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Today (Christmas day) my free trial of Roon came to an end and I was glad to be shot of it. Good riddance, I say.

Why?

Not because of the interoperability, which is best-in-class, or the interface which is very slick, but it's something more fundamental and visceral than that, to my mind. Frankly, their billing model is the epitome of avarice. In a nutshell, Roon is on-premise software that aggregates 3rd party content and services into a top-level interface, so I would gladly pay a one-off fee for a license, but not periodic billing for ongoing usage. Secondly, the annual costs costs they charge are twice what they should be. $60 for a license which includes sub-version updates for (say three years) is reasonable. Three years of usage at their present prices would cost $360. The question which then looms is "for what in return?" Examine it. Subscription-based enterprises provide the infrastructure and deliver fresh value / utility per period. Roon, on the other hand, expect customers to buy/own the infrastructure and then pay for privilege of enjoying the same utility as you get on day one for the entirety of the billing period (ad infinitum). 

This may seem like heresy to those already bewitched by Roon, and this being the festive season, I realise that I may have unwittingly stepped into the role of cantankerous, penny pinching miser counting his last groat, but I have come away from the trial thinking that it's Roon who're rubbing their hands with glee, watching their overpriced gains trickling in. 

Tra la la la la laa, la la la laa.

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Not bewitched by roon, but my sub will renew in January without me it bitching at the cost. If you are so sure of your costing feel free to bring a competitor to the market place. The cost of all the competition varies, I can not find anything to cover all the points covered in roon without changing web pages or programmes, or spending quite a bit of time farting about with some arcane command line instruction that is in Greek or double Dutch.

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@Quasimodo you don't think Roon is worth the cost so you will no doubt buy / rent something else. Unfortunately for you I suspect your value judgement is out of line with how most other people weigh it up.

Luckily for me I bought the Lifetime before the price went up. That price rise was meant to deter people from buying the lifetime sub but it hasn't worked and people still buy it.

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Do you have your own ripped library? 

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then in reality, nowt of any benefit. It comes into it's own when combining ripped libraries with streaming services. 

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Roon is just a component in a setup. Either you choose it, choose alternatives or choose not to pursue the digital file playback path. If your objection is paying for something as nebulous as software then welcome to the 21st century. Pretty much all digital gear is going to be tied to firmware and/or software. Buying hardware that only works with its native code, or buying code that works with a variety of hardware are just purchasing choices these days. As a user I wish Roon success. Just like I wish Hypex or Tannoy or Teac or Intel success. I don’t really care if they sit counting their money with glee or just getting on with paying mortgages and taxes like the rest of us. It was a simple choice for me. Pay for something or don’t. 

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15 hours ago, Cable Monkey said:

If your objection is paying for something as nebulous as software then welcome to the 21st century

It isn't. The more keen-eyed will have noted my willingness to pay under a different pay model.

15 hours ago, Cable Monkey said:

I don’t really care if they sit counting their money with glee or just getting on with paying mortgages and taxes like the rest of us.

It's not collecting income OR paying taxes - a functioning economy needs both. The themes central to this posting are value v price. And, at a stretch, ethics.

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4 hours ago, Quasimodo said:

It isn't. The more keen-eyed will have noted my willingness to pay under a different pay model.

What exactly is that pay model? It would seem it is the same pay model they offer but with lower numbers.

4 hours ago, Quasimodo said:

It's not collecting income OR paying taxes - a functioning economy needs both. The themes central to this posting are value v price. And, at a stretch, ethics.

Value is an intensely personal thing. There are things in my setup some would never pay for that I would not be without and visa versa. The ethics I reject entirely because you haven’t provided any evidence of avarice. Just a mental image of people exploiting their customers based on a value judgement. The reality is Roon is accessible. The alternatives to Roon often appear less so. It might be an idea to start a thread with potential Roon alternatives for those less enamoured with the software. Let’s talk the competition up. It is at least more positive than simply talking Roon down.
 

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Broadly speaking there are two models for charging for niche software like Roon:

1.  Give a perpetual licence for a particular version, and charge for upgrades
2.  Charge a subscription fee

Developing quality software is expensive, requiring employment of skilled programmers, an ongoing outlay.  For certain types of software - e.g. audiophile music software - there's a finite number of likely buyers. A software developer using model #1 would therefore probably need the majority of its users to upgrade on an annual basis to stay viable. Even if the majority of their licensees do participate in an annual upgrade cycle, the long tail of users on older versions creates a maintenance burden. Mostly gone are the days when an old version would be 'frozen in time', and stay functional but just miss out on the latest features.  The requirement to keep older software secure and compatible with ever evolving third party services (Room uses third parties for streaming and metadata, for example) typically requires continued development of security and compatibility patches.

On that basis, I see the sense and indeed ethics in model #2 (subscription), at least for niche software like Roon. It is fairer to those who would pay for an annual upgrade anyway (not subsidising the minority who choose not to upgrade) and it is honest about the proposition (you need to keep paying to continue to access third party services, such as metadata, needed to give a 'best in class' experience).  Further, Roon is not reliant on continued sale of high margin hardware to continue to pay the software developers' wages (Sonos, Bluesound, most traditional hifi companies) and is not reliant on advertising or sale of user data (Google etc.).   Roon is simply high end software priced similarly to high end hardware, but charged in a way that reflects the realities of a modern software business.  Nothing unethical about that.

(I am not a Roon subscriber, by the way.  Like you, I didn't want to pay for it :D ).

Edited by jamster
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Thanks for weighing in, Jamster, with some good points well made. Not least for making abundant the two prevalent pricing models.

You say that you didn't want to pay for it. Well, that's just the thing - I did. I would be prepared to pay for Roon if it were based on a license model at a level reflective of its ongoing value, which, as has been pointed out, is a highly subjective thing. And that, I suppose, is the crux, and where we see eye to eye - neither of us thought the value justified the price.

As for the underpinnings of Roon's operations, I would also go some way to agreeing with you about the justification of model #2, but I struggle with this. Principally because Roon describes itself as a service, but it's far removed from SaaS (software as a service). Typically, SaaS organisations allow their users access the service either via browser or a client while the production (back-end) servers deliver the functionality. The more successful ones recognise the importance of having one production release which they incrementally update with features and support. Already there are two important differences with Roon:

  • In SaaS
    • Users are kept on one version
    • Only one main codebase available 
  • On Roon
    • Users can keep older versions 
    • Multiple codebases need support (*for installation client side)

(*Roon needs to be installed on a LAN i.e. on-premise to do its work.)

Perhaps the purest example of SaaS might be online banking and the app on your phone. Once the bank has a new version, it typically deprecates the old version and it stops functioning, forcing you to update the app. Some users find this mildly irritating, but this streamlined operation allows the bank to eliminate the maintenance burden you described. (Years ago Spotify used to aggressively deprecate clients every few weeks when an update was available, so this can be taken too far.) Among the many upsides though is that it's far more cost-effective, so ultimately, the end user prices are kept lower. If Roon adopted this approach, it might be cheaper and could, perhaps, claim to be a service. But, I suspect that the reason they don't do this is that the inherent complexities of compatibility with a plethora of local devices means that they know users will want choice over versions.

As it stands, the characteristics of Roon mean that it has more in common with a licensing model than a subscription model. It's the platypus that convinced some it could fly.

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A couple of slight adjustments.


In Roon users are kept on one version. Older versions are possible but are unsupported and you can’t silence the update messages. Any older versions working out there are unofficial. 

Roon is a SaaS though perhaps not in the traditional sense you describe. In its initial version it did nothing but catalogue and play your own files. Since then enhancements like the DSP/room correction functionality has been added but pretty much everything else it does ( and it does a lot) are back office services. Roon have said that should they go bust they would send out one final update that would switch off all of those back office services (which are run on a mix of Google and Amazon infrastructure) and leave you with what was effectively an enhanced V.1 again. 

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