A Few More Cloudy Thoughts

(commentary)

You may remember my Last Camera Syndrome article. There's an intersection here. If you've bought your Last Camera or if you buy your last camera while Photoshop CS6 is still updating ACR for it, just buy Photoshop CS6 and you're done. At least until you need to switch to a newer computer or OS where CS6 doesn't run (still in the future at the moment). True, you won't get any new Photoshop features, but given how many people still manage to do their work with versions of Photoshop dating back to CS3 and before, I don't see that as a big issue. You'll have time to figure out a longer term solution if you need it.

Petitions to Adobe to go back to boxed software aren't likely to work. They've already made the commitment within their organization to go this route. You might get them to continue to sell CS6 for longer, but CS7 ain't going to happen without Adobe undoing all the changes they put in place in their development teams over the last 18-24 months. Going back would send the wrong signal to Wall Street, too. If you want to petition Adobe to do something, it's probably better to petition them to reconsider their pricing for a photographer that just needs Lightroom/Photoshop, and what happens to the software on major change (sale of Adobe to another company, failure of Adobe to survive, etc.). The biggest fear I have is of ending up with a product that needs to dial home but home isn't there any more. I find it amazingly ironic that Adobe, who was pitching DNG as the solution to proprietary and file format lock in camera raw files, is now in the position of potentially locking users into their file formats with no outlet should they fail. So maybe we should start the "make the PSD file format into an open standard" chant? ;~)

One serious thing that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere is the "Adobe bug" problem. With the boxed software, when you updated and encountered a new bug that made something not work right in your workflow, you could just uninstall and reinstall your previous version. I don't think this is going to be the case with the cloud versions. Adobe's history of introducing bugs into new versions that cause we users to go back to an older version isn't exactly perfect.

Much of Adobe's dilemma is their marketing message. Delivered as a fait accompli. Certainly not clear enough, as far too many people associated the "cloud" aspect with always needing Internet access to use the product or that the product code lived in the cloud itself. The pricing is essentially a net price increase to many (if not most) of their loyal users. The benefits of the move that were mentioned most mostly accrue to Adobe, not to users. Even the "more frequent update" message was worded very clumsily, and appeared to be more of an advantage to Adobe's developers than to users (e.g. "we can introduce features more quickly," not "you'll get new features more quickly") Uh, did they say that anywhere: users will get new features faster? Maybe they did, but that's not what people heard based upon the hundreds (and it might be thousands now) of emails I've gotten on this subject.

But here's the big thing I've decided is the real problem here: when you switch from selling something as a product (boxes) to selling it as a service (cloud), you're now in the service business, and you'd damned well be at the top of your game in terms of customer support. Those customers are paying you every month and expect good 24/7 support in return. Adobe needs to turn around their customer service attitude, and fast. If I'm paying money for something every month and get the kinds of answers I've gotten from their customer service that I've received in the past, I'm going to be a little more upset than I was. This big of a change really needs to not only be clearly expressed in the ways it benefits the customer, but it has to be backed by real customer support that goes above and beyond to keep them happy and paying their monthly tithe. This is especially true outside the US, where Adobe appears to be tacking on their usual "user not in US" tax to their pricing.

And finally, sarcasm. The camera industry is hurting. Adobe thinks they're a necessary service. It seems the perfect time to announce: "Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud and get a DSLR for US$199 with your two-year contract*." *Some restrictions apply; DSLR is locked to Adobe software during the term of your contract.

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