How many of you have bought a game or app for $50, used it 3 times then left it on the shelf to collect dust? I know I've done this with many pieces of software over the year, for various reasons. Maybe the software is horrible and I don't use it because it sucks. Maybe the software is good, but it turns out it wasn't what I really needed.
I'd love it if I only paid for software when I used it. I'm not sure what the pricing structure would be. Maybe for every hour that I use Microsoft Office, I would have to pay 25 cents. For every hour I play Half-Life 2, I'd do the same. Maybe for every time I listen to a song on my MP3 player, I'd pay 2 cents.
A pricing structure such as this would truly reward good software, instead of good promotion. If you make a product that I want to use again and again, you will get rich. If you make a product that I try once and never touch again, you starve.
This pricing structure could also give access to products that most consumers can't afford, and realistically, don't need very often. There's no way I can afford to drop $600 on the latest version of Adobe Photo Shop. I need to edit photos occasionally, so I can either: A. Steal photoshop. B. Buy something more affordable or C. Use something that is free. No matter which one of these I choose, Adobe is not getting a dime from me. I and Adobe would both benefit in a pay per use arrangement. I'd get to use top-notch editing software, and Adobe would have revenue from a brand new untapped source.
I do not currently pirate software, but I will admit that I have in the past. If I made a copy of Microsoft Office or Adobe PhotoShop, my rational was that I was not hurting anyone, because I was not a potential customer anyways. If I didn't steal it, buying it instead was NOT an option I would consider. This is flawed logic of course, because I probably was hurting some other company that published a more affordable product, but you get the idea.
With the pay per use idea, that goes out the window.
Implementation of my idea would be pretty involved. It would require people to setup accounts with a clearinghouse, then pay a monthly usage bill. Software providers would have to have some way to track usage and ensure that the data was transmitted. There would of course be the constant struggle against hackers and crackers to make sure everything stayed legit.
I think pay per use would broaden markets for publishers and provide end users with a more diverse and higher quality selection of software to choose from.