As promised in my last posting, I’ve been taking a pretty hard look at clouds–from both sides now, mind you–for the past couple of months, and I really can’t see any way that Adobe’s Creative Cloud (CC) truly benefits the end user when contrasted with the previous model of simply upgrading to a new version of Creative Suite/Creative Cloud when the time is appropriate for you to do so.
With CC, you’re basically committed to a lifetime of monthly payments for Adobe software, and should you stop making those payments, you will no longer have access to any of the Adobe apps. This essentially locks you out of any file you’re created in each and every one of those programs. Ever seen the 1984 sci-fi classic “Repo Man“? OK, you probably haven’t, but I’m sure you still get the picture.
I suppose there is some minor convenience in terms of budgeting, but that’s only if you were planning on upgrading ad infinitum, as you would then have an accurate assessment of your yearly software expenditures via the fixed monthly fee. I’ll even go so far as to say it may save you some hassles by pushing the latest version out to you automagically, but it’s not all that much harder to go download it when you’re ready, as opposed to when Adobe says you are. They do throw in some cloud-based document storage with some of their Team/Enterprise (as in even pricier) plans, but nothing you couldn’t get by using DropBox or any one of a dozen other online storage services.
And lastly, if you want to get started with the Adobe apps and don’t want to lay out $1,299 up front for CS6 Design Standard, you can jump onto the cloud for $49.99/mo. and have access to the entire Master Collection. Awesome, right? Well, after two years you’ll have spent the same amount as you would have to buy Design Standard, and if you really didn’t need or want the rest of the Master Collection apps anyway, you’re now stuck paying $50/mo. indefinitely.
Plus you still don’t “own” anything; should you stop making the monthly payments, your CS software becomes vaporware. If you did want access to the entire Master Collection, that changes the equation a bit, but otherwise you’re locked into a monthly fee, paying for a lot of programs you don’t need and would not have purchased in the first place.
You always have the option to simply stop paying, but how are you going to open or access your files once Adobe cuts you off? I had originally thought this might be an attractive option for freelancers, who could pay by the month and stop/start as needed if they had slow periods. But if you read the fine print, you’ll see that in order to be able to jump on and off Adobe’s cloud at will, you actually need to fork over $74.99/mo for that privilege, which loosely translates to $900/year! So you’d be better off slapping the $1,299 on your credit card, making the minimum monthly payments and using the miles for a trip to Tahiti (or maybe even a Geek Cruise if you’re into that sort of thing).
So does this “cloud” software concept really benefit anyone? Absolutely. It’s a huge win for Adobe, and will probably be for Microsoft as well, given that the next version of Office for Mac (2014?) will be cloud-only and require a monthly subscription. With CC, Adobe doesn’t have to worry about those “upgrade-skippers” who jump from CS3 to CS5, or CS4 to CS6 and don’t fork over the money for the versions in between. They now have a very reliable and predictable revenue stream that’s not subject to the whims of those end users who don’t see the point in upgrading simply because a new version is released. And if you believe their sales figures, Adobe says that as of June 19 they’ve already signed up 700,000 of us, and expect to add another 500K or so by November. Long term, they project at least four million CC subscribers by 2015.
Which means, folks, that the cloud software subscription model is most likely here to stay, and in Adobe’s case there are not a lot of truly viable, non-“cloud”-y alternatives out there. There are some capable image editors, like Pixelmator and The Gimp, but other than QuarkXPress, there’s really not a viable substitute for InDesign. For Illustrator, sadly, there’s nothing. So if you’re not sold on the cloud, but you need to use the Adobe Creative Suite apps, your options are somewhat limited at this point.
Let’s start with a few basic factoids about the transition from CS to CC:
- If you want the latest and greatest (Adobe Creative Cloud) apps, you have to join the Cloud. ‘Nuff said.
- None of the new CC apps actually run “in the cloud.” They are downloaded to your Mac and run locally just like any of the older CS apps. Every 30 days or so your computer signs in to Adobe’s servers to confirm that your account is current and you’re up to date on your monthly payments. Otherwise, all your Adobe apps will refuse to launch.
- The CC versions of Illustrator and InDesign will run on OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard,” but all the rest of the new CC apps (including Photoshop) require 10.7 “Lion” or newer. So for all practical purposes, you’ll need an Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.7 or 10.8 in order to avail yourself of Adobe’s latest offerings.
- You can still buy Creative Suite 6 and “own” it in perpetuity, without taking on any monthly subscription fees from Adobe. This option may be rescinded by Adobe at any time, although my hunch is they will keep it going for a while as there are no doubt thousands of designers snapping up CS6 as I write this. These hard-core users are quite angry at Adobe for foisting the cloud-based subscription model upon them, but not so angry that they won’t buy CS6 as a sort of back-handed protest against Adobe’s evil machinations.
- Final point for clarification: We’ve now gone from Adobe Creative Suite 6 to Adobe Creative Cloud, period. No version number, and no more “Design Premium” or “Master Collection” stuff. It’s all or nothing now. This has led some of us to speculate that going forward, Adobe may simply slip in new features and bug fixes to individual CC apps on a random basis, and therefore we may never see an “Adobe CC2” announced in 2015.
And now, if I may be so bold as to offer some completely unsolicited and yet inestimably valuable guidance to all of our CS/CC users out there who are “on the fence” in terms of upgrading, here’s my handy-dandy, patent-pending Creative Suite –> Creative Cloud FAQ:
Q. I don’t own any version of Creative Suite, but I want to get the entire Master Collection as cheaply as possible.
A. Sign up for Creative Cloud. No other logical option for you, since the CS6 Master Collection would cost you $2,599 to purchase outright, and you’d be buying an older version from the get-go. Better to get the newest CC apps for $49/mo.
Q. I don’t own any version of Creative Suite, and I just want to get a package that has Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
A. Two options here: Fork over the $1,299 for Adobe CS6 Design Standard and milk that purchase for as many years as you can, and then decide a few years down the road whether you want to join the Cloud or not. Even if you never join the Cloud, or you do and then decide it was a mistake and stop paying, at least you’ll still have the CS6 software to open your existing files. If you can’t come up with the $1,299 from the get-go, then go for the cloud since you can get on board for $29/mo. (first year only, then $49.99) and have access to every Adobe app. Just be aware that it all comes crashing down once you stop making the monthly payments.
Q. I have Creative Suite 3, 4, 5, or 5.5 and I want/need to get Adobe CS6, don’t really care about whether or not I have the latest CC apps.
A. This one’s tricky. You can purchase CS6 outright for $275 if you own CS5.5, or for $549 if you own CS5. Otherwise you’re looking at $1,299. But… if you want to go cloud here, you can get the first year for $29.99/mo instead of $49.99/mo as long as you have a valid serial no. from CS3 or higher. That would save you $360 the first year, but after that it’s back to fifty bucks a month till the cows come home. Lately Adobe has been hinting that some or all of the upgrade pricing options may disappear as of Sep. 1st.
Q. I have Creative Suite 3, 4, 5, 5.5 or 6, and I want/need to get the latest Adobe CC apps.
A. Sign up for Creative Cloud and take advantage of the upgrade pricing noted above, while it’s still being offered. There’s no other way to get the CC apps anyway, other than to join the Cloud.
Q. I only need Photoshop, don’t care whether it’s the CS6 version or the CC version, and I don’t need any other Adobe apps.
A. You can still buy Photoshop CS6 for $699, or upgrade for $199 if you have Photoshop CS5. If you want to go Cloud, you can get one app, like Photoshop, for $19.99/mo. If you have Creative Suite 3, 4, 5, or 5.5, you can get an upgrade price of $9.99/mo for the first year only, $19.99/mo thereafter. Again, that upgrade pricing may not be around for much longer.
Here’s hoping one of the above scenarios addresses your personal situation, in terms of where to go with all this Adobe stuff. In a final display of out and out hubris, I will now tell Adobe what they really need to do to win the rest of us over to their side and welcome the Cloud to our own computers. Actually, it’s only three things (for now):
- Give us a way to open, view, and re-save/convert our existing files should we cancel our subscription. Adobe has indicated that they do recognize this as a concern among their users, but no formal solution for this issue has been announced to date.
- Let us build our own “bundle”; perhaps any three apps or any five apps, at a reduced monthly fee for those of us who haven’t the slightest interest in the entire Master Collection and only need, say, Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver.
- Allow us a “buyout” option, as with an automobile lease, whereby if we keep up the payments on our subscription for three years, we would then own, in perpetuity, whichever version of CC we started with when we first bought into the Cloud.
From my keyboard to Dr. Chuck Geschke’s ears… As with my previous emails on this subject, comments are most welcome, particularly if anyone can punch any holes in my logic, or if there’s a particular upgrade scenario you’re confronted with that doesn’t match any of the above.
Everyone sing along now:
It’s Clouds’ confusion I recall
I really don’t get Clouds