Recently, BMW announced that they were going to charge 18 dollars a month to enable heated seat technology already present in the vehicle. This has sparked heated discussion about whether or not the Software as a Service (henceforth SaaS) model has gone too far.
Having to continually pay for a product, any product, can be very annoying. Everybody remembers the days of paying a single time for things like Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, and many many others.
However, the companies who made the switch to the SaaS model, wherein users pay continually for access to software rather than buying a copy of it, had been able to justify this change with the key selling points of cloud computing.
Namely, perks like convenience, speed and quality of updates, even security.
Customers adjusted, even if begrudgingly, to the overwhelming tide of subscription based services, submitting to the promise of improvement.
The malcontent with the overwhelming presence of subscription based services has grown more and more severe, and in some cases, the justification seems rather flimsy.
For instance, why is it that owners of a Playstation have to pay for the privilege of online, peer to peer matchmaking in video games, while PC players can do it with just the one time purchase of the game?
These questions now come to a head with the BMW incident.
Cars have come bundled with heated seats for years now, and none of them have felt the need to charge a monthly subscription for it. What could the justification possibly be?
It reads as though the car manufacturer fundamentally misunderstood why people were willing to change to subscription based services at all.
It remains to be seen whether or not customers will be willing to pay for this “upgrade.” If consumers again demonstrate they’re willing to pay, no matter how flimsy the justification is, it will surely result in a torrent of copycats.
Based on the media firestorm, the omens seem auspicious from the perspective of a customer.