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.