Software is a group of instructions, programs, or data used to operate machines and execute particular tasks. Without software, most machines (especially computers) would be useless. For example, without an Internet browser, you won’t be able to open/read this article.
There are two types of software: system and application software. System software programs are designed to operate, manage, and extend the computer’s processing power. They serve as the interface between the hardware and end-users. For example, interpreter, compiler, assembler, and operating system are system software.
Application software, on the other hand, runs on system software and performs specific tasks. Spreadsheet programs, email clients, media players, and word processors are some examples of application software.
Almost every sector uses IT software and services, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, and transportation. And perhaps the most critical application software are the ones that underpin the securities markets where the major portion of the world’s wealth is locked up.
Below we have mentioned some of the most expensive software in the world that are commercially available. While not all are available for instant purchase, the list will give you an idea of which companies develop some of the world’s extremely complex applications.
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13. Adobe Font Folio
Price: $8,999 for a 20 pack
Adobe Font Folio is a collection of over 2,400 high-quality OpenType fonts from the Adobe Type Library. But what makes it so expensive?
These fonts are gathered from world-renowned foundries (such as Linotype and Monotype Imaging, Adobe, and ITC), talented individual designers (Michael Harvey and Jovica Veljović), and innovative companies (like MVB Fonts and LetterPerfect).
The OpenType format displays and prints fonts on both Windows and Mac operating systems, and can be used alongside existing font format in all documents.
Update: As of June 1, 2022, Font Folio is no longer available for purchase.
Price: $1,955 per year or $$5,865 for three years
AutoCAD is a computer-aided design software built for engineers and architects to create accurate 3D and 2D drawings. It automates various tasks such as creating schedules, adding blocks, comparing models, and more.
The software is equipped with numerous industry-specific programs for mechanical engineering, architecture, and electrical design.
The mechanical toolset, for example, adds a library of standards-based components to help users build, modify and document mechanical designs for manufacturing. It includes more than 700,000 intelligent manufacturing parts and functions to support ANSI, JIS, DIN, CSN, GB, and ISO standards.
AutoCAD supports many APIs and plugins for customization and automation. Its drawing exchange format, DXF, allows importing and exporting model data.
11. Autodesk Revit
Price: $2,805 per year or $8,415 for three years
Revit is a BIM (building information modeling) software that allows users to design a building and structure and its components in 3D and annotate the model with 2D drafting elements.
The software drives accuracy and efficiency across the project lifecycle, from conceptual design and analytics to fabrication and construction. As the model develops, Revit automatically updates elevation, sections, and floor plans.
Users can either sketch freeform models or connect laser scans directly to the BIM process. Revit doesn’t require any special rendering hardware to produce photorealistic visualizations. It can also handle routine and repetitive tasks so users can focus on more important things.
10. Civil 3D
Price: $2,680 per year or $8,040 for three years
Civil 3D is an innovative software civil engineers and architect professionals use to plan, design, and document construction projects. It supports BIM (building information modeling) workflows on civil infrastructure projects, such as highways, airports, rail, and site development.
The software helps professionals decrease risk and errors, respond quicker to changes, and deliver the project efficiently. It allows users to streamline tedious tasks like intersection design, corridor design, piping design, site grading, and parcel layout with certain tools and configurable design standards.
Civil 3D features intelligent components that interact to create interconnected designs and configurable styles, which enable the tool to conform automatically to almost all graphical standards. It supports various report templates for Electric Europe, Electric North America, Wastewater, and Gas industry.
9. Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Edition
Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Edition is an operating system for servers developed by Microsoft. It allows the server (a powerful desktop machine) to handle network roles such as domain controller, file server, web server, and print server. It can also be a platform for individually acquired server apps such as SQL Server or Exchange Server.
This operating system has three editions: Essentials, Standard, and Datacenter Edition. While all have similar features, they differ in the number of virtual instances of the server software users are allowed to run.
The Datacenter edition is designed for large-scale virtualization. It enables a single server to run as many instances as required.
8. Autodesk Maya
Price: $1,875 per year or $5,625 for three years
Autodesk Maya is a popular computer graphics software used to create assets for interactive 3D applications, games, animated TV series, movies, and visual effects.
It has been used to create visual effects in many popular Hollywood movies, including Ice Age, Spider-Man (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Maya supports dozens of plugins/extensions, which enhance its functionality. There are plugins for different tasks, such as animation, modeling, and rendering.
The plugin named Arnold, for example, allows you to manage complex characters, scenery, and lighting conditions. Already integrated into the software, this plugin makes switching between CPU and GPU rendering easier.
In summary, Autodesk Maya provides a complete 3D package and is best suited for freelancers and medium-sized agencies. The best thing is it offers free licenses for students.
7. Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition
Price: $15,123 for Enterprise Edition
Microsoft SQL Server is a comprehensive, enterprise-ready business intelligence platform that transforms data into meaningful insights. It offers several enhancements for the SQL Server database engine, SQL Server Machine Learning Services, SQL Server Analysis Services, and SQL Server Master Data Services.
The SQL Server Big Data Clusters uses Kubernetes as the deployment platform and adds the power of Spark and Apache Hadoop File System (HDFS). It supports data virtualization and workloads with deployable apps running in the cloud, on-premises, and in hybrid configurations.
This enables SQL servers to improve data estate and apps with intelligence over all types of data, whether structured or unstructured.
It also supports machine learning and extensibility with .NET, Java, Python, and R. Developers can operationalize their machine learning models close to the data while leveraging Java and other languages server-side.
6. QuickBooks Enterprise
Price: $4,440 per year for Diamond Edition
QuickBooks is an accounting toolkit developed for small and medium-sized businesses. It offers cloud-based and on-premises accounting applications for accepting business payments, managing bills, and other functionality for handling payrolls and inventory, and more.
It allows businesses to scale from 1 to 40 agents (who can all work simultaneously). Admins can assign roles to agents, so they only have access to the data they need to perform their tasks.
The software automates the inventory and order management systems. With end-to-end pick and ship functionality, businesses can manage their entire sales order fulfillment process from a single, intuitive dashboard.
With more than 200 pre-designed reports, users can deeply understand their businesses. It also features advanced reporting that allows users to make their own reports based on specific business requirements.
6. HOUDINI FX
Price: $4,495 for use on a single computer
is a 3D animation and special effects software that combines physically realistic dynamic simulation tools with superior performance. It is built for VFX artists, technical directors, and video game developers.
With Houdini FX, users can produce content faster via node-based procedural workflow. It has all the core features needed to create high-quality content, including tasks like animation, lighting, and procedural modeling.
Unlike traditional animation programs, Houdini utilizes an effective node-based approach that enables multiple iterations, making it easier to make alterations and create animations and effects.
This software is used by many giant VFX companies such as Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Framestore, Double Negative, and DreamWorks Animation.
5. HPE Intelligent Management Center MPLS VPN Manager
Price: $15,999 for managing up to 500 nodes
HPE Intelligent Management Center (IMC) is a modular, comprehensive resource management platform. It offers true end-to-end management for the entire network, supporting many different devices.
HPE IMC MPLS VPN Manager is a module for the IMC platform that provides functions for all aspects of MPLS VPN management, including VPN auto-discovery, monitoring, auditing, and performance evaluation. It also covers VPN and service deployment, which allows IT managers to allocate resources efficiently.
The software is capable of displaying a network’s configuration status and fault in real time. It shows traffic statistics and report functions for VPN, providing an effective method to study traffic trends in general and specific terms.
4. Core Impact Enterprise
Price: $12,600 per year for Pro Edition | $20,000+ per year for Enterprise Edition
Core Impact allows security teams to perform advanced penetration tests with ease. It provides certified exploits and guided information to uncover security weaknesses, generate reports, and prioritize remediation efforts — all in one place.
Its Rapid Penetration Tests are designed to automate tedious tasks so that pen testers can focus on more complex issues. They can replicate attacks across network infrastructure and applications to uncover exploited vulnerabilities.
The software includes a professionally written and validated exploit library for real-world testing. This library is filled with real-time updates of the latest penetration testing exploits and tests for other platforms, including third-party exploits from ExCraft.
Core Impact can be integrated with other testing tools, such as PowerShell Empire and Metasploit. It also integrates and validates weaknesses from over 20 widely used scanners, including OpenVAS and Burp Suite, helping testers prioritize modules of higher risks.
Price: Starts at $18,500 per license
VxWorks is the first and only real-time operating system (RTOS) in the world to support application deployment through containers. It is built for use in embedded systems that require real-time, deterministic performance with low latency and minimal jitter.
It supports C++17, Python, pandas, Rust, Boost, and more, as well as an edge-optimized, OCI-compliant container engine. It works on ARM, Intel, Power, and RISC-V architecture.
VxWorks has been used in countless products across various market areas: robotics, energy, automotive, aerospace, network infrastructure, consumer electronics, and medical devices.
For example, James Webb Space Telescope, Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Philips C-Arm Radiology Equipment, and BMW iDrive system utilize VxWorks.
1. Nuke Studio
Price: $12,478 for a perpetual license
Nuke is a cutting-edge application for node-based compositing, editorial, and review. It’s the industry standard, so once you learn it, you can apply it to big VFX companies.
In addition to over 200 creative nodes, Nuke includes various tools to perform complex tasks. For example, the deep image compositing tool allows you to work with images containing multiple colors, opacity, and camera-relative depth samples per pixel, so you don’t have to re-render CG elements when content changes.
It also contains machine learning tools that allow professionals to develop and apply unique sequence-specific effects. The integrated 3D environment makes it easy to render complex scenes composed of 3D models, 2D footage, basic geometry, lights, and meshes.
To sum up, Nuke has everything you need to tackle the various challenges of digital compositing. The entire software is regularly updated and improved, with a large community of people developing plugins to aid each other.
Expensive Software Designed For Niche Markets
14. Oracle Primavera P6
Price: Enterprise Edition costs $4,062 per user for a perpetual license
Oracle Primavera P6 is a project, program, and portfolio management (PPM) platform used to plan, execute, and manage projects. It is built to handle large, complex projects related to different industries, such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, and energy.
It allows organizations to manage multiple projects concurrently, providing a detailed view of all projects in one place. This means one can easily track progress, allocate resources, and compare performance across projects.
- Gantt charts and network diagrams
- Risk analysis and management
- Resource leveling and optimization
- In-depth reporting
- Integration with other project management tools
It can be either used as a standalone application or integrated with other popular enterprise platforms, such as Oracle SAP and ERP. You can deploy it on the cloud, on-premises, or use the hybrid deployment option.
As for pricing, the subscription plan varies based on the number of users and features required. For instance, the enterprise plan for 20 users costs approximately $30,000 per year.
15. Bentley MicroStation
Price: $6,386 for a perpetual license
Developed and sold by Bentley Systems, MicroStation is a CAD and visualization software for creating precise and detailed designs. It is used in construction, architecture, engineering, and geospatial sectors to design and manage 2d/3D models and documentation.
With MicroStation, you can create intricate designs using parametric modeling, geometric primitives, and surface modeling techniques. It supports various design elements, ranging from lines and arcs to surfaces and solids.
The software also lets you integrate geographic information system (GIS) data into your designs. You can enable geospatial data formats and perform spatial analysis via inbuilt georeferencing and geolocation tools.
- Automates repetitive tasks
- Provides dynamic views and animations
- Point cloud processing and clash detection capabilities
- Supports automation scripts and multiple file formats
Besides a perpetual license, MicroStation is available as a subscription. The one with the core features would cost you $2,135 per year (for up to ten users).
16. Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA
Price: $30,000 for the Enterprise Edition
Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA is a comprehensive simulation platform that allows engineers and researchers to simulate and analyze the behavior of materials and systems in various conditions.
- Computational fluid dynamics
- Finite element analysis
- Structural and fatigue analysis
- Electromagnetic simulation
- Multiphysics simulation, such as the heat transfer and fluid flow around a car engine
It is used in healthcare, automotive, aerospace, energy, and many other industries to simulate and optimize designs, speed up product development cycles, and reduce physical prototyping costs.
By performing simulations and virtual tests, researchers can get a detailed view of system behavior. This helps them identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to improve system safety, performance, and reliability.
SIMULIA is available both as a subscription and a perpetual license. While a subscription for ten users costs $20,000 a year, a perpetual license for ten users costs $60,000.
17. Siemens NX
NX 3-Axis Milling
Price: Perpetual license starts at $50,000 per user
Siemens NX is a sophisticated CAD, CAM, and CAE tool (short for computer aid design/manufacturing/engineering) used in various industries, including defense, aerospace, automotive, defense, and manufacturing.
It is known for its advanced product design capabilities, engineering analysis, simulation, and manufacturing process planning.
The software is integrated with specialized modules for structural analyst, motion analysis, and electrical and electronic design. It supports the creation of manufacturing instructions, tooling designs, generative designs, and complex geometries.
- Sheet metal design and analysis
- High-quality renderings and product visualizations
- In-built computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and thermal analysis tools
- Integration with other software systems
As per the developer’s official website, NX software results in 50% faster product design cycles and 20% shorter time-to-delivery.
Bonus: Most Expensive Gaming Engine
CryEngine is one of the most powerful game development platforms for creating world-class entertainment experiences. What makes CryEngine worthy is its visual effects, built-in high-end physics solution, character technology, and advanced AI system.
In 2015, CryEngine was licensed to Amazon for $50-$70 million. A year later, Amazon introduced its own improved version of CryEngine under the name of Amazon Lumberyard. Today, all CryEngine features, including the entire source code, are available under a royalty-based model (5%).
There is a subscription-based model available for small or independent developers. It costs $9.90 a month and gives access to all the latest features.
Frequency Asked Questions
Why are some software tools so expensive?
There are many factors contributing to the higher cost of complex software tools:
- Sophisticated software requires significant resources, including specific coding skills, algorithms, and extensive testing.
- Platforms designed for niche markets usually have higher price tags due to limited target customers.
- Companies invest millions of dollars in R&D to create new technologies, which reflect in the pricing of the software.
- Support and Updates are an ongoing investment, which leads to higher costs.
What are the most used software?
The most used system software (operating systems) are:
- Android and iOS: There are an estimated 3.6 billion active Android devices and 2 billion active iOS devices worldwide.
- Microsoft Windows: More than 1.4 billion monthly active devices run Windows 10 or 11
- macOS: About 160 million active macOS devices are in use worldwide.
- Linux: According to StatCounter, Linux holds a 97% market share of the web server market, 2.32% of the desktop/laptop market, and 0.81% of the mobile market.
As for application software, the most popular names are Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Zoom, and Microsoft Team.
How much do IT companies spend on enterprise software?
In 2022, global IT companies spent more than $783 billion to develop and maintain enterprise software, a growth of 7.1% from the previous year.
The largest spending segment for enterprise software is business applications, which include enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and human capital management (HCM) platforms. Tech giants also spend substantial amounts on cloud computing services, data analytics tools, and security software.