I've been buying shareware since way before the Internet existed, and I've only once bought a lifetime software upgrade - and it lasted 13 years before the company got bought out and lost their entire customer base. But that's the exception, rather than the rule.
But to be honest, I was always uncomfortable with the idea, and I guess unless I pay 10 times the base cost, I don't think any developer will benefit from that kind of offer, and I couldn't agree more with what's been said. Bullseye!
But on the subject of 12-month (or other fixed-term licencing agreements): I couldn't disagree more.
A subscription is legally nothing more than a lease agreement, and in normal use, it consists of far less than a lease can provide, in terms of legally binding the buyer and seller's rights and obligations.
What happens if (Allah forbid!) the developer should stop developing the application or service? It's happened! Or - even worse - what if the developer doesn't feel the need to upgrade or extend the product? That's happened nine times to me in the past 17 years, and in each instance, even though the subscription agreement stipulated that the subscription would cover any upgrade, it didn't stipulate that the subscription should be continued at the vendor's option if there was no upgrades or version releases. In 7 out of those 9 cases, I was informed that if I wished to continue to use the product, I had to buy a new subscription. That's not a lease, in any legal definition. That's repurchasing the same product over and over again. It's legal, sure - but it's not fair or reasonalbe. (And one of those leases was US$450!)
So, although we might want to gild the lease-lily, a subscription offers nothing more than a legal lease agreement, and in most cases, offers far less.
Don't get me wrong - I'll defend the rights of any developer to assert Intellectual Property rights over the life of the product - and to ask a fair price for their product. I've written quite a bit of fairly complex software, and I can almost begin to imagine the amount of work (blood sweat and tears) involved in getting something as cool and sophisticated as WinStep out the door - and the effort to continue to build and improve the product as well!
But unless the developer is willing to provide updates regularly, AND to fix any problems in the current product under the terms of the lease, OR to provide a reasonably-priced extension to the lease if no upgrades or bugfixes have been provided, then I'm out of the market. Nine times bitten, twice shy.
There have been a few unscrupulous developers who have "released" patches to leased applications, simply to cover their arses so they could say they'd abided by the terms of the lease. I'm not naming names here, I'm just pointing out that this kind of behaviour does happen, and with some of the biggest names on the block. Trust me, I got stung badly.
A lease shouldn't cost the same as an equivalent product's outright price. If I want to lease a house, I'm not going to pay $100k every year when I could buy a house outright for the same price. (Pardon the dollar figures, I'm just using that as illustration. I couldn't afford a hole in the ground for $100k!!) So if a software vendor offers a product that is essentially similar in function or feature to other products out there that can be purchased outright, how on earth can they justify the same cost for a lease as the other products offer to own?
By this token, Object Desktop (just as an example) should cost around US$19 per annum, instead of $49, because there are other tools out there that provide similar or identical functionality, and they cost the same to buy outright as to lease OD for 12 months! Mind you, charging the full equivalent price isn't silly at all- if people are willing to pay it
I can't begin to describe how many products I've bought subscriptions for, only to lay mouldering in my archive folders, because the new versions either don't work, or have too many bugs, or are not supported on my OS or hardware - and the developers all refuse to support the older version (despite it working perfectly), or because they claim they can't afford to support it (which is the biggest load of BS I've ever come across).
Maybe offering a base "purchase" price, and much,much lower annual upgrade leases would be one way to go. That would make more sense than demanding the same (or greater) initial purchase price every 12 months. And it would go some way to compensate the developers for additional work, AND keep the user base happy because they don't have to pay full price every year for the product. At first glance, it's a win-win.
There are also "frequent user" reward schemes coming out now. If a user buys a product, they get a token of some agreed value for that developer's products; and for each subsequent purchase, additional tokens (of varying value) are accrued. Then, in 12 month's time, or when a new version is released, the user gets a significant discount based on the number of tokens they've collected. And if the user chooses not to use their tokens, they might save them up later for a completely free upgrade to a later version. So there are some really interesting alternatives to same-price multiple-year repurchase leases.
There has to be be a good way for developers to receive fair price for a product, and
to retain customers, and
to be able to profitably continue to improve and develop the products while creating new markets, but for me as a consumer, leasing isn't one of those ways, I'm afraid.