Adobe’s announcement that its leading-edge Creative Studio programs are now “the Creative Cloud,” available exclusively via subscription, has generated more than the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth in the tech sector. Interestingly, in the past this kind of anger was typically directed at Apple, not “trusty old Adobe,” as people have called it for years. There are still details to be worked out, but the basics are clear enough, and we have them for you.
Creative Studio’s switcheroo
First, there’s a huge misconception, a basic error repeated even by “tech pundits” that should know better. Some people interpret “Cloud” in “Creative Cloud” to mean that the applications will be web-based, like the online Photoshop Express that makes “web crawling” seem positively supersonic. No deadline-driven designer will tolerate the lag of an 800MB photo file loading into a browser. Nobody at Adobe, which has helped power the Information Age since before you could rent laptops, would ask them to. The programs install locally and Adobe checks your subscription status now and then to confirm its validity. If you stop paying, you’re turned off.
The whole thing started in earnest with the release of Creative Suite 6 (CS6) in 2012, when Adobe offered it on DVD (the whole shebang is over $2,000) as well as by monthly subscription ($49.99) to the new Creative Cloud. For that, a user gets all the CS6 programs—but to sweeten the deal, students and current owners of CS versions 3 to 5.5 get the first year for $29.99 monthly. A single app (think Photoshop, the one indispensable program for all creatives) is $19.99 a month or some $240 annually. Doesn’t matter if you work in Windows or on an iMac, both OS types are covered as long as you’re net-connected, and you can install both.
So, does it cost you more or less? We’ll give you the conclusion of a good dollar-comparison discussion that you should read after this blog:
If you are a professional and use CS6 extensively, and always upgrade, you will definitely save money.
If you use several CS6 programs and upgrade every other year or so, you may break even but are likely to pay more.
If you use just Photoshop or another single application and/or upgrade rarely, there’s only a 50% chance that your costs will go up. Unfortunately, the other 50% chance is that they’ll go way up.
The core problem is that many people resist the notion of another monthly bill, like an additional insurance payment. They would rather buy software and use it until it doesn’t work anymore, rather than be compelled to pay—and to upgrade yearly! If you’re already doing high-end work on Mac Pros and Apple Cinema Display Rentals, running CS6 day and night, these new costs are probably incidental to you (or corporate accounting). For a freelancing college student or a self-employed designer, every penny counts.
Okay, then: Why?
Adobe claims that the move from CS to CC was done to put new features in the hands of users as easily and quickly as possible, instead of their waiting for yet another update or major release. The truth is probably a bit more complicated. Veteran Photoshop trainer John Arnold blogged that “50% of the people I talk to…are using a pirated copy [since] they feel they have to have it but they can’t afford it.” Arnold says the iconic program is “already way over priced” and “out of reach of most amateur photographers.”
Adobe has been having difficulty persuading creative freelancers and small firms—who are paying for render farms, mass storage, and other things—to pay for upgraded software when older (legacy) versions will do. (Microsoft and other companies seem to have decided that subscription services are the solution, too.) Low- and no-cost Photoshop alternatives on Mac and Windows include Rawstudio,GIMP, and GraphicConverter, all very good programs. However, Adobe products are uniformly excellent, and there is no way a pro CS user will ever accept a lesser program as a substitute.
If you make money in modern media, you must have industry-standard tools. You have to have what you have to have, a circular logic that pro users—freelancers, corporate employees, educators, and grad students—recognize and accept. Both amateurs and certain professionals, however, will have the entire spectrum of reactions, considering the amazing range of people using Adobe products. Tell us your experiences and we’ll share them with other readers when we return to update you on this continuing saga.