Upload & Sell: On
Several thoughts and responses.
First, James_N, you're right. MS didn't have ACDSee. Confused with iView or whatever they changed the name to. I never took MS seriously in the "creative" software market. (Apparently they didn't either.)
McBane: Aperture is a direct competitor with LR and I think Capture One (haven't used it). Having been a very heavy user of Aperture and more recently (last 6 months) LR, I can say they are quite similar in outcome though different in interface and approach. I've frankly been a bit disappointed with LR as it certainly didn't provide a performance gain for me, and mostly its tools are clumsier. Personal opinion there. Still, both work and are adequate tools.
Also you note that "Adobe's own bloggers have noted that a significant percentage of customers were on the every other release update cycle." We all, of course, take anything Adobe's mouthpieces say with a heaping tablespoon of salt, but I'm willing to bet there is some truth here. While I've used PS literally since version one I never upgraded until either (a) something really useful was added or (b) there was a favorable upgrade price.
I have limited knowledge of what large design houses do, but my experience is that they are even slower to upgrade, not so much due to cost but because (a) roll-out difficulties, and even more important (b) training, updating user skill levels. One "creative director" I knew claimed that there was always a drop in productivity after a major upgrade sometimes for as long as 3 months. The IT guys, of course, hated a roll-out. If my limited experience is normative, I really wonder how large corporate users are going to respond to being forced into a "continuous" upgrade mode. Not well, I suspect.
I know that Adobe keeps saying no one will be forced to accept upgrades, but their terms of service directly deny this - at least in theory - and we have no clue what happens if say we don't allow their "improvements" to take place more than maybe once a year. The bean counter executives that control the creative people do have their lawyers read all terms of service and do take this into consideration.
Finally John, basic biz school theory points out that shrinking market size (and penetration) by charging a premium for a smaller (select) set of buyers is always a risky proposition. The corporate landscape is littered with the husks or barely breathing remains of corps that tried this.
A case close to photographers is Leica, once the world standard of cameras. While always expensive they were never orders of magnitude more costly than competitors. Currently Leica is a much smaller company than it once was and relies on "camera as fetish" for the wealthy and the collector. Sure, some working photogs still use Leica, but they are a fractional precent of the whole.
As for they "couldn't survive if they continued to sell perpetual licenses," if my memory is correct I think they had a gross profit of ~$1B USD last year. That's well above the survival level. Bluntly this move is driven by quarterly report effect on stock price not on ROI to the investors themselves. An all too typical approach these days.
Back to the original premise of this thread: I'm not finding a replacement for the "heavy lifting" I currently use PS for. Need to look at GIMP.