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.


  1. Okay so what are our options now? In a free market we should always have the power to take our business elsewhere. I've always found it unfathomable that Adobe has so little serious competition, but now would be a very good time for someone to step up.

  2. Honestly, Simon? It's a bit of a struggle, particularly for those of us who need a colour-managed CMYK workflow.

    I think if I can scare up some more drawing/colour work then MangaStudio will stand in for Photoshop, and I believe CorelDraw will cover most of the same ground as Illustrator (although there's no Mac version at present). I have an elderly copy of Quark Xpress and have made a point of keeping my hand in, so that's InDesign sorted.

    It's a bit of a patchwork solution, and having to run Corel under Windows via Bootcamp will be a LONG way from ideal, but I think I can scrape by…!

  3. Well said Jim. You've come to the same conclusions as 10's of thousands of other loyal Adobe users.

    My wallet stays put.

  4. As a video professional I heartily agree. I don't need Dreamweaver and many other Adobe apps. But I need more than one. I will not 'rent' software. Period, end of story. I'm going back to Apple's FCP, Motion, Compressor and the like for my video work. Adobe had a great chance to steal me from FCP 7 when I switched to CS6. Now I'll learn a whole new NLE interface in FCPX before I pay a monthly fee. Adobe will get nothing from me until such time as they change course from this subscription only road.

  5. More than 37,000 folks have signed.They don't like Adobe CC licensing.Show @Adobe how you feel.

    Another more fiscal way to show @Adobe you dont like the CC licensing scheme. #adobe2014

  6. the pricing sure seems fair to me. Maybe there'll simply be a way to have Adobe allow for ownership of a program (without the ability to upgrade) after a certain amount of time of monthly payments.

  7. *sigh* I'll say it again: if you used EVERY application in the Adobe Master Collection AND you upgraded every 12-18 months, then Creative Cloud is reasonably priced.

    However, I simply do not believe that there are many video editors who need a fully featured DTP package, nor many web designers who need pro-level audio processing.

    Unless you used and needed all those different applications, then Creative Cloud will cost you MORE, without exception, than the CS upgrade pricing and you won't even own your software.

    1. I guess we'll have to respectfully agree to disagree. As a freelance editor, i find it necessary to upgrade my software regularly due to the ever-changing world of video formats, codecs, software improvements, bug fixes, etc. So if you think in terms of almost yearly upgrading, then the adobe price structure is an amazing deal.

  8. No, Anonymous, it's really not an amazing deal. It's only a good deal if you have a reasonable business case to use ALL the applications in the Master Suite. I upgraded every time a new version came out, and my last Design Standard upgrade cost me about £300. Creative Cloud will cost me TWICE that, every year, regardless of whether Adobe actually introduce any compelling new features.

    You make a modest saving if you were upgrading the Master Collection every 12-18 months. If you were one of those customers, good for you, but surely you must recognise that there are very few video editors who need a fully-fledged DTP package, and very few web or print designers who need professional-grade audio processing.

    EVERY non-Master Collection Adobe customer with the sole exception of single-application users gets screwed by this deal.

    Plus, y'know, the whole software-stops-working-if-you-don't-pay-Adobe thing.

  9. I'll never rent Adobe software. It isn't one of those "not until I have no choice", or "never say never" type of things, it just isn't going to happen.

    I think the one thing that Adobe has misjudged is how little most people actually care about their products. Yes, the core who do this on a daily basis care, but there are a lot of people out there who own Photoshop who really could be using Corel or even GIMP and get just as much done, or who bought Indesign but could do just as well with OpenOffice if they had to. How are they going to react to subscriptions ? Sure, they pay monthly for their cell phone, and car payment, but will they pay monthly for a desktop publishing application and keep paying over, and over, and over, for years ? I seriously don't think so. Even artists who BELIEVE they'll pay the monthly fee every month probably won't, not if their finances get tight and its that or have their cell phone cut off.

    So much of Adobe's market dominance to this point has almost been a function of the complexity of the software, and of the mystique that surrounds Adobe, and they are really putting an end to that themselves. Once users actually stop thinking about all the stuff they might do and start focusing on what they actually DO with Adobe products, and realize that they could do the same thing for a lot less money with other products, I think that will really hurt Adobe's bottom line. And they WILL focus on that when they see that recurring charge on their credit card statements.

    Even I have been exploring other products because of all of this and I'm amazed at just how many good products are out there that I hadn't been paying any attention to. I didn't know that Hollywood types use node based software for video editing, and I didn't know that Corel products were as well made as they are, and I didn't know that there were so many alternatives to Adobe Encore, etc, not until I had to know because Adobe forced the issue. At first when I heard about the subscriptions I was very concerned, now, not so much ... now I'm almost relieved that Adobe has made this move, because it will give other companies a chance.

    In the end Adobe didn't make the community, the community made Adobe. Now that the community isn't behind Adobe there is only one way it can all turn out, it's baked into the cake, and it is just a matter of time. Adobe isn't the first company to be undone by their choices, Wall Street history is littered with such companies.

  10. There are those for whom ADOBE CC works and there are those for whom CC is just not a financial viable option. The latter being left out in the cold despite years of supporting ADOBE. Owning is vital to their business albeit rent to own or plain owning. CC is not economically viable for the smaller business, freelancer or private owner. Especially if you do not live in the USA where it is far cheaper.

    I have done the maths. To upgrade from AAE CS5.5 to CS6 costs $215. To rent costs $20 per month. Over 18 months (normally takes ADOBE 18 months to upgrade) that's $360 to rent (and you have nothing), a massive increase of 67,5%. That is if they don't raise their rental.

    Rental may be a bargain if you want, need and will use the entire package, if not it's far more expensive. Who want, needs and will use the entire package? Surely there are thousand of legit users that don't. So why is ADOBE forcing this on loyal supporters. Why no owning, albeit rent to own.

    Renting means you'll be paying ADOBE for the rest of your life, and when you stop you have absolutely nothing. Rental is a liability not an asset. Not good business sense unless you're ADOBE.