I am having a bit of trouble coming up with an appropriate term for software that is locally installed, and fully owned by the buyer. This would be the opposite of the term "software as a service", which usually refers to a software service that is rented and most often installed outside the organisation (e.g. Cloud software). Would you have any suggestions?

"Local installation" is what comes to mind first, but it doesn't quite fit the bill here since it doesn't indicate the ownership explicitly.

  • I suppose you should be asking on stackoverflow and/ or other tech sites as there may already be a conventional term in use. This is less to do with language than convention.
    – Kris
    Sep 5, 2012 at 11:34
  • No, this is a legitimate question. Language is convention. The conventional English term for the large green bushy plant is “tree”. NOTE to the OP: Please include in your question the references you've already consulted and what you found. That's basic site etiquette.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:23

3 Answers 3


That would be software as a product. Here is the explanation:

The traditional model of software distribution, in which software is purchased for and installed on personal computers, is sometimes referred to as software as a product.

  • That's a good one. Will see what else comes up, but otherwise we will go with this.
    – Miika L.
    Sep 5, 2012 at 10:20
  • A key aspect of this model is that the use of the software is not time limited, that is, it continues to operate (legally and physically) indefinitely.
    – bib
    Sep 5, 2012 at 14:05
  • My last job was in an industry rife with that sort of jargon - this is the right answer. A "product" is something handed to the end-user, whereas as service is something the issuer actively maintains.
    – rsegal
    Sep 6, 2012 at 6:30

It depends on what you mean by "fully owned by the buyer."

Software consists of at least two things



The media used to distribute software (excluding online downloadable installation techniques) are physical objects and can be owned and transferred just like any other physical things. These phyisical things an also be rented or restricted in their ownership, just like other physical things.

The code contained on the media (or distributed online or by loaned media) is not physical, but can be owned, transferred, rented or restricted in these transactions. Code is also covered by copyright or similar laws (depending on country), and there are additional rights and restrictions attached to it. These include

right to copy or prevent copying

right to distribute or prevent distributiing

right to modify or prevent modification

To answer your question it depends on what you mean when you say that the buyer owns the software. In almost all cases, buyers own the media of delivery. But ownership of the code varies greatly. Some of the common flavors are:

  1. Buyer owns the code completely and can do whatever she wants, including copying, distributing, modifying, etc. (this is a full transfer of copyright to buyer). The developer no longer has any rights in the code. This is probably not what you want. This could be called fully owned software
  2. Buyer owns a copy of the code completely and can do whatever she wants, including copying, distributing, modifying, etc. However, the software developer also still has the right to copy, sell, distribute modify, etc. (this is a full license of copyright to buyer). This is also probably not what you want. This could be called fully licensed software
  3. Buyer owns a copy of the software and may use the software however she chooses personally or within her organization, but is restricted in copying (maybe a backup copy is allowed). Redistribution of the one copy outside her home or organization and modification may or may not be allowed. This approach may be called software as product or shrinkwrap software as described in other answers. Note that shrink wrapped also implies that the software is standardized (not customized) and that the rights (the contract) are pre-bundled and not negotiated by the buyer.
  4. Buyer owns a copy of the software for use on only one machine, but is restricted in copying (maybe a backup copy is allowed). Redistribution of the one copy and modification may or may not be allowed. This can also be called software as product or shrink-wrapped software.

There are numerous variations on these themes.

SUPPLEMENT: To indicate that the licensed versions of these arrangements (2. through 4.) are unlimited in time (not a service-for-a-period), the term fully-paid or fully-paid-up is often added to the term license or software.

  • Pretty close to the right answer (so +1). The real deal is that, regardless of your ownership of the physical media, only the copyright holder has the right to run that software. However, they will license you to run it as well, if you agree to certian restrictions (chief of which usually is that you paid them for that license).
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 5, 2012 at 19:32
  • It is of course possible to actually purchase the copyright itself from the developers (at which point only you have the right to run it), but usually that only happens if you are contracting out the development.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 5, 2012 at 19:35

I believe the term for this is shrink-wrap software; this is certainly what it was called a few years ago when you actually got a box with a manual and disks to install your new toys. I use the term occasionally still.

  • It seems to me that this description doesn't adequately address digital distribution, which could either be a service (anything cloud) or a product (e.g. photoshop).
    – rsegal
    Sep 6, 2012 at 6:33
  • @rsegal, that it true, it doesn't. But it was, and sometimes still is, the term used for this purpose. Sep 6, 2012 at 7:30

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