Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted: May 24th, 2013 under Opinion.

Adobe announced that it will no longer sell boxed versions of its products; furthermore, it is launching its Creative Cloud. All of their software will be provided as a service with a monthly subscription. Even though Creative Cloud won’t have any application updates until mid-June, it is too late to get a discount upgrade to Creative Suite 6, all of incentive programs have been switched over to Creative Cloud.

It has caused a bit of a ruckus. There have been some mixed reviews, as well as online protests and petitions. I found this article as an unbiased overview of the change.

While I am not excited about this change personally, there is a lot to gain as a community. While you always had a 30 day free trial period, one month really isn’t long enough to learn and realize the full potential of their products, and it isn’t long enough to try out for a single small project. It is tough to stomach the large expense of something like Flash or Photoshop if you are a student or a teacher and want to offer an educational course on the subject. Easing the barrier to entry by shifting from a large initial investment model to distributing the cost over time seems like it could only grow the user base for adobe products.

Unfortunately, while subscription eases the barrier of entry, it also makes it easier to drop. If you invest in software and own it, you are incentivized to keep using it. Paying as you go lessens the expense to transition to other products (at least in terms of dollars – assuming knowledge, markets, and capabilities of competing software are equal). If you own something, despite the initial expense, the cost to keep using it is free; with Creative Cloud there is a cost to continue using it. There are some interesting behavior economics at play, essentially the monthly payment becomes a constant reminder of the expense – each bill is a decision point for you think about continuing the service. I talk about new technology curves in another post; typically you don’t jump on new technologies unless there is greater value in it right now and has strong future prospects. Creative Cloud users are going to be more likely to drop their products quickly for competitor’s products; with a subscription plan the competition only has present a better value in ‘the right now’ timeframe.

File storing / sharing on Adobe’s cloud is a really unappealing concept. There have been long existing software solutions for sharing files on a project; for example, Perforce integration support has been something I have always wanted out of Adobe products. The last thing I want is to have my work and intellectual property on someone else’s servers. I have worked with clients that would want to avoid that kind of security risk too. Maintaining a constant internet connection is a bit of a hassle. It has not been a successful model in games; I don’t expect it to do well in other tech sectors. We would like to think about these cloud structures as robust entities, but there will still be times when there will be down time or data loss where you will be victim to Adobe. You are the one that cares most about your data; individual entities will likely do a better job protecting their information, and access to it, because they are the ones that value it the most. At best, file sharing might serve a niche market for small start-up organizations without the resources for source control and a central server.

I don’t feel like adobe products update frequently enough for a subscription model to make sense. Games that I have worked on with a subscription model have tried to add content and features aligned with when the subscription was due so that continuing to subscribe had value and felt worthwhile. I am sure it expedites and lowers the cost of updating products on Adobe’s end, so updates might accelerate. However, major updates are only happening every other year.

I have been using Adobe products for years on a daily basis. I never liked the idea of renting anything, particularly those with annual commitments. I tend to skip versions of creative suite, because my primary focus is Flash (which doesn’t change that dramatically), which makes creative cloud more expensive long term. Alienating your user base is never a good idea. I cannot comprehend why they don’t also have an option to purchase support through a certain version or have a lifetime membership option, ‘subscription only’ seems shortsighted. It is also worth considering if this decision was made because it was best for the customer, or because it was the best way to prevent pirating.

Thanks for reading, and remember, we are all in this together.

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