Topaz Labs, the software company known for offering free software upgrades, has announced a major change to its business model: customers will have to pay to upgrade several of the company's products starting in August 2020. The announcement was made by company CEO Eric Yang in a statement on Thursday. Gigapixel AI, DeNoise AI, Sharpen AI and Mask AI are all affected by the change.

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Yang explains that offering free major upgrades for its products was a way 'of acting differently than faceless corporations,' but that it ultimately had an unwanted effect. By hinging its revenue on new products rather than product upgrades, Yang says, 'we found that we weren't focusing as much as we wanted on improving existing products.'

Yang goes on to state:

We ended up with several different products that did similar things, which caused confusion about which tool to use. Although it started out with good intentions, our free upgrade policy ultimately prevented us from delivering the best possible products to you. Make no mistake about it: this situation was 100% our fault. We were not thoughtful enough about aligning our pricing structure with continuous improvement of our products.

Topaz Labs says more than $8 million worth of free upgrades were claimed for major new products last year. In 2020, the company will transition to paid upgrades, which will involve paying $49.99 for a year of upgrades following an initial first year of free major and minor upgrades. For customers who own multiple Topaz Labs products, the upgrades can be collectively purchased for $99.99.

The company says that Mask, Sharpen, DeNoise and Gigapixel will require upgrade licenses this year. Topaz Labs stresses that customers retain access to the products they purchased even if they choose not to purchase software upgrades. 'Wait until [the upgrade] actually includes something you want to pay for,' Yang says. 'This also incentivizes us to make sure that the improvements we do implement are useful enough for you to upgrade.'

Some customers are understandably upset about Topaz's decision to start charging for upgrades. Yang acknowledges this in his post, stating that it was a hard decision to make. 'I’m asking you to lock arms with us and walk through this phase of our development by accepting this change,' he states. Users will soon be able to view how much time remains on their upgrade licenses within their customer accounts.