All software is a service now

One of the fun things about using an online service, say something like Gmail or LibraryThing, is that it gets better when you’re not using it. Software that you install doesn’t have this property. Or it hasn’t until very recently.

Increasingly, even the software that lives on your computer makes it easy to see if you’re due for an update. That’s good, but given a few dozen applications, it gets to be a burden to remember to check for updates and then dutifully install them. The web browsers Google Chrome and Firefox try to remove you from the equation by upgrading themselves automatically.

We’re also seeing a rising tide of programs whose job it is to act like software sheepdogs, nipping at the heels of all your programs and telling you when they get out of line. From MakeUseOf I learned about AppUpdater, a program that looks at all your other programs and makes recommendations about what you should upgrade. The FileHippo Update Checker does much the same thing. And on the Google Operating System blog I learned about the Secunia Personal Software Inspector which is similar to the others, but with a focus on keeping your computer securely up-to-date with all the latest patches.

It’s easy enough to see where this is all headed. Whether you browse to your software on a web site or install it on your hard drive with your bare hands, it will thereafter be kept continuously up-to-date. When you buy software, you’re no longer buying a bushel of bits, but something more like a promise to behave a certain way for a certain amount of time. All software is a service now.

3 thoughts on “All software is a service now”

  1. Conspicuously absent from this list – MS Update, which keeps your system up to date for security updates, service packs, device driver updates, and updates to other MS applications like IE and Office.

    Fun discussion – would love to know what people think of some of the more aggressive tactics out there (Real Player was super aggressive, pushing it’s agenda along with each update), but also Adobe Flash/PDF which drag along other vendors toolbars, and Apple Quicktime which happily installs iTunes.

  2. Yes, I should have mentioned MS Update, because it was busy installing the latest Windows patch last night even as I was writing that post.

    I mostly like automatic updating; what makes me crazy is anything that tries to install a big startup program for 24-7 monitoring (Apple and Adobe come to mind) or constantly demands that I approve the latest list of micro-updates and then wants me to reboot (Adobe is particularly bad on this score). And I agree that inter-vendor relationships are really galling (“I just know you’re gonna LOVE this Yahoo toolbar! We’ll put it over here.”).

  3. I was updated by MS as well, and it reminded me that most Windows updates are patches in the bad sense as well; they cover the problem rather than completely replace the problem, insofar as I have a list of 30-odd updates in my installed programs log that can be uninstalled if I choose. This means two things to me: first, I have 30-odd large, useless files cluttering my register and drive that I will never need, and second, the folks at Microsoft don’t stand behind their myriad of updates that can be removed at the first sign of trouble. Hah! Spanish Inquisition be damned! Java, on the other hand, completely replaced my older version when it updated automatically. No questions, no offers, just “this is what you’re using now.”

    Also, I think they should offer an instant credit Toolbar with people dancing.

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