LogMeIn Discontinues Free Service, Leaving Customers Hanging Out to Dry: 3 Lessons Learned

LogMeIn just abruptly discontinued its free service, prompting an outcry from its users. What 3 key lessons can we learn from LogMeIn logging its free users out?

Jan 23, 2014 at 3:20PM

LogMeIn (NASDAQ:LOGM), a popular service that allows users to remotely access their computers from other PCs or mobile devices, recently announced that it was discontinuing its free service, LogMeIn Free, and giving customers a grace period of seven days to upgrade to a paid version.

The paid version costs $99 for individuals (up to two computers), $249 for power users (up to five computers), and $449 for small businesses (up to 10 computers) per year. Current customers have been offered an introductory package with two remote connections for $49 per year.

Images

LogMeIn Pro2. (Source: PCWorld.com)

That abrupt announcement stunned customers, who started venting on company message boards, especially considering that the company proclaimed last March that "LogMeIn Free is free and will remain free."

However, the discontinuation of LogMeIn also highlights three important lessons that Internet users seem to forget.

Lesson 1: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Over the past decade, higher Internet speeds have led to higher demands for instant gratification. Along with that comes the expectation that things on the Internet, being virtual and not physical, should be free -- and that's where some users get in trouble with piracy.

That kind of thinking carries over to other services as well.

In March 2012, AT&T (NYSE:T) was skewered by critics for capping its unlimited data plans in response to users streaming media or downloading large files on their smartphones. Meanwhile, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) have repeatedly considered adding paid services, but the consensus was always the same -- the user backlash wouldn't be worth the extra revenue.

Many Internet users fail to consider the costs of running sites like Facebook and Twitter -- which require large, expensive servers to stay online. For them, the Internet is just a utility like water or electricity, streamed to a PC or mobile device.

Therefore, Facebook and Twitter have followed Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) example with advertising -- the only viable way to appease users accustomed to free services. Moreover, Facebook and Google have discovered that having users volunteer their data -- such as personal information, location, and search preferences -- creates a treasure trove for advertisers much more valuable than revenue from monthly fees.

LogMeIn users, some of whom have used the service for a decade, are just waking up to that realization -- that the company, which reported a loss of $0.01 per share last quarter, needs to make a profit. Although a loss of a penny doesn't look that bad, LogMeIn hasn't been profitable for three consecutive quarters.

Lesson 2: Nobody cares what's behind the curtain anymore.

It's often said that "the dumbest people have the smartest phones."

That simple theory fueled Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) resurrection last decade. Steve Jobs knew that modern customers would love the iPhone and iPad because they "simply worked." Average customers hate messing with drivers in Windows or typing in arcane commands into a Linux Terminal -- they just want a device in a walled garden, like the App Store, where everything can be set up and accessed with a single touch.

By comparison, older computer users will remember the days that they had to manually set up their sound and graphics cards to play games, surf the Internet via a command prompt, or install software via disks and CDs.

Those same users will know that LogMeIn isn't unique or groundbreaking at all -- Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has offered similar remote desktop services since 1998 and Apple has offered a remote desktop service since 2002. However, those services were often used for technical support, and didn't gain much traction with everyday users.

Remote Assistance

Remote desktop services have been around for a very long time. (Source: Talktoanit.com)

The idea of connecting remotely to a PC gained traction when people started owning multiple desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The rise of tablets, in particular, made it popular to remotely access a home PC.

All LogMeIn actually did was present the less accessible ideas of the "remote desktop" in an easier to understand format -- similar to how Steve Jobs made modern PC tablets (which had been around since 2001) more accessible to the general public with the iPad in 2010.

LogMeIn users who now realize that they have to pay for their favorite remote desktop service should realize that if they simply peek behind the curtain, they could find a plethora of free alternatives.

Lesson 3: People don't bother searching for things anymore.

That brings us to the third lesson: in an age when Google can tell us anything, many people don't bother to search for alternatives to their favorite software or Internet services.

If they did, they wouldn't be panicking over the discontinuation of LogMeIn's free service. Here are several other free (or partially free) alternatives:

Service

Supported operating systems

Number of connections allowed on free plan

Google Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux

User configured

Microsoft Remote Desktop

Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

User configured

imPCRemote

Windows, Mac, Linux

5

TeamViewer

Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Up to 25 meeting participants

RemotePC

Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

1

Ammyy Admin

Windows

1

CrossLoop

Windows, Mac

1

Source: Pcpro.co.uk, company websites.

For casual users who use LogMeIn for personal purposes, switching to one of these services should be fairly painless. However, power users who need more than a handful of remote connections might be better off sticking with one of LogMeIn's paid plans instead.

The existence of these programs should teach Internet users a valuable lesson -- that there are plenty of free alternatives out there for paid software, usually a simple Google search away:

Paid software

Free alternatives

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office Web Apps, Google Docs, OpenOffice

Microsoft Windows

Linux

Adobe Photoshop

GIMP, Pixlr, Splashup

Source: Industry websites, Gizmodo.

The bottom line

In closing, the abrupt end of LogMeIn's free services serves as a simple lesson that nothing can reliably stay free on the Internet forever.

What do you think, dear readers? Does the end of LogMeIn's free services mean that other free cross-platform services, such as DropBox, will eventually force users to sign up for a paid service as well?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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Fool contributor Leo Sun owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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