There are signs that the end of the ‘easy years' in software might be affecting some companies more than others.

The latest to experience an embarrassing degree of suffering has been Adobe, one of the last of the old-name software outfits, which has instigated a rolling close-down of its US operations to save cash. It closed for a week in April, and now it is closed this week too, with plans for at least one more shut-down later in the year.

Apart from having been around forever, Adobe is interesting because it is one of a very small group of ‘premium' software companies that have been able to charge what they like for their products.

In fact, Adobe is being pincered by two forces, one of which is the obvious recession in spending. People question big-ticket software buys for the sort of programs Adobe sells when times are tough.

But there might be more to it than that. Some of its best products are now matched by rivals and they cost a fraction of what Adobe has been getting away with charging. Nitro PDF costs $99, for instance, a hefty discount on Adobe's $449 for a very similar if better-known product.

Will companies go on paying through the nose for Acrobat? Some will but others might be cured of their brand snobbery by a recession that could change attitudes to tech spending forever. That could drive down the price of software over the next five years and turn software into the commodity product that other lines of IT products have been for some time.

Even Microsoft has had to chop its prices for Windows 7, mindful of the scorn that would be poured on them if they tried the Vista trick of premium-pricing an operating system. Even at the reduced rate, the sales figures will not be as dramatic as Microsoft is hoping they will be.

If the era of the $500 software box is over then it might not be entirely bad news for the industry as a whole. It will favour the companies that have real innovation instead of just more processor-hogging features, and which can achieve volume over the imprisonment of specialty niche.

The new apps might even be ones that people rent or subscribe to online from companies such as Adobe, but whether all of the big names will be there to sell them remains to be seen.