Consumers and enterprises alike are increasingly shying away from buying digital content, services, and software outright. Instead, these businesses are embracing alternative business models where they lease or rent access to digital products and services. The disruption to traditional business models is widespread and accelerating across all verticals of digital product distribution, with high profile digital disruptors like Adobe, Netflix, and Salesforce driving changes in the way consumers and enterprises pay for, and engage with, digital products.
Today we see that:
Business model changes are accelerating in the digital goods marketplace. Today's digitally connected consumer is increasingly eschewing the traditional ownership model of buy, download, install, and use. Consumers want access to digital content and services across their connected devices, anytime, anywhere — and are embracing virtual ownership models that provide access to vast libraries of content, services, and products under subscription, usage, and other emerging ownership models.
A different set of features and services are fundamental for digital goods sellers. Many of the features and capabilities found in enterprise eCommerce platforms are directly transferrable to selling digital goods or online services. However, most of these retail-focused solutions lack the unique features and services needed to sell digital products and services online, including flexible cross selling and bundling, asset protection, subscription management and entitlements among other features.
Brocade isn’t the loudest networking vendor on the block, but more than two weeks ago it released a subscription switching service that should have sent a shockwave through the industry. With Brocade Network Subscription,customers pay for their network infrastructure on a monthly basis. Sadly, the new service was not some new xfabric or new-fangled technology, the industry was quick to dismiss the news as anything more than another cloud announcement, and so Brocade’s subscription program registered only a murmur. What was missed was that the service helps to solidify I&O as a business unit on the same level as manufacturing, services, energy, and other businesses.
I’ve written extensively about how networking solutions need to support two business realities: 1) Enterprises are embedding themselves in their customers’ lives, and 2) businesses are forming symbiotic relationships with their vendors. In regard to the latter, businesses want to ensure that their vendor is creating products and solutions that are in the best interest of that company, and so there is an expectation that their partners will carry some of the financial risk and burden, ensuring that they will stay committed. On the vendor side and with respect to embedding themselves, the reasoning is twofold. First, Wall Street rewards recurring revenue streams, and this is more likely if the vendor can create something the customers can only get from that particular source. Second, vendors know it costs ten times as much to find new customers and would prefer to have a customer keep coming back to keep their operating costs as low as possible.
As a result, there has been a shift to a subscription service model. Take for example three distinct markets that support this strategy:
This week, the iPad app world is frantically sorting through some recent changes in its environment. Last Monday, Apple quietly altered its app approval policies in a way that will make publishers much happier. Specifically, Apple has relaxed control over whether apps can access content paid for outside of the App Store’s purchase APIs. The company has also allowed publishers to price however they want, both outside and inside of the app.
In the same week, FT.com released a subscription-based HTML5 web app intended for iPad users that bypasses Apple entirely, giving the publisher its own path to market that does not depend on or enrich Apple directly. The coincidence of these two events is not lost on most of us industry observers and is the topic of a Forrester report issued by my colleague Nick Thomas last Friday. In it, Nick explains why the FT’s move is probably the first of many such moves by the most recognized publishers, even with Apple’s newly announced policy reversal.
But while publishers figure out their next steps for their content apps, there’s one app that no one is talking about but I believe everyone should have their eye on. It’s the Amazon Kindle app. This app violates even Apple’s revised policies and will soon face a day of reckoning when Apple's June 30th deadline for compliance comes up.
I don’t claim to know Amazon's plans, but I will claim to tell Amazon what it should do: