By now you have probably heard about Adobe’s decision to stop development of Adobe Creative Suite (which includes such software as Photoshop and Illustrator) and move to a completely different subscription-only model. In short, Adobe does not want to sell packaged versions of its software anymore and wants you to instead pay for select software packages or the whole Creative Suite on a monthly basis. For example, today you can purchase Adobe Photoshop CS6 for $599 and own the license, which means that you can install it on your computer and use it whenever you want without limitations. With the new Adobe pricing strategy, you will no longer be able to purchase Photoshop that way – you will have to get a $20 per month subscription for using Photoshop alone (or $50 for the whole Creative Suite). There will be no other option. Software will be delivered over the Internet and once you get it installed, it will make occasional requests over the Internet to Adobe.com to verify your subscription level. Creative Cloud will work the same way that CS6 works today, except it will require an active subscription. When traveling without any Internet connectivity, the software will work for a limited amount of time (something like 30 days) before ceasing to work and requiring you to connect to the Internet.
Our readers might be wondering what we at Photography Life think about Adobe’s new pricing policy, so here is my personal take. I think this is by far the most arrogant and selfish decision on behalf of Adobe. While I actively use Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom software for my work, I am already considering alternatives at this point. Not because I find the pricing to be too high, but because I think what Adobe is doing is simply wrong. Read on to find out why.
Adobe Software Update Past
Historically, Adobe released new versions of Creative Suite software every couple of years. As new versions of software were rolled out overtime, Adobe had a lot of challenges with getting people to upgrade to the latest version. Continuous development and innovation are both costly for a software development company, so Adobe worked hard on adding new and useful features to lure people into upgrading. At the same time, Adobe had to fix problems and deliver updates on existing versions for certain modules like Camera RAW that had to be kept up to date due to new camera releases. At one point, Adobe executives decided to cease the development of Camera RAW on older versions of Creative Suite and only push those updates if you owned the latest version. So if you bought a new camera and wanted to be able to open up its RAW files, you had no choice but to upgrade.
What we are seeing now, is a step further in the same direction. Now you have no choice to upgrade – the “upgrades” will be delivered free of charge, as long as you continue to pay the subscription fees.
Adobe Creative Cloud is not a Traditional SaaS
A lot of people got confused by the terms “Creative Cloud”, because the word “cloud” typically means that the software lives on the Internet and is run through a browser. While Creative Cloud certainly comes with integrated cloud services, it is not your traditional Software as a Service (SaaS) model. For typical SaaS software, you pay a monthly fee for accessing and storing your data. Since the data is stored completely on the cloud, you must have an active Internet connection in order to use it. Because of this, most SaaS software is browser and device agnostic – you rarely need a “thick” client to access it. In the case of Adobe Creative Cloud, it is a completely different story. Because Adobe applications require a lot of computer resources, it is impractical to put everything into the cloud. The Internet speed is simply not there yet to support such graphics-heavy applications. What Adobe has done instead, is offer some services (such has online storage and collaboration) that are accessible via the Internet and the rest of it is the same old Adobe Creative Suite that does not need the connection to the Internet.
Problems with Creative Cloud Subscription Model
By seizing the development of Creative Suite software and its modules, Adobe is leaving no choice for current CS users that want to upgrade in the future. While this might not be a big deal for people that occasionally use Photoshop to edit their old photos, think of what happens when you buy a brand new camera next year. Unless you upgrade to a subscription model, you will not be able to open its RAW files in CS6. Your only workaround will be to get the latest Lightroom version, export the file in TIFF format, then edit the file in CS6. According to Adobe, Lightroom for now will be continued to be sold as a software package, but if Adobe does the same thing to Lightroom in the next release, then you will have to resort to third party RAW software and other workarounds. Here is a summary of problems with the Creative Cloud:
- You never own the software – that’s right, you are paying a monthly subscription fee and you will never own the software license.
- You have no control over pricing – if Adobe decides to charge more for the Creative Cloud, you will be forced to pay more.
- You cannot sell the software – since you don’t own it, you cannot sell it. In the past, if you bought Photoshop and decided to get rid of it, you could transfer your license to another person and recover your investment, at least partially.
- You lose access when you don’t pay – everyone goes through tough times. If for some reason you cannot pay for the software, you will lose access to it.
- It is expensive – for many, $20 per month for Photoshop by itself might not sound like too much. But that’s $240 in annual fees. For a person who already owns Photoshop and paid for a boxed version, this is more expensive than paying only $150-200 for an upgrade every two to three years. If you choose to get a complete set for $50, it requires an annual commitment; otherwise, the pricing goes up to $75 per month. Students and teachers pay more now, with $20 per month for the suite and annual commitment (there is no option for “per semester pricing”). Everyone on the Internet seems to be doing math based on retail box versions of Adobe products, plus upgrade fees. When was the last time you paid full price for a software product? Deals like these happen all the time, so it is not like most people pay the full price to start with. So please do not take into account new software license and upgrade fees. I have been a Photoshop user for over 10 years now and I only paid for it once. I upgraded it two or three times and at one point went from CS2 to CS5. I was never forced to upgrade and did it only when I was interested in the new version and features. Thus, for many like me, the new $20 per month subscription is much more expensive compared to a single $150-200 upgrade fee every 2-3 years.
- Pricing is outrageous for several products – licensing one individual software package is $20 per month. If I want to use Photoshop and Illustrator, I have to pay $40 per month for both. Add Acrobat and all of a sudden I am at $60 per month. It would be cheaper to get the whole suite with the software I will never use for $50. Basically, Adobe gives you two choices – pay for one package at $20, or pay for the whole thing at $50. Everything else makes no sense.
- Adobe Creative Cloud requires high speed Internet – first, you have to be able to download gigabytes of data over the Internet. I feel sorry for anyone that is on slow networks, especially abroad. Second, you must periodically download large updates when they are available. You will need a lot of patience if you are on satellite, slower DSL, etc.
- You lose access to proprietary Adobe files if you stop your subscription – Adobe has many proprietary file formats like PSD, AI, EPS, PPJ, etc. that can only be effectively opened with Adobe products. Once you lose access to Creative Cloud, you will either have to revert back to an older version of Creative Suite (if you own it) or use some other third party tool to open it.
I am sure I am missing other problems, but this is a quick summary of what came to my mind as I was writing this article. With so many problems, why do Adobe executives think that going to the “cloud” would be a good idea for everyone?
What Adobe Should Have Done
I have been in Information Technology for more than 15 years. I have been through enterprise-wide ERP software implementations, bought and used software and even participated and contributed to large scale software development. Adobe should have learned from other software companies on how to handle its product pricing and strategy before making its Creative Cloud jump. When it comes to software, many companies today offer both packaged and SaaS versions, letting the customer choose what works for their needs. And for many software packages, there is an option to move back from the cloud to a local environment – again, it is all about giving customers choice. But what Adobe has done is what some people referred as “extortion” – a forced migration to future upgrades, limited pricing choices and questionable future. In a software world, this sort of move could bring a company down. Heck, even Microsoft commented on Adobe’s stupid decision to move to the subscription model as “premature”.
What Adobe should have done, is give its customer two options – a boxed version with an upgrade path, essentially continuing the Creative Suite line, and a choice to go to the cloud. People that would benefit from collaboration and other benefits of the cloud would choose a subscription model, while everyone else would stay happy with their “owned” copies of the software.