Adobe Photoshop, along with all other Creative Suite applications, just made a move to the cloud. Adobe decided to discontinue software you can actually buy so it can force you to rent the applications for a monthly fee. This change comes with a number of problems but also some advantages. Here's what the change means for you.
You Own Nothing, and Creative Cloud May Not Save You Money
When Adobe announced Creative Cloud one year ago, we analysed the cost of their new service offering to see if it actually saved you money. If you're a new user, we found you'd save a decent amount of money if you opted for cloud services. If you already owned pretty much any version of Creative Suite or an Adobe application, however, paying for an upgrade that you actually get to keep was a better prospect. But even when Creative Cloud costs less, you don't get to keep what you pay for. The moment you discontinue your service you're left with nothing.
While Creative Cloud forces you to rent rather than buy if you want to use Adobe applications, Adobe sweetened the pot with additional cloud services to help make this potential turd easier to swallow. You get 20GB of cloud-based storage, you can sync your work to the web, you can use collaboration tools to track changes and communicate with team members and clients, and a variety of other tools and services. If you use the vast majority of Adobe applications for all your work, Creative Cloud offers a lot of bang for your buck. If you only need a few apps, however, you're not getting a great deal.
So, what will you have to pay? Here's the breakdown:
- If you own Creative Suite 3, 4, 5 or 5.5, you'll pay $30 per month for the first year and $50 per month after that.
- If you own Creative Suite 6, you'll pay $20 per month for the first year and $50 per month after that.
- If you don't own Creative Suite or own an older version, you'll pay $50 per month.
- If you're a student or educator, you'll pay $20 per month for the first year if you sign up before June 25. After June 25, or after your first year, you'll pay $30 per month.
- If you just want access to single apps, like Photoshop, you'll pay $20 per month per app.
Current pricing may cause confusion due to the discounts, but in the future (after July 31, 2013) you'll pay $50 per month as a normal person and $30 per month as a student or educator. (Adobe also offers special business pricing at $60 per seat per month, but you can learn about that on their price chart if you fall under that category.)
You Can't Pay As You Go
If you love mobile phone contracts you'll love Creative Cloud's new one-year mandatory commitment! You cannot sign up for Creative Cloud without agreeing to pay for an entire year of service. It doesn't matter if you're a student, an individual, or if you already own Adobe software — you have to sign up for one year. Current Adobe customers likely won't mind the commitment too much, because they'll want at least a year's worth of access. For many others, however, a commitment means paying as much as $600 for something they may decide they don't want after a few months. Students, for example, may not need access to Creative Cloud for more than a semester but will have to pay for it for an entire year. To make this situation worse, you gain nothing from making a year-long commitment.
The one way out? You don't have to commit for any period of time if you rent single apps through Creative Cloud. You'll pay $20 per app, which comes out to $380 a month if you want the entire suite. So if you want to fool yourself into appreciating the year-long commitment, just pretend you're saving $330 a month. The one very tiny silver lining in this situation? Adobe still offers a 30-day free trial of Creative Cloud If you're not ready to carve out a chunk of your finances for software rental, you can at least give it a try and see if it suits you. Picture: Janfilip/Shutterstock
Creative Cloud Provides Actual Desktop Applications, Not Web Apps
The Creative Cloud name initially confused a number of people as a cloud service often implies doing work through the web. Adobe Creative Cloud is not a set of web apps. The desktop applications do not live in the cloud. You install them like you've always installed them. That said, they need to connect to the internet once a month to verify your membership.
Adobe Creative Cloud's Copy Protection Didn't Get Worse
Software as a service (SaaS) — the philosophy that Creative Cloud embodies — often scares users because it appears to use more restrictive copy protection methods. In some implementations of SaaS, this is true. In the case of Adobe Creative Cloud, the applications function pretty much as they did with Creative Suite. They still require authorisation, but you authorise through your Adobe account instead and not with a serial number. One individual licence allows you to install and run Creative Cloud on up to two computers simultaneously, just like Creative Suite, but now you can have both a Windows and Mac version instead of choosing only a single platform.
Creative Cloud applications must verify your membership via the internet once per month, but otherwise work just fine offline. Some may see this as an additional copy protection mechanism, but Creative Suite has been phoning home to Adobe on a monthly basis for some time now — you probably just haven't noticed. The anti-piracy mechanisms haven't really changed, and now you have the advantage of using multiple platforms without purchasing a separate licence.
Updates Come Sooner (But You Can Skip Them)
Because you perpetually pay for Creative Cloud, Adobe doesn't need to hold any features for a year or two and release them with the next version of their software suite. When ready, they can provide an immediate update to Creative Cloud users. That means you'll get feature updates multiple times per year rather than every year or two and those updates won't come at an additional cost. On the other hand, if you don't care about constant updates or new features you still have to pay for them. Adobe won't force you to update your software, but you'll continue paying your monthly fee for the old versions. If you could buy a copy of the software outright, you could stay with an older version for as long as you like without paying extra. Early adopters will like these frequent updates, but those who don't care will find themselves paying for nothing.
When You Should Sign Up Depends on Your Situation
Creative Cloud rolls out in June, but if you upgrade by July 31, 2013, you get to take advantage of the discount pricing described above. For regular people, that means savings of $240 for the first year. Students and educators, on the other hand, must sign up by June 25, 2013, in order to save a total of $120 off their first year.
If you really want the latest version of Adobe's apps, signing up before July 31 will save you a lot of money for your first year. If you don't have any reason to update your Adobe software this year, you won't really save any money if you take advantage of this offer.
Students who sign up in June may end up wasting at least two months of service while school isn't in session, making it strange for Adobe to set an earlier deadline for this discount. While that may only mean giving up $20 of a $120 discount, students still may want to wait until school starts up again. Adobe tends to offer student promotions around September and it wouldn't surprise us if this discount pops up again — especially if Adobe finds themselves struggling to recruit new users.
Here's the bottom line regardless of your situation: don't upgrade early unless you know you'll need to upgrade this year.
All in all, we do not like Adobe's decision to completely discard software you can purchase. While renting Creative Cloud provides a more affordable path for some people, and we're glad it exists, we find the lack of choice and annual commitment extremely frustrating and not in the interest of the consumer. While we doubt Adobe will return to selling software, we hope to see them at least treat their customers with a little more respect and remove the year-long requirement without an adding cost.
If you want to hear Adobe's argument for the move, read its response to the widespread criticism.