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Creative Cloud Captivity

An essential ingredient of creativity is freedomAs the dust settles about the Creative Cloud announcement, I’d like to weigh in my final thoughts.

I have read a few of the arguments from the middle-of-the-roaders, who tried really hard to understand both sides of the argument, and to assure us that Adobe’s new direction is not that bad and in most cases will save us money.  But most of these conclusions are based on a few misconceptions, mainly, the belief that Adobe releases new versions of its software every year and  that people upgrade every year.  If this was the case then the Adobe advocates have a something to work with. But in reality Adobe releases major upgrade every two or three years,  this changes the argument completely in terms of savings.  Adobe is not in business to save us money, and lose revenue in the process.  Their new direction is about increasing their revenue stream.  Adobe has promised to keep our software up-to-date as a trade-off, but how is my current CS6 not kept up-to-date?  What is the Adobe Updater applet for? This simple question begs for an answer.

In order add product value, Adobe has stuffed CC with a bill-of-goods such as Behance integration, collaboration system, cloud space, and other such things that are useful to some but not others. I can see creative cloud service being a good option for agencices that collaborate on constant basis with their team and clients, but I do not see all professionals using it, especially those who are not into the social networking hoopla. The CC services are meant to legitimize and increase value to Adobe’s CC suite, but it is not something which will be useful for everybody, and thus should be offered as an optional service not be a central piece of it. CC service is not a necessity, anybody can live without it.

Ok, how are people being screwed with the new direction?

People in the past sold their software on ebay, and those who didn’t need the latest and greatest bought it cheap off of ebay. This deal is now out of the window for both buyers and sellers. Adobe has infringed on the second hand market by screwing those who sold their older copy of Adobe Suite in order to save money on the next purchase. Adobe is making sure that their software does not change hands, because this will gain them more revenue. Now, I’m not against raising revenue, because that is the ultimate goal of every business, but I am against the sort of practice to gain revenue, because it is not based on innovation, but it is based on looking at the books and determining what needs to be done next to gain more profit. What this practice will do is drive all hobbyists to scout for alternative solutions. Adobe apparently is not aware that there market share consists of many hobbyists some of whom will become design professionals, but they will soon find out.

Subscribing for something monthly works for services or Saas type of models.  Adobe products are not known as services, but rather as tools. In the real world tools can be rented if you need to use them temporarily or when they are too expensive to own, but the same tools are available for sale. Adobe has completely change that understanding by saying that our tools are no longer for sale. The Cloud part of the Creative Cloud is the only serviceable part and should be offered as an option to those who need it. Adobe is simply trying to package all the goodies together to raise value of the product in our eyes.

The problem with rented products is that their value depends on the amount of time you spend using them. Someone who uses the software all day, everyday, will see great value in the subscription model, but someone who does not, would always question the value. So the only way to keep up that value is to always force yourself to use the software as much as possible. If the usage dwindles so is the value. Every time you open that bank statement, the Adobe fee will consciously starre at you. Not so with the bought product, because if you find yourself using it less, you just not upgrade next time.

In a nutshell:

  • You never own the software
    you only subscribe to it, and that means you cannot sell it.
  • You have no control over pricing
    if Adobe ever decides to increase its fee, well, since you own the software, you will be forced to give in to the increase.
  • You lose access if you stop paying
    economy is not that great these days, if one month you made little and fell short paying the adobe bill, well you get locked out from using it completely.
  • It is more expensive
    even the lonely photoshop at $20 a month equals $240 a year, where as you could have upgraded it every two years for $150-$200.
  • If you resist going with CC now, sooner or later you will be forced to
    the support for file formats, RAW converters will not be supported on older copies forever.

Should  hobbyists be Adobe’s main concern, especially because most of them pirate the software?

It should be of some concern.

For most folks Photoshop was a hobby that started when they were in high-school. The fallacy of this whole argument starts with  some people believing that design for most designers started from design school. Thats a false assumption for the most part. Maybe they have not paid for the program at first, but when they eventually became professionals they bought the program. Because when you’re working at a pro level, you legally register a business and you buy stuff for your business through legal means. Or you work for the company which obtains everything legally. Yes, Adobe shouldn’t worry about these professionals, because they are already hooked and will probably pay a subscription fee. But I’m talking about a growing up generation who will, after learning that Photohop is no longer for sale, start their hobby using Corel or other products and eventually become professional at using them. I also suspect that there will be a new rise in piracy among even professionals because of the expense. Remember, CC7 is still an installable product; it does not operate in the cloud.

The more I think about the CC the less I like it even though I am not affected by the change personally because my company gets me all the goodies I need from Adobe.


  1. Jeff Clarke

    I don’t have a problem with the subscription model, but I do have an issue with Adobe’s all-or-nothing pricing strategy. Either I spend $50/month for access to ALL of the tools in the suite, or I pay $20/month for access to just one. What about those of us who use an edition of Creative Suite OTHER than Master Collection? My cost to use Creative Suite used to be about $750 every 2-3 years (depending on upgrade availability and/or my need to upgrade). That got me access to 6 tools, 4 of which I use all the time, the other 2 I use less frequently, but nevertheless I still use them. I need access to these 6 tools. I don’t need access to the other 13 in the suite! Adobe would have me pay full freight for access to 1/3 of the suite of tools at a cost that gets me somewhere between double to triple my previous cost.

    Adobe needs to lower the cost of a single tool to $10, not $20, and then needs to offer bundle pricing to emulate the previous editions of Creative Suite. Or maybe a build-your-own option – get any 6 tools for for $25/month, add more tools to your bundle for $5-$7 each. With this model, now the user has viable options:

    – The Photoshop hobbyist pays $10/month to dabble.
    – A Photographer pays $20/month for access to Photoshop and Lightroom.
    – A digital designer pays $25/month for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver and Acrobat – a 6-tool bundle analagous to CS Design Premium.
    – A video production guy pays $25/month for Photoshop, AfterEffects, Premiere, Audition, Encore and Media encoder. Again, a 6-tool bundle. Maybe he wants Illustrator, too, so he pays the $5 up-charge.
    – A full-service Graphic design house would pay $50/month for access to the full suite with all the bells and whistles.

    I don’t think this pricing model is unreasonable for Adobe and would likely silence a lot of the grumbling.

    For the time being I will stick with CS6 until Adobe sorts this mess out. I suggest other designers do the same — vote with your wallet and demand that Adobe offer a fair pricing model.

    • Chris King

      Your breakdown/price structure would work for me!

    • Well-said Jeff! I would happily pay $10 a month for just PS, or $25 for the software you listed above.

      As someone who uses primarily PS, and occasionally Flash, the current pricing model is just not attractive to me at all.

  2. Jim

    I still “own” multiple versions of everything from Illustrator 1.1 to CS6. Most of them are now worthless. And, in fact, i never owned them, I just had a perpetual license to use them for as long as I had hardware that they supported.

    But, semantics aside, there are a number of points that people should realize:

    1. Software subscriptions are the the future. I expect all major software manufactures will, sooner rather than later, adopt this pricing scheme.

    2. Any pricing change will have winners and losers. It makes sense that Adobe is focusing on improving value for their best customers (those who update regularly). And it’s not surprising that those who update infrequently might have to endure a price increase.

    3. You are always welcome to protest or find a replacement but Adobe has to a large degree “bet the company” on Creative Cloud and I’m sure they are willing to suffer in the short term in order to be successful with Creative Cloud in the long term.

    4. In their comparisons, people like to assume that the cost of a perpetual license would never increase. Thanks not realistic. If, in the highly unlikely event, Adobe changed policy and started offering perpetual licenses again, it’s reasonable to assume they would be more expensive than past offerings.

    5. Finally, if you are happy with the status quo, you can continue to use your existing software for as long as you like. The new pricing structure takes nothing away from you. You don’t have to make a decision now. You can wait until Adobe has taken more time to define and strengthen Creative Cloud before you make a decision about whether it is worth the monthly cost.

  3. Chris

    It’s similar to Obamacare. You get to pay for things you’ll never need, fro prices you cannot change.

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