When upgrades become downgrades
As I work with recent updates to a variety of CAD programs, I notice that the updates are stripping functions out of the free and cheap versions of the programs. Customers are getting less by staying free.
The reason is not surprising. The CAD vendors who are offering some of their CAD software for free now want you to pay. The free version is just the hook; in their thinking, it's high time for you to swallow the line and sinker as well.
I have no problem with this. You would do well to pay the price it costs developers to develop (or license) the software. Even when software is entirely free, I'll send a donation to the programmer whose software I use a lot. When I make revenues using his program, then I feel good sharing some of my profits with him.
Here's where the problem is: when the CAD vendor makes negative changes on the sly. Most do. When a new release comes out, they are sure to trumpet the improvements and new functions added; they are, however, loathe to spell out what's been removed. If that removed function is important to the running of your firm, you want to know that you shouldn't upgrade. The solution is to install one upgrade on a dummy machine and see for yourself what's changed.
On the other hand, if the function-available-now-only-in-the-paid-version is so crucial to your firm's operations, you should be paying anyhow.
CheapCAD Also Becomes LessCAD
The issue affects not just freeCAD. I see it also in cheapCAD, where functions are being removed from the lowest priced version, and then customers have to pay 2x or more for the "pro" version.
Then there is yet another tactic, in which the CAD vendor removes a chunk of commands from the core CAD package, and then repackages them as an optional, extra-cost add-on. Kc-ching!
As one industry commentator put it, "Thing is, all this free 2D stuff is complete spyware. It monitors absolutely everything you do. So they know the most popular commands to pull out and stick in Pro."
As a pro-capitalist, I understand why software companies -- large and small ones -- tweak the feature sets to generate more revenues. The disappointment comes when customers set their expectations on the company they decide to support, and then the company changes the rules, unilaterally.
So, who is doing this? Well think of CAD vendors with cheap or free software, and the list includes the biggest and some of the not-so-smallest.