For people working in the visual media business there is next to no way around Adobe software. Now Adobe has announced that they will discontinue the traditional way of selling their products, leaving you no choice but to subscribe to something called the “Creative Cloud”. You pay a monthly fee, you get some online storage and fancy, collaborative web applications, but also access to download and use some or all adobe software – basically you rent it. While renting software or giving out licenses with a time limit is not a new concept, introducing such measures retroactively on products that are more or less the monopoly is a scandal.
When the Adobe Creative Cloud was first introduced parallel to the existing traditional way of “you buy it, you have it”, I was very excited about it. I was always worried about how I could afford to buy all these great programs once I am not a student anymore. Sure, Adobe’s pricing model is nice enough that you are better off getting all of products in the Master Collection as soon as you are using more than three, but $2.600 is quite an investment. The Creative Cloud came as a solution and a great offer. Instead of coming up with all the money at once you pay monthly between $30-70. If you add up the fee for two years you are still under what you would have spent on completely buying it.
The cloud has other benefits as well. It comes with online storage that we can’t have enough of these days and they are working on some very interesting web apps making sharing and collaborative work easier. Without a doubt there are many new opportunities with some innovations left to be discovered. Another huge benefit is that for the time of the subscription you get every update (even a big version upgrade) for “free” – well, it’s included in your monthly fee. While this will eliminate bugs faster and easier, it`s mostly Adobe who has an advantage from that. In the past they had to carry on support for many different old versions. If everybody has no choice but to use the most recent one this is significantly less work for them, because there is only one version to support and they can patch it pretty much immediately and for everybody.
Also, I have to mention that one subscription is good for two different computers regardless of the system. So if you have a Mac and a PC you no longer have to decide which version to get.
But on the other hand…
So far so good. But then Adobe announced that this licensing model becomes mandatory. You don’t have the chance of owning an Adobe product indefinitely anymore and everything is somehow connected to the internet. Many fears that I read in comments are not even valid. Quite some people misunderstand the cloud nature of the whole thing and are assuming that the applications only run with an ongoing internet connection. This is simply wrong. The software is still installed and runs locally just like the current versions. Only the license gets checked every 30 days. If it cannot verify the license it still runs for 99 days. And if we are honest… is there any artist who is not online once every 99 days?
Furthermore files can still be saved locally and it’s only an option to shovel them onto Adobe servers. Even if you do so you have a grace period to download your files when your subscription ends.
It`s another thing that annoys me most but somehow doesn’t get mentioned much from these angry people in the forums. Call me old fashioned but I like to own something that I pay money for. I want software to be mine and stay mine. Even if I stop paying I want to open the files that I myself have created. While there are alternatives that can open PSD and Illustrator files quite fine, I don’t know a satisfying way to export After Effects and Premier Pro files without leaving a lot of features behind. This to me is the biggest problem. If I decide to stop using Adobe products or cannot afford to pay for the subscription licenses, I don’t even have an outdated version of the software to open my old files. And what if Adobe would decide to make everything a lot more expensive? If we need to access our files we have no other choice but to pay!
Adobe could easily offer a solution to this problem… how about after you have paid your fees for a couple of years the software doesn’t lock completely when you end your subscription. No updates or support but you can still access everything. Wouldn’t that be fair?
It`s Adobe who profits tremendously from the new business model:
- Subscribers mean a more steady income
- they don’t have to convince everybody every two years to buy a new version because they already have.
- Easier support, because everybody has the same version (which hopefully also means better support for the customers)
- distributing updates is much easier
The disadvantages for the customers:
- If you end the subscription (or if there are severe technical problems) the software becomes useless. You cannot open your files anymore.
- Not every version update is good for the customers. Sometimes an update could mean that your scripts, methods, ways of working don’t work anymore. You don’t have to update but you keep paying your monthly fee.
- Adobe can raise their prices at any time (regardless of how many times they promise not to do that) and you have to keep paying it or your software becomes useless.
- The software phones home much more often. Can they lock your software remotely? How much user data gets collected and transferred?
- You might have to commit yourself to a subscription that goes much longer than the time that you need the software for. Picking only one or two products from the entire palette is now more unattractive than ever before.
Now, one word about those angry commenters who declare that they will “never use Photoshop again”. For many people in the media business this is not a realistic option. The Adobe products are standard, customers and studios demand it. It’s not so easy to opt-out, which is making this whole thing very unpleasant.
There are is a petition on change.org that you could sign to make Adobe aware of our discontent with the Creative Cloud licenses. While I don’t think that it’s very wisely worded (this one is much better written but has less supporters) it’s important to let Adobe now that they cannot do this to us just because they are a world-wide leader.
To be fair – time limited licenses are not new. If you legally own them, many 3D CGI programs are restricted to a time period. And also rent-buying is not new to us: Many people get “free” cellphones with their contracts that stay property of the provider until the bills have been paid for two years.
The scary thing in this case is that a company shows a lot of power, taking options away that once were given to the customers. And then the new model that Adobe establishes gives the company even more influence and control. Capitalism is merciless, Adobe doesn’t make creative products to be nice to artists. It’s a business! The bitter truth is that most creatives have to follow Adobe into the cloud, because the software is good, expected by the market and artists know how to use it.
This whole way of subscription licensing might even be the future. There are some good advantages, but I still hope for some sort of compromise where the user still owns something after his or her subscription ends.
What do you think about this? Do you use Adobe products? Will you get a cloud license sooner or later?