a daily coping tip to the SQLServerCentral newsletter and to the Community Circle, which is helping me deal with the issues in the world. I’m adding my responses for each day here.

Today’s tip is to  make a list of things you’re looking forward to doing during a break from work.

When you’re working at home, it’s important to take breaks. I’ve gotten pretty good at not sitting at my desk all day, but it’s easy for me since I don’t work with others too often. As a result, I can flex work.

My short list during workdays is:

  • exercise
  • cooking

I will often take a few minutes after finishing some task to tackle a chore, or take a slightly longer break to set up lunch or dinner or exercise. My gym is open, and I go 2-3 times a week, but mostly continue to work out at home.

A better list might be what I will do on a vacation day. For those, I have another camping trip booked, taking a few days off. I’m also looking forward to skiing, which looks possible this winter.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment