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Terrible Software As A Service Pricing Models

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My wife enjoys crafting things. These things include greeting cards, fabric designs and prints, custom labels, … Since a few years, she utilizes two Cricut machines that are advertised as “smart cutting machines for every craft”: it’s essentially a souped-up plotter that can be attached with different small pens and cutters, where you can digitally design your card and let the precise stroking be handled by the machine. A neat idea.

The proprietary software that comes with it is utter garbage1.

Note that the website explicitly mentions the usage of a “Free App”. On the main site, there is not a single word about “pricing models” or something similar: you can of course buy the machines and their accessories (more hooks, cutting boards, raw material, … ), but supposedly, the software is “free”2. Except that it’s not. It requires $10/month to function as expected and that’s called a Cricut Access subscription. If you see a pre-made card design you like in the app, it’ll cost you to print it. 90% of the suggested designs and assets are locked behind the subscription. When my wife wants to create something, she’s not gently nudged towards a paying subscription model, but rudely pushed to it. The Cricut devices aren’t powered on weekly—it’s just a hobby—making $10 a month a very rough deal for occasional cuttings.

This wouldn’t be more than a disappointment provided the software you have to use to interact with the devices is up to point, which it isn’t. I’ll just summarize my own impressions to keep it civilized:

  • The iPad app is different from the macOS version. Why? Buttons are placed differently, functionality is missing, and depending on the machine used (the small one called “Joy” or the bigger one called “Maker”), she has to use other software—not because it’s designed this way, but because the iOS version simply fails to recognize one of them. Why?
  • The software requires an internet connection and logging in to work. Why? I really detest this trend. If we already bought your hardware and overly expensive extra trinkets for more than $500 in total, I want to be able to work offline. I don’t want yet another account, I already bought your friggin' crap, just let me use it!
  • When adding a custom design such as an image or a hand-drawn vector trace, you have to upload it. Upload. To where? Again, why? If I’m typing text in Word and want o insert an image, I insert an image, I don’t first upload it to Of course, being an American brand, privacy policies “forget” to explain this.
  • The macOS version is extremely slow to boot and extremely sluggish to interact with. This isn’t our MacBook’s fault, other apps are snappy and it’s a new laptop. My educated guess? It’s built with Electron.
  • The software regularly crashes to my wife’s frustration, where progress is of course lost. The software also regularly fails to detect the target devices, even though the USB cable is dutifully plugged in.

In summary, we are paying $10/month for something we barely use each month, and if we use it, we’re cursing non-stop. Such a software as a service pricing model is a guaranteed way to piss off customers. Why are dubious amounts of data wired to god-knows-where? Why do I have to login to use something that’s right there, which just won’t work if our router is offline? Especially the “upload” part is what worries me—this clearly signifies that the app is nothing but a thin HTML layer driven by some server where our data is off to.

I have ample of other examples. How about the beautiful Adobe Cloud? It’s just $82.49 a month to use all of their apps, great, right? Cancel anytime, no fee! Except that we don’t want “all apps”, and we don’t want to “be online”, we just want for instance Adobe Illustrator. I have no problems paying for software—that’s exactly what we did when we turned our back on Adobe and bought the Affinity products instead. No subscription. Pay once. That’s not simply a psychological advantage: it also comes without sneaky data collection, while Adobe seems to be using all your pictures to feed their machine learning data set. That sounds a lot like the earlier GitHub problem.

If this is the future of software, then I am losing faith in it.

I have bought Sublime Text, DEVONThink, Obsidian (another Electron app that somehow is snappy, strange?!), IDEA, Alfred, … licenses with our own money and would do it again in a pinch, but the trend towards paying monthly for something is not something we’re keen on doing. There are enough monthly bills to be paid so we’re very protective when it comes to that. On top of this, paying for Electron crap with spying built-in is just adding oil to fire. I understand that companies need money to get rid of advertisements and selling your data, but Cricut software still feels like that.

Other monthly subscriptions we avoid:

  • A Nintendo Online subscription (I don’t like on-line gaming and would rather just buy a cartridge to own a game instead of “lending” their wonky emulated version);
  • Spotify or similar (We prefer supporting creative folks directly via Bandcamp and still buy CDs. That’s right);
  • Netflix or similar (We still buy DVD boxes. See above. That’s right);
  • Cloud gaming streaming services (I’ll buy the game from the devs myself, thank you very much);

Expect that “Cricut Access subscription” to be added to the list shortly.

It’s not that the subscription system in itself is to blame. We gladly make exceptions for content creators that can be supported via the likes of Patreon, but that’s not average software as a service. Of course I also pay DNS and VPS services to keep this website in the air. I also understand that monthly business-to-business subscription models are a completely different thing, but still.

If you create and sell software, please consider having an offline version with a classic license model. You can do it. We believe in you. Oh, and perhaps stop using Electron.

  1. Don’t take my word for it: see various Reddit threads, where people resort to designing in Inkscape instead. ↩︎

  2. Then there’s the question of opening up the driver API. Wouldn’t the Cricut hacking community thrive on this? Of course not, they yelled, while putting more green notes in their pockets. ↩︎

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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