The most popular, and obvious, way is to charge for product upgrades. Most photo software companies seem to issue them in the Fall of each year and charge up to (or even over) 50% of the current purchase price for the upgrade.
I have no problem with this in principle. After all, without a consistent, predictable, revenue stream software houses would go out of business. Companies who have only a few products, such as DXO and Exposure, really need to issue annual updates otherwise funds for research and development would quickly run out.
What I do have issues with is when the ‘upgrade’ on offer is nothing more than a minor tweak here and there, a few bug fixes and maybe a new minor feature.
Of course, as long as the existing software continues to work well, then there is no need to upgrade and a sensible user policy is to only ever upgrade if the new feature is a must have.
However, PC operating systems also upgrade from time to time and the possibility does exist that your legacy software won’t work on the new version of Windows or Mac OS. It’s not a common scenario, but it can occasionally happen.
As far as Topaz goes, I think their stated policy is reasonable. Upgrading one product costs $49.99 for a year’s worth of updates. If you own more than one product then $99.99 buys you a year’s worth of upgrades for everything you own. Existing owners who bought their software some time ago are being given 6 month’s worth of free upgrades before the need to pay will arise. Fair enough.
Additionally, during 2020 this policy will only apply to DeNoise, Sharpen, Gigapixel and Mask. No reason is given by Topaz for this – maybe these are the only products they plan to make major upgrades to in 2020. Or maybe it’s a legal thing – it may be hard (illegal?) to start charging for an upgrade to a product that was sold with a promise of free upgrades for life.
In any case, I hope the upgrades released throughout the year will justify the cost. Time alone will tell on that, of course.
I remain of the opinion that Topaz Labs produce the best image enhancement, noise reduction and image enlargement software available. A combination of their products with Luminar 4 for RAW development provides almost everything you’ll ever need for still image processing.