Software is one of the cheapest commodities in today’s market. Hundreds of thousands of apps on google playstore are free.Thousands of repositories on github are completely free. Software has become so free that software giants who can afford it actually pay consumers to use their software.
Many of us came into the programming industry, motivated by stories of Bill Gates selling Microsoft Windows Cds for — dollars and becoming a centi-billionaire. Unfortunately, such stories may never be told again. Software has become so cheap that except you are selling your soul to clients or selling something other than software (user information, user attention), you may find it difficult to make enough money to keep coding.
One may argue, what the heck are you saying, Larry; Look at nairaland, linda ikeji…etc. Ask yourself; are these guys really selling software? Nairaland sells advertisements. Linda Ikeji sells news/gist. The technology is just an auxiliary. Software is given away for free these days only as an invitation . It has become that cheap!
Why Software is so Cheap
1. High User Acquisition Barrier:
It has become VERY difficult to get people to download apps from app stores. The time when people saw apps as fascinating is long gone and these days, most users have a very limited range of applications they use. Getting them to expand that list is usually very tough because they rarely visit the app stores looking for new stuff. When they do, the average app is usually hidden so deeply in appstore that even searching for the app by its identical name, pops up about 20 completely unrelated, differently named apps, before you see the app in question.
As if things are not hard enough, with every app/software a person downloads, they have to go through another tutorial, conscious or subconscious, on how to use it. People don’t like having to learn how to use an app. They want to open it and start using it right away. Hence, if they find for any reason that they have to consciously learn to use your app…they close the app immediately and delete it the next time they are doing clean up.
Of course, one could learn and implement tips to make his apps more visible but the bottom line is: IT IS really difficult to get users to download and use an application these days and that is why software developers make their apps free as an incentive to users to try out the software.
2. Software is theoretically cheap to maintain: WRITE ONCE, REUSE ALL THE TIME: all the computer science gurus have always taught software as something that once done right, should be so strong that it would run over and over again, bug free. This is true of course. While Microsoft has labored so hard to make windows 10, the stats suggest that they could have saved themselves the trouble. People still love windows 7 and it satisfies their computer needs.
If software is a child that sustains itself, it makes sense to sacrifice the profit you could be earning from it. Heck, larisoft cleandesktop is keeping many desktops tidy right now and I have done nothing to the software for months.
3. Programmers value Bragging Rights More than Money:
The Software business is a very weird one. Warren Buffet once said he doesn’t invest in businesses he doesn’t understand, and tech is one of the businesses the Great Warren Buffet doesn’t understand. If you are feeling smart, but are stupid enough to create a software that people need, and then peg a price to it; you are shooting yourself in the leg. After investing so much money and time, marketing your software; Some other guy whose only incentive is to be known and respected, will clone that software and give it away for free. Your customers of course will run to him in droves. His is free and yours isn’t. This is the classic Android vs Nokia, IOs, Symbian, Blackberry Case.
Google wanted dominion, Nokia, and IOs and Symbian, and Blackberry wanted to keep their customers paying for their OS. We know who won, right?
If you are going to release a piece of software; IT HAD BETTER BE FREE or you are just working hard for someone else to come and reap what you are sowing.
Anarchy Amongst Programmers:
Think about it; just like Law and Medicine and Accountancy, computer programming is an intellectual profession. It is exclusively reserved for bright minds and anyone whose mind is below optimal wont last in the industry. What then prevents we programmers from forming an association, and regulating things before we self-destruct…like we are already doing?
We hate authority! The only programmers you can keep under control are those you are paying every month. If by some Miracle, all the programmers in Nigeria gathered at some place and by some bigger miracle, they all decided to do something, it is just like programmers for 80 percent of the gathering to go away and do exactly what they wish…not what the meeting agreed on. And how the hell will the leader of this meeting be elected so that a majority of programmers gathered will accept him? We’d be asking for way too many miracles for one day, right?
Programmers are too ‘rock and roll’ to be tied down. We love the freedom to charge clients what we like, work when we like, go to school if we like, and even drop out when we like, Unfortunately, this freedom comes at a steep price. Our division is only an advantage to the people trying to use us. They will pay whatever they like and there will always be a programmer willing to work at that price. Demand whatever skills they want, and you will see some programmers trying to learn all those skills.
Over the years, we have stretched ourselves thin, trying to outdo one another; while other intellectual professions are enforcing rules that are paying them fat salaries even in months when they do absolutely nothing.