Corel says no to subscription-only When Adobe forced its customers on to subscription plans for key software programs such as …


Corel says no to subscription-only

When Adobe forced its customers on to subscription plans for key software programs such as Photoshop CS, it was a real-life Economics 101 lesson – this is what happens when a company achieves monopoly power. The notion of consumer sovereignty – offering customers what they want at a fair price – goes out the window.

However few companies manage to hold on to a monopoly for very long as they are no longer guided by the discipline the free market imposes. First the chairman starts believing that he and the board of directors are pretty bloody exceptional to have achieved the monopoly position in the first place – when in Adobe’s case it’s the brilliance of the software developers. When people start believing they have the Midas touch, watch out. The scene is set for the failure from within. When the suits at Adobe decided to shoe-horn its customer base into renting its software, rather than purchasing it, it created such a scene.

Adobe and Apple have both enjoyed huge success by gouging obscene margins from a captive public – and in Apple’s case in particular there’s even been a bit of Stockholm Syndrome among the hostages. Both, in my opinion, are heading down a road with a cliff at the end. Could be a long road – but the cliff it still there.

So let’s hear it for Corel, which has decided to not follow the market leader in moving its portfolio of imaging software to a subscription-only model. The crazy fools went and surveyed customers before making the decision – highlighting Corel’s diametrically opposed attitude towards the people that keep the show on the road – the paying customers.

Photoshop’s close alternative, Corel PaintShop Pro X6 is released in the US and Europe this week and will not move to subscription-only pricing, and neither will it do so in the foreseeable future, if the company can be believed.  

Having conducted its largest-ever customer survey, Corel found that, when given three choices, 81 percent of current customers would be either likely or very likely to choose to ‘purchase the software as it is is offered today’ – via download or shipped disc.

More than two in three of those surveyed said they would be ‘very unlikely’ to choose a 12-month subscription plan, and 83 percent would be ‘very unlikely’ to opt for a month-by-month subscription.

The customer base differs from Adobe’s, with a slight skew to enthusiasts over professionals – 76 percent of PaintShop Pro users are photo enthusiasts and only 3 percent are professional photographers, while 5 percent of Photoshop’s customers classify themselves as professionals. Nonetheless, one can assume that if Adobe had surveyed its customers, overwhelming lack of acceptance for a subscription-only model would also have been the result. They didn’t ask the question because they didn’t want to hear the answer.

According to Corel, PaintShop Pro X6 will offer a cleaner UI; smoother workflow between the Adjust, Manage, and Edit sections of the UI; and a faster 64-bit architecture for both the Pro version and the pricier Ultimate edition. Users will be able to install either a 32-bit or 64-bit edition of either package on their PCs.

Corel unfortunately doesn’t offer a Mac version of PaintShop Pro.

> Keith Shipton  |



Away with the Pixies

The closure of the PixiFoto chain of portrait studio kiosks in Australia and New Zealand follows the much larger collapse in the US earlier this year of the CPI group which operated out of WalMart and Sears outlets in the US.

Both business failures were put down (in the general media) to the rise of the easy-to-use digital camera and the smartphone. Really?

Almost every time I have happened to know a little more about an issue than the average reader (and that’s not that often), I have been struck by just how bad the media is at its job.

PixiFoto’s demise resulted in the loss of over 300 jobs in Australia and New Zealand, and it made the local news for about half a day a few weeks ago. The consensus from the business journalists was this was inevitable, and all due to digital cameras being so darn capable that people didn’t have the need for professional portraits any more. (‘I’ll just switch to rim-light mode for a bit of extra drama and focus.’)

Just like the fall of Kodak being due to digital technology rather than being run by a bunch of nincompoops for the past decade, it’s less than half the story.

It didn’t take much in the way of enquiry to realise that there was more to this business closure than the cruel march of progress. Comments from frustrated and downright angry ex-employees, and even current employees in the UK, paint a more nuanced and unsavoury picture. Of loyal suppliers unfairly and unnecessarily left with many thousands of dollars of stock which will be a challenge to clear. Of employees with up to 25 years of entitlements left wondering what they could expect in the aftermath. Of a business run into the ground as management extracted as much as it could before pulling the pin, essentially from the loyal and dedicated staff. And of a business owner living in luxury on an island in Cyprus, who somehow managed to purchase the apparently still profitable UK arm of the business from the business he owned. For the last few years, the PixiFoto Australia operation was using hand-me-down cameras and lighting equipment from the UK branch But no – nothing to see here – move along. It’s simply collateral damage due to the excellence of modern digital cameras.

I don’t think so.  

It’s not portrait photography itself which has passed its used by date, but the  failure of these businesses to move with the times, to offer something contemporary to customers rather than re-hashing the ‘pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys’ portraiture aesthetics of the 1980s.

Michael Warshall, Australia’s most successful lab operator (Nulab), and a prize-winning portrait photographer in his own right, tipped the PixiFoto demise weeks before it happened. But he didn’t identify digital compact cameras as the culprit, but rather a failure to innovate.

Here’s what he said: ‘In America (portrait studio operator) CPI just shut down 2700 studios right across the States. That’s what used to record the history of American families for the last 60 to 70 years. What happens now?

The same is happening in Australia ““ all the Pixies (PixiFoto) and the rest are in deep trouble. They are declining. They haven’t changed. They want to sell the same stuff they sold 10 years ago, even two years ago ““ and that doesn’t cut it.

We have some customers ““ predominantly women ““ who have set up new shopping centre operations. Some have put in front-projection units where they can change the backgrounds. Their work is very different, and they are raking it in. Because they are different. Their products are different. They don’t sell the same as everyone else sells.’



PixiFoto questions still unanswered


> Keith Shipton  |