Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

(news and commentary)

Adobe made it official today: no updated Creative Suite applications for sale in the future (standalone or suites). Creative Suite 6 is the last in the boxed line of software. In the future, new versions of Photoshop and the other CS apps will be by monthly rental only. That includes the version that will include the motion blur sharpening tool Adobe demonstrated at PhotoshopWorld and other places recently.

If you have a CS3 or later application, you'll be able to get your first year of Creative Suite Cloud applications (coming this June) for US$360 (US$30/month). The regular price will be US$600 a year (US$50/month). The good news—according to Adobe—is that for that price you get access to all the Creative Cloud apps for that price, plus other benefits (your basic assets and preferences are synced across the cloud no matter what computer you're using them on, for example). 

Of course, if you were just a photographer using Photoshop as an adjunct to Lightroom (which isn't a cloud app and still remains a standalone boxed product) on one computer, you're suddenly burdened with what will be a US$20/month Adobe tax (for a single cloud app) if you want to continue that process. A lot of this group skipped every other update, so their net cost worked out to something under US$17/month.

This also raises the issue of plug-ins. Google gobbled up Nik recently, and I'm sure they are thinking cloud photography in some way, too. With Adobe disappearing into frequent cloud updates (or so they say), how long will it be before Adobe announces an "add-on" plug-in cloud option? 

Adobe says that they'll "continue to sell and support Adobe Creative Suite 6 applications, and will provide bug fixes and security updates as necessary." This statement has no meat on it. For how long? How much priority will they put on bug fixes and security when it isn't their main product? What happens when the code bases start to diverge and it becomes more difficult to keep engineers up to speed on the CS6 code? Given the terrible digital rights management (DRM) in CS6 (I've had to reinstall once, and I've been hit with multiple sequences of re-entering license information, which is a real hassle when I'm traveling), how fast do they want to shut that server down?

Personally, I'm wondering what happens when Adobe gets hit with a denial of service hack on the server that checks to see if people are paid for the month. We've already had one instance of a photographer using Creative Cloud who didn't have Internet service (in Antarctica) when the software went to check his status and shut him down.

My guess is that Adobe just put a cap on the size of their market. Microsoft has their finger in the water with a similar approach for Office 365, but that's a bit different in that it's at a much lower price point, services more users (a household's set of computers), and is still just an option.

As you might guess, the Internet is all abuzz at this news, with lots of Sturm und Drang in the posts. I do think that a lot of people are forgetting about Photoshop Elements, which like Lightroom, isn't running to the cloud (yet ;~). Though I note that Pixelmater today is #19 overall in the paid apps in the Apple App Store, while Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 is #170. (Pixelmater is a Macintosh-only Photoshop-like editor.)

For the time being, CS6 users don't have to worry. But remember, ACR iterates with the Photoshop version, which in the future will be Photoshop CC (according to Tom Hogarty, the product manager, there will be one more iteration of ACR for Photoshop CS6 users). That means your next Nikon camera might not be able to be used with your current CS6 version of ACR. Of course, Adobe will say that if you just subscribe to the Creative Cloud, you'll be protected from that problem forever...wait, no: as long as you pay your bills and can get to their server.

Sigh. I've lived on the technology front edge for almost 40 years now. I've been through a lot of brutal transitions because of that. There's a good chance that many of us will be going through another soon. The problem I have this time is that while I can see the advantage for Adobe, I really don't see much of an advantage for me to make the switch. Indeed, for the implied extra cost--unless they want to permanently grant the discounted price to those of us who've been around since Photoshop 1.0--it just feels more like a pending price increase than anything else.

This one is going to end up a Harvard business school Case Study for future MBA students to chew on. What makes me think that some of those students will come up with a better answer than Adobe did, one that doesn't upset their user base nearly as much?

Update: Several of you have asked me what I'm going to do. Honest answer: I don't know for sure. I've been a suite user, but frankly the latest version of InDesign broke a number of my documents, the latest Dreamweaver still sucks at a lot of things and shows serious signs of neglect, and even Photoshop hasn't delivered many new, useful things to me. My main reason for keeping Photoshop up to date has been ACR, actually. As I did when I abandoned Office, I'll have to think about where I want to go and what I really need moving forward. The natural thing to do is to "just say no" to Adobe and not grace them with any more money. They've already managed to make Acrobat a mess and I stopped upgrading that (the last reasonably decent version was 9.5, and we're on 11).

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