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Software has never been a product

Life, children and computer programs are not products, even though attempts are constantly made to monetize all three of them somehow.

So I produce a hammer one day and say "this is a product, but software is not, because the hammer will still work 20 years from now without any updates."

You challenge me and say, "this software will still work in 20 years, too!"

"No it will not," I retort, "it won't run under any operating system of the era."

"But what if I install the operating system it was designed for?"

"Then it will fail to run on contemporary hardware."

"So I'll keep the same hardware in good repair."

"But the moment you connect it to the Internet, it'll be hopelessly compromised in a few seconds because all its flaws will be well known and probed for."

"Then let's talk about software that doesn't need the Internet, like this word processor."

"It'll be unable to read any files in common use then. My hammer will still work with any nail made 20 years from now."

"So I'll only use it with my own files."

"You won't be able to print them out, because no-one will make ink cartridges for the printer you've had to maintain for so long."

In a real conversation you'd eventually settle on an example where a piece of software written today could still be used 20 years hence without any updates to it, but those examples would be few or limited in use*. 

The difference between a product and a service is that the relationship between the supplier and the buyer can end once the sale of a product is complete, with no detriment to the buyer. With services and computer programs, however, the relationship can never end as long as the buyer is still using it. If the relationship is terminated, then the value of a computer program falls to zero within months or years.

Boxes of software sure all look like products to the untrained eye, and they're sold just like them, too. But open them and there's an expectation that you'll need to stay in touch with the vendor to keep it perpetually up-to-date.

There is no solution to this problem because it isn't a problem. Software is a service, not a product, and so is the supply chain of hardware to run it on. The problem, if there is any, is perception. Buyers and sellers of software are trying to make it behave like a finished product. The sellers complain when the software gets pirated, and the buyers complain when they find a bug that inconveniences them, and they both complain on the grounds that they are getting ripped off

When it's sold as the vehicle for a service, nobody on either side complains they've been ripped off by the software. The bug gets fixed, the pirate's account is shut off.

* Games are an entire category of computer program that can retain their value forever, as long as the hardware they run on can be kept working. So are embedded programs like those which control microwave ovens, although it's really the oven which is the product, not the software.
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