Let me start out by saying that I intentionally waited a few days before writing this post. There’s an awful lot of people typing with emotion instead of thought and I didn’t want to get too caught up in that. I’ve done a lot of reading and admittedly a little head scratching because of it. Frankly I think it’s much ado about very little. Before you scroll down to comment, please read the entire post to see why.

Adobe has gone all in with Creative Cloud. Do you really understand what that means?

Adobe has gone all in with Creative Cloud. Do you really understand what that means?

When Creative Suite 6 was released about a year ago Adobe customers were given a choice to buy the same software packages and applications they were used to buying (Production Premium, Design and Web Premium, etc) or to move to the subscription model, Creative Cloud. I was all for this. Creative Cloud would add some services unavailable to perpetual license holders such as unlimited DPS Single Edition Apps, a TypeKit subscription, 20 gigabytes of cloud storage and even the occasional new feature such as the very badly needed Illustrator packaging feature. It included the entire Master Collection and allowed for a very inexpensive entry into the use of the software. But to me, the most important factor was that new versions of the applications would be made available immediately upon release.

However, even with everything packed into Creative Cloud there were those that preferred the upgrade path to Creative Suite 6; whether to individual applications such as Photoshop or InDesign or to the various suites. A while back, with the writing clearly on the wall, I asked what it would take to move all users to Creative Cloud. In that post I guessed that we were two to three years away from this move. Given that my blog was only a month old at the time I was rather surprised at the number of comments that it got. Even more surprising were the number of what I felt were valid concerns over a subscription-only plan.

I think at this point I’ll define “valid” by telling you what I think is NOT a valid concern and that’s that the cost will skyrocket and the fear that once Adobe has us all hooked they’ll stop innovating. That is simply not the culture at Adobe.

So, what’s a valid concern? Managing multiple seats; security for education and government agencies; photographers who travel extensively with little or no internet availability; those with cyclical businesses, etc. If you are among those with those concerns, Adobe has addressed many of them in their Creative Cloud FAQ.

The Perception

We’re all used to paying monthly for cell phones, internet and cable tv. Not so much for our software. So, I’m seeing this more of a problem with perception than reality. Change is hard for many people but eventually we settle into it. You can’t find too many cell phone plans with unlimited data but we continue to use our cell phones. When was the last time you checked a bag for free at an airport or got a free meal on board? We’re not happy, we grumble and we move on. That’s simply what we, as consumers do.

So, what can you do if you’re unhappy about this? Well, you can go ahead and sign the petition at change.org but that petition is, in my opinion, inherently incorrect in this statement:

You should support this petition because Adobe is making their already expensive products even more expensive in the long run. Adobe is robbing small business, freelancers, and the average consumer. They do not seem to understand that every company is a not multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporation that has an infinite amount of resources.

The Reality

While Adobe software is certainly not cheap, when you consider the revenue producing potential in using it, it’s not all that expensive, either. There’s no such thing as a business that can be run for free and let’s not forget that Adobe eliminated upgrade pricing for all but the most current version. This makes comparisons in price between Creative Cloud and Creative Suite invalid unless you upgrade every version. Only with lower end suites (Design Standard) would the pricing come out favorable for upgrades. For those that want to use a perpetual license and not upgrade every version, CS6 will remain available and you can worry about it when the time comes. If you’re waiting every three-five years to upgrade now, what’s the problem?

What it comes down to is that Adobe produces the best software for creative professionals and developers and charges accordingly for it. I suspect one of the reasons so many are up in arms is because this is the one thing we can all agree on. Why else would people be upset?

I get it. You feel like your trust has been violated but what have you really trusted Adobe to do? For me, I’ve trusted them to produce tools that allow me to make a living and pay my bills. That hasn’t changed even though those tools will now be paid for on a subscription basis. I chose Creative Cloud over Master Collection and even if a CS7 perpetual license were available, I’d do the same.

I truly believe Adobe will continue to provide full value for their products. We’ll just pay for it differently. Or, you’ll choose to sit it out and watch what happens. But when you start getting inquiries from clients that need work done and you don’t have the necessary tools, you’ll lose the job. That’s not Adobe robbing you; that’s you making a poor business decision not to have the proper tools to serve your clients.

The closing statement makes the least sense of all. Even at the full price of $50/month any business should be able to afford Creative Cloud. Go ahead and flame me in the comments but if you can’t afford $50/month to stay in business, you’re in the wrong business.There are plenty of things you’re paying the same amount or even more for. Things like the aforementioned cell phone and internet. In some cities $50 won’t even buy you a lousy meal, never mind a good one. I know many people who spend more than that at Starbucks.

In reality, Creative Cloud offers an easy and affordable way for anyone to get the tools they need to get into and stay in business and it offers a wealth of extras you’d never get it with a perpetual license. Some of them, to recap, are:

  • Mac and Windows versions of Master Collection apps with all new versions automatically available on release (perpetual licenses are one or the other)
  • A Behance ProSite ($100/year)
  • 20 gigabytes of cloud storage
  • TypeKit subscription with desktop fonts coming soon ($50/year for the web fonts only)
  • Unlimited Digital Publishing Suite Single Edition apps ($395 each without a Creative Cloud subscription)
  • Edge tools
  • Muse
  • Five Business Catalyst websites
  • InCopy
  • Lightroom

Is everyone going to use all of that? No, but until Creative Cloud a freelancer looking to start out in business with only the Master Collection would be looking at at least a $2,500 outlay. That’s more than four years of Creative Cloud and includes every update along the way.  Even a photographer only interested in Photoshop would have to pay $1,000 for Photoshop Extended. A single Creative Cloud application is only $20/month. Again, more than four years to cover that and it doesn’t include upgrades. Creative Cloud is actually a great solution for just those this petition claims to be defending.

Is it Perfect? No!

Nothing is. There are things Adobe might have done and things I think they can still do to make this situation a bit more palatable. Let’s start with what they might have done and that’s given users a bit of an alert. Much like their notice of the end of upgrade pricing for anything other than current versions perhaps they could have released CS7 as the final perpetual license and given everyone a year to get used to the idea.

Because upgrade pricing would have only been available to CS6 license holders many CS5 and earlier owners might have voluntarily moved to Creative Cloud rather than spend up to $2,500 for a new perpetual license. More Creative Cloud subscribers and maybe less angry customers. In fairness, though, I have no idea what kind of work that would have been from an engineering standpoint and I’m quite confident that those yelling the loudest would still be yelling.

Hindsight as they say is 20/20 and the band-aid has been pulled off, so now what?

What can Adobe do now?

I think things are going to get tweaked as Adobe moves forward. They’ve already said they will offer an annual plan that will only “phone home” every 99 days. This should alleviate the very legitimate concern of those that travel a lot or have very limited internet access. Additional steps I think they could take are:

  • Change their minds and backtrack: They’ve done it before with their upgrade policies so it is worth throwing in here. That said, you can safely file it under “don’t hold your breath.”
  • Long term plans with incentives: Sign up for a year and pay for only 11 months. Two years and pay for only 21 months.
  • Some kind of out. Honestly, I don’t know the full engineering aspect but it would probably ease some concerns if Adobe could offer a three year plan that would provide a perpetual CS6 license to fall back on.
  • The right to temporarily suspend a subscription: The best analogy I have here is with cable or satellite tv. If you go on vacation for a month you can turn off your service and resume it when you get back. DirecTV will allow a service to be suspended for six months at a time. This would be a great idea for Creative Cloud.
  • Referrals: As hokey as it may sound, everyone loves to be thanked for a referral. Refer a friend and you both get a free month, an Amazon gift card or an extra 10 gigabytes of Cloud storage (get me up to 100 gigs and I can save $100/year on Dropbox). Why not?


Creative Cloud has been an unexpected success with more than half a million paid subscribers and 2 million more with free and trial subscriptions. I’ve always felt that while Adobe had planned an all subscription policy at some point, the high adoption rate convinced management to make that move now and save the work involved in maintaining two licensing methods. When I asked what it would take to move everyone to Creative Cloud some of you said they’d actually have to eliminate perpetual licenses completely.

Now that that day has come, will you move to Creative Cloud or will you sit it out with what you have? If you’re using CS5.5 or earlier, will you move to CS6? Assuming Adobe is not going to change this policy, and I don’t see that happening, will you explore alternatives? If so, what will you be looking at?