Adobe is “reinventing our desktop apps to make your creative process seamless, intuitive, and more connected than ever.” Publication of new versions of Adobe’s legendary Creative Suite of products that includes notable titles such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premiere, Prelude, and more has been suspended. CS6 is the last version of these programs that will see stand-alone, buy-to-own releases. So, what’s next for these mainstays of desktop production? A subscription model that that keeps all your apps cloud connected and takes ‘em away if you decide to stop paying.
Meet the next generation of Adobe products: The Creative Cloud. Under this new model, customers are required to sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $20 per month for a single product like Photoshop, or $600 per year for the entire suite. While this pricing pales in comparison to current boxed copies of Adobe products (Adobe Photoshop CS6 retails for $700 USD), the value proposition is a good deal more questionable for those who don’t need the latest and greatest version every couple of years. This new form of software delivery also comes free with the problems that afflicts all always online software: What if can’t connect? What if I don’t like the new version? What happens when the server is too busy?
So why the big change? The answer is threefold. First, everyone is high on clouds these days. The concept of having your stuff on all your devices everywhere you go is a wonderful idea, even if modern technology isn’t quite up to the task yet. Second, Australia's House of Representatives recently investigated why companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe charge so bloody much for their products down under. It turned out you could save $600 by flying from Australia to the United States to buy your boxed copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite. Adobe would cut prices, but only on the Creative Cloud subscription, in the region following the price-gouging probe. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is to curb piracy. I’ve known several of individuals who swear by Photoshop over the years. I think only one of them actually purchased the software. And this goes way, way back before file sharing or even the Internet.
What does the future hold for the mindshare leaders in desktop production? It is certainly a bold plan and professional production companies may welcome the new subscription service to save a few bucks. At least until a bad patch gets pushed out or an authentication server dies. Losing a project due to local hardware failure is one thing, losing a project for undisclosed reasons by someone you’re paying to look after it is quite another. What of the next generation of creators growing up making YouTube videos who can’t, or won’t, shell out $20 every month for access to Premiere and instead go about singing the praises of their pirated copy of Final Cut Pro or iMovie? Adobe doesn’t exactly have the market cornered on this type of software and some big name competitors like Sony and Apple are waiting in the wings. A number of free, open source alternatives, such as Gimp, even exist for users looking for a free alternative.
Or might this move open up Adobe’s applications to a whole new audience who would not have been able to try them any other way? Certainly $20, even if just a rental, fits into most budgets a lot easier than $700. Software as a service also opens up the risk-free potential for demos or temporary giveaways. Adobe has already begun offering the first taste freely with a 30 day trial that includes 2GB of cloud storage. Microsoft seems to be sitting pretty since flying its own suite of applications into the clouds with Office 365.
Adobe’s latest plan will definitely keep generating revenue from their true customers, but will it be enough to keep those customers for another generation?