Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Head In The Clouds…? Saying 'No' to Adobe

Soapbox time, I'm afraid…

I can't help but contribute to the general furore over Adobe's Creative Cloud strategy. I know a lot has been said about this already, but I feel incredibly strongly about this.

For context, I have been a Photoshop user since v1.0 and have used every major version since then, excepting CS4, which I skipped. I've been an InDesign user since v2.0 (not CS2, but 2.0) and was a strong advocate in pushing two companies from a Quark/Postscript workflow to an InDesign/PDF one when Quark were fumbling the ball around XPress v4/5 and Adobe was picking it up with the original CS1 bundle.

Adobe has had an integral place in my workflow since about 1994. Their software, along with Apple's Macintosh platform, has played a major role in shaping my working life and the (primarily print-based) industries in which I've worked.

I have no axe to grind with Adobe; in fact, they have amassed an enormous amount of my goodwill over almost two decades.

But no more. With Creative Cloud, Adobe has demonstrated such unbridled contempt for its customers, that I have no option other than to vote with my wallet.

In case you've been living in a cave for the last few months, here is a very quick summary of what Adobe has done:

Previously, as an Adobe customer you would buy one of a range of software bundles that most closely suited your working practises. If you only used Photoshop, you'd only buy Photoshop. If you specialised in Web design, you might buy a bundle that had Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver, or one with Premier, After Effects and Audition if you were working with video and audio. The first time you bought one of these bundles (all branded under the Creative Suite —CS— label) it would typically cost you anywhere between a few hundred pounds and a couple of thousand. Thereafter, you could take advantage of upgrade pricing whenever Adobe put out a new CS version or choose not to if the upgraded feature set didn't offer anything compelling.

Adobe has recently announced that, as of CS6, there will be no more CS versions, replaced instead by their new strategy, Creative Cloud.

Here is how Creative Cloud works:

One can either pay for a single programme of your choice, and pay £17.58 per month, or £46.88 per month and get access to all of Adobe's programmes. You download the software direct from Adobe's servers and it runs from your own hard drive, just like all the previous versions. The only difference is that, once a month, it dials home via your internet connection and checks with Adobe that you are paying the monthly fee. If you've stopped paying, the software stops working.

Let's run through my objections:

1) This has nothing to do with delivering benefit to customers. Adobe have been utterly bare-faced about this; monthly subs even out the peaks and troughs of their cash flow.

2) This has nothing to do with piracy. Creative Cloud has already been hacked by pirates so it can be run without paying the monthly fee. Every single person that was running Adobe software illegally will continue do so without paying a penny. The only people affected by this are Adobe's legitimate customers.

3) The pricing is outrageous. US subscribers pay $50/month. UK customers pay £50/month — that's almost $75. Adobe has been challenged on their discrepancy of their European pricing before and have hidden behind vague excuses about shipping and regionalizaton costs. Now that the software is downloaded from central servers, these excuses are exposed as a lie.

4) The pricing is outrageous. If you used to purchase Adobe's most expensive bundle (Master Collection) and you upgraded it every time Adobe released a new version then you will save money on Creative Cloud. Every other customer gets screwed.

The thing is, very few customers use Master Collection, because very few people who design for print also edit video; very few people in Web design need a fully-featured DTP package. Almost no one, in fact. The vast majority of Adobe's customers used one of the cheaper bundles.

My last upgrade to my Design Standard bundle cost me less than £300. Under Creative Cloud, I will pay nearly £600 every year. Unless Adobe decides to increase the price, of course.

5) Adobe are holding us all to ransom. It's not unheard of for freelancers to encounter the occasional cashflow crisis — it's a line of work where the periods of most work very rarely coincide with the periods of abundant cash. Except, with Creative Cloud, if we don't make the monthly payments then software on which rely for our livelihood will simply stop working.

I understand that for many people, the upfront costs of the Creative Suite were prohibitive and that the subscription model works better for them, regardless of the fact that the overall cost is far higher. Fine. Let them have their sub — I have no issue with that.

However, it doesn't work for me: it costs me more money and takes control of my finances away. I want to be able to buy my software in perpetuity at a time of my choosing. I'm perfectly happy for both options to exist but, at present, Adobe are only offering the subscription model. I will, therefore, run my copy of CS6 until such time as it will no longer work and, at that time, I will find alternative ways of delivering my work.

Creative Cloud is one long, almighty 'Screw you' from Adobe to their customer base. I have no hesitation in returning the sentiment.

Someone called Sam Charrington posted the following on Adobe's Creative Cloud Facebook page, in response to a call from them for people's favourite jokes:

A man goes into a pub and asks the landlord for a pint of bitter.

"Sorry," says the landlord, "we don't sell beer anymore, we rent it instead."

"But that's madness," says the man.

"It's called innovation," says the landlord.

"Oh well," says the man, "I'll rent a pint of bitter please."

"You can't just rent the bitter," says the landlord, "you have to rent the whisky, the rum, the lager, the gin, the vodka, the crisps and the pork scratchings - the whole lot."

"But I don't need all that, and I can't afford it," says the man.

"I don't care," says the landlord.

"But I've been coming here for years," says the man.

"Talk to the hand..." says the landlord.

Which, sadly, is a pretty accurate summary of the situation.