Adobe has launched "membership" software subscriptions under the Creative Cloud banner. Those deals can make Adobe's often-costly software notably cheaper, but what seems like a simple monthly payment is actually a little more complicated. Here's what you need to know.
Adobe's design products essentially define the market, but you pay a high price for that huge range of features. The new Creative Cloud option lets you pay a monthly subscription fee rather than a huge upfront price tag for Creative Suite 6, but whether that makes sense will depend on how often you plan to upgrade the product and how many of the options on offer you use.
As we foreshadowed earlier in the year, Creative Cloud is a subscription-based offering which will launch in late May. There's some notable changes in the Creative Suite interface (such as a switch from grey to black as the defining colour), but the biggest switch is in the pricing approach. We still don't have pricing parity with the US, but the relative gap is smaller.
For a monthly price of $62.99 (in Australian dollars, and assuming a minimum 12-month subscription), you get access to all the products in Creative Suite 6 (CS6), including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Flash Professional, and the new Adobe Muse and Adobe Edge Preview HTML5 design tools.
You also get integration with Adobe's iOS apps (Photoshop Touch, Ideas, Collage, Debut and Proto), along with 20GB of storage, Creative Cloud Connection syncing software, access to Adobe's group of 700 Typekit fonts, online magazine and tablet publishing systems, and access to additional products which will be including in the existing price. Future promised additions include Lightroom 4 and Digital Publishing Suite.
One big potential selling point is upgrades outside the regular Creative Suite development cycle. "We just cannot release software every two years," Adobe's APAC product marketing manager Michael Stoddart told Lifehacker. "Our customers tell us constantly we don't want the hassle of updates, but we need updates. This is a different approach to that."
Right now, 14 CS6 software products are included. If you unsubscribe, you can no longer use the software. You can also pay extra if you want more online storage, though Adobe hasn't yet specified prices. The software will be sold via download, and you can select just those products you initially want and add others later (a good move given the large download sizes). Your Adobe ID is used to control your subscription purchases.
The obvious question is: how does that compare to buying the products outright? If you don't want a 12-month contract, you can pay $94.99 month-to-month. The 12-month contract costs $62.99 a month, which totals up to $751.92 a year (the equivalent of just under eight month-to-month uses).
The full-blown CS6 Master Collection will cost $3949 for new users as a traditional install; the CS6 Design & Web Premium suite will be $2886, the Production Premium Suite will be $2886, and the Design Standard Release will be $1975. In practical terms, that means that if you use several of the packages, the subscription will definitely be cheaper. But if you are only going to run Photoshop as a new user, an outright buy will definitely be cheaper.
Upgrade customers using Creative Suite 3 or later get a cheaper deal: they can pay $37.99 a month (minimum 12 months), which totals up to $455.88. Adobe expects both the new model and traditional boxed sales to continue for some time. "Box and licence sales are not going to go away," said Stoddart. "Hopefully there'll be a lot of cost savings with the Creative Cloud option though." Worth noting: signing up for Creative Cloud won't kill your existing licences, so you could keep running 5.5 on your current box and add the subscription to a new machine.
While there are plenty of free design apps available both on the desktop and online, Adobe remains the market leader. Retaining that market leadership as HTML5 becomes more common remains its biggest challenge, and the shift in pricing model Creative Cloud represents could help.
Tempted by the subscription model? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.