Adobe: no more buying software and maintenance

I can see how this is a good deal for Adobe, but it feels like a terrible deal for everyone else. I’m actually pretty pissed off about it, and it’s further destroyed any confidence I had in them.

It destroys any incentive they had to actually meaningfully update their products. Once you’ve moved over to Creative Cloud, Adobe have a gun to your head. Even if you’re unhappy with the service, you can’t stop paying without losing access to the applications. Worse, it may well mean losing access to your files, given how limited the options to “save down” to earlier versions usually are.

Long term, this feels like a recipe for disaster. I’ll be sticking with my trusty CS 5.5.

It’s funny they have chosen this approach, because it makes plain what should be somehow hidden.

For example, suppose you have the alternatives:

  1. Pay $500 up front, and then $10/month to use a product or service.

  2. Pay $50 up front, and then $50/month to use a product or service.

Assuming you will use the thing every month, and it’s just a question of which vendor to choose, obviously you choose option 1, since you will be better off after one year, and much better off after two or more.

But now consider this:

  1. Pay $500. You will have to pay something monthly, too.

  2. Pay $50. You will have to pay something monthly, too.

Now you go with option 2. HP did this with printers and ink, by making the ink an effective subscription, but not actually advertising the prices along with the printer. Even today, when everyone knows how the printer/ink pricing model works, it’s psychologically easier to go with option 2, even though you know it’s more expensive (and also, the entire industry was corrupted by the system, so you don’t have much choice anyway.)

Adobe, I suppose, just hasn’t come up with a way to hide the oppressive burden of the CC subscription. You’d think they would be happy with just eliminating the enormous volume of piracy of their stuff, but it seems they are being rather greedy. At one point, for example, I believe you could just buy Adobe Muse for $20 as it was kind of a toy. Now it’s either part of the $50/month CC, or you can get it for $15 a month on its own. Crazy. It’s yet to be seen if they have enough locked in business users that it doesn’t much matter what they do, kind of like Oracle and their own absurd subscription-based licensing system.

There are a few border populations this makes a lot of sense for, and I actually applauded them for addressing these folks when CC came out:

  1. People who work short-term projects, and don’t use the Adobe apps otherwise. Paying for a few months of access instead of the full price for the applications is definitely a cost-saver, especially if you’re talking about students and such.

  2. People who bought every single upgrade that Adobe put out. I think most folks are fine updating at every major version, or every other major version, but there are people who buy every major and minor version. This should end up cheaper for them.

  3. People who can’t afford a big one-time payment, but prefer to spread things out over the year. This makes as much sense to me as the offers from the gas company to average out your payments over the year (which somehow ends up costing more annually, go figure), but I suppose there are those who prefer it.

So I saw the point of CC for those folks, but the rest of us, not so much.

It destroys any incentive they had to actually meaningfully update their products.

I had that same thought as well, especially because they’re rebranding the Cloud products as CC instead of CS. If they drop the version numbers from the CC naming (no Photoshop CC2, 3, etc., just Photoshop CC), then not only is the motivation to provide significant updates to the product gone, but it also becomes much harder for us as users to know it. I’m sure they’ll initially push out some major updates to further convince the CS users to convert, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if after a few years the major updates slow considerably (while the rates are going up).

It’s only $100 on Amazon, making a subscription-based model even more ridiculous. I truly hope LR remains a standalone product. Otherwise, switching back to a Mac and using Aperture/Pixelmator is looking like a viable alternative.

I’m assuming that, at least for now, the more consumer-level applications that weren’t part of Creative Suite, like Lightroom and Elements, will still be available at retail in a box. They may roll it into the Cloud service at some point, but the boxed version should be around for some time to come. Different markets and all.

Actually, a quick Google turned up this Adobe blog from yesterday:

So my guess is basically right. Lightroom will be added in for the CC crowd, but also available at retail.

Yes, it looks like Lightroom and Photoshop / Premiere Elements will remain boxed retail for now.

Since I can get Photoshop CC only for $10/month for the first year, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’ll report back what I find in terms of update frequency, new features, etc.

They also appear to be investigating the possibility of a Creative Cloud for Photographers package that would include only Photoshop and Lightroom. I’m sure the photographers would think that was good news, but it seems like it opens the doors for them to further fracture the CC plans in the future, until we’re back at the point with Suite. We could end up with CC for Designers, CC for Web Devs, CC for Video Production, etc.

I also hopped over to take a look at what the CC pricing for teams/businesses was. Apparently it’s actually more expensive to buy in bulk. In CC for teams/businesses you pay $70/month per seat (compared to non-discount price of $50/month for individuals) and the only value-add you get above individuals is 100GB of cloud storage per user (versus 20GB for individual), each seat gets to make 2 calls to Adobe specialists per year, and centralized license management. I thought volume licenses were typically cheaper than individual, and those features don’t seem worth an extra $240/year per seat.

I certainly hope this will inspire some better 3rd party PDF handling software on Windows. Fortunately, there’s no good reason to upgrade Acrobat at this point, and by the time there is…

(I strongly suspect that most of the eRPG-creation crowd will avoid the “creative cloud” like the plague)

I used to procure software for an organisation. Getting a one-off payment for a licence was easy. Getting approval for a recurring cost, not so much.

Does this stuff still work if it can’t call home? There’s a situation now where fragile facilities cannot remain connected to the Internet because the risk of damage or theft is so high from hackers, especially the PLAC. They need to be “off the grid”. Likewise there are many situations where the Internet is down. So will these services still work if Internet is down or your area has been hacked/DoS’d? The Internet is becoming more prone to being taken down not less, as it is continually centralized. Moving everything to the cloud is a little dangerous.

One of the posted replies/blogs/whatever mentioned that if you bought a year subscription at a time you got 3 months offline access before it needed to re-check, and if you did the monthly thing you got 30 days… so it sounds like it just checks your key periodically, and it’s not an “always on” thing. In terms of egregiously annoying DRM, it seems like Adobe got it right. In terms of me wanting to pay them periodically for a product that I’d likely buy every 5 years or less, not so much. (Though there -are- benefits to a model like this; the initial barrier is reasonably low. It’d be far less onerous if there was a “Buy it for the next 5 years for 2.5 years x the monthly” or somesuch model as well.)

In addition to what mouselock mentioned, I’ve also seen it somewhere in one of the staff posts, FAQs, or interviews that if your business (or particular systems) does not have access to the internet, that they’ll work with you to get the authentication taken care of. I have no idea what it entails, but it’s probably similar to the process they have for CS users with the same issue, who need to at least authenticate at the time of install.

And while the 3 month thing is pretty generous, their DRM is not without some flaws. I installed an update late last year using the Adobe Application Manager to an install that had no problems and I’d used for months. After the update, it would not stop prompting me to authenticate, and forced me to do so every time I used it. Then it decided, presumably because I had to authenticate over and over, that I had it installed on too many systems. After several support calls, all I was ever able to do was get my authentication count reset just so I could use it. Adobe acknowledged there was an issue, but had no fix for it other than to keep doing what I’d been doing. To this day, I’m not sure if there is an actual fix. I had to reinstall Windows to get it to work right, and I’m still afraid to update again.

Stuff like this unsurprisingly comes attached with relevant EULA’s that address this kind of thing. They’ll surely work with you to provide offline access as required, but should you stop paying the subscription they will likely ask you to sign a software destruction agreement as acknowledgment that you are no longer using or holding copies of the software. That’s how it works now in the business world if and when perpetual licenses need to be destroyed/revoked.

My problem with Adobe’s pricing has always been that, unless you accept a gimped version of their software, they’ve priced out all amateur or small business users. Firms and companies can afford the whopping price tag regardless of the pricing model, but the scores of web designers, web comic artists and casual photographers who would love to have a real copy of the product can’t possibly justify the price tag. While I guess in theory a monthly ‘rental’ price makes it within reach for isolated use, in practice it will probably still send smalltime users to pirate the older software, and that’s a shame.

Compared to say, Sketchbook pro, super affordable. Maybe the good news is maybe we’ll see more lower priced but versatile options pop up and give Adobe a run for their money.


So we don’t usually have need for such software, but we have a new hire for whom this is relevant. Is there a decent Illustrator competitor that you can just buy outright?

Moreover, is there a decent Illustrator software package of any kind whatsoever? Illustrator itself seems rather awful to me.

Macromedia Freeha…oh wait.

How about the Corel graphics suite? CorelDRAW is the vector-graphics tool, like Illustrator. Paint is the Photoshop-like bitmap tool. I used to work there (many years ago), and they were competitive with what Adobe had to offer.

You can still buy Illustrator CS6 outright. It’ll set you back $600 for the full version (current pricing, Amazon is $537 at the moment), so I can understand if you’re looking for a cheaper competitor.