*Dear Adobe, what in the world are you thinking?


The web is abuzz with condemnation of Adobe’s choice to force users to subscribe to a monthly cloud based service with its newest upgrades which sees the long standing Creative Suite at the end of its life. No longer will you as a consumer be able to choose to purchase upgrades based on features, but rather you’ll pay for whatever upgrades Adobe chooses to include (or doesn’t). I’ve yet to find one person that is actually excited by this move. Sure, some have listed the potential merits of a monthly charge, but none that I’ve found have come out and said, this is by far the better way to offer software and service. Is there someone out there that feels a solely cloud based solution is the best option? If so, I can’t help but feel you’re not only in the minority, but you’re on a crazy little Adobe island with the few that felt this was the best business move. A few more thoughts after the jump…

Now, I’ll admit that I have found value in certain things I’ve first seen as unnecessary, or silly. Perhaps in a couple years I will see the value in needing to pay a monthly bill to gain access to software, but I really feel I’m not going into this with unjustified blind frustration. Here’s why, firstly, an “unending” bill may seem like cheap access to Photoshop at first, and whatever else Adobe provides (I really only use, and plan to use Photoshop personally), but what happens if and when, a few years down the road, there are very few newly added features that truly provide value. By building and releasing a new, true upgrade to the software, Adobe has to provide enough value to convince those of us willing to pay $600-700 for the software and another $200-300 to upgrade every couple years. We get to choose. Personally, I’ve really seen the benefit in the upgrades in the last couple iterations to justify the upgrade prices, and have voted with my dollar. Adobe brought enough to the table that I chose to spend money to gain access to content aware fill or puppet warp. Now, I’d hope they’ll continue to build new, inventive tools, but their motivation has largely disappeared. They can now (if they so choose to act as a money hungry capitalist company proving to share holders they’re doing everything to maximize profit) start to slim down their development team, and slowly roll out singular feature upgrades to justify just enough to hold onto subscribers. In true capitalist fashion, go lean and mean. Sure, you’re a business, why not? Well the other side to the argument is value and service to your customers, and I think this is going to backfire in a big way.

As I read it, Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions will run you $50/month, or $600 a year. Yup, $600 a year. Granted, students get a discounted rate of $20/month or $240/year, but when you’re no longer a student, that jumps up to whatever Adobe happens to be charging when you’re studiousness expires. So, the justifications I’ve read so far fall within the “working pros will be the only ones to justify this price” and to that I say, no way does this make sense for the average “working photographer” considering that for the same price for a years worth of monthly payments, we could own PS-CS6 and own it for the foreseeable future. For those who are doing web development, graphic design, et al, it may make more monetary sense as you have access (I assume) to many more programs, but still, the question of the stability of cloud based storage, if used, and the potential security issues come into play.

Here’s another interesting point. If Adobe chooses to do the same thing with Lightroom, making it a monthly subscription, cloud based service, how will LR users feel? I am going to venture a guess, and say that most folks are going to be pissed. A digital asset management software should be owned and operated by the person needing to use it to manage and catalog their owned and copyrighted image files. Putting them into the cloud and forcing us to pay a monthly fee to access them for our photo adjustment and manipulation needs not only takes the ownership argument to a new level, but it brings in serious questions of security. Where does this “cloud” exist, and where may it exist in the future. Sure we can back everything up (hopefully) on our machines at home, but if we need to adjust something, let’s say for a client, we’d need to have access to the software in this magical cloud to do so. To me, that’s BS. Will the TOS start to include security issues by granting agencies (gov’t or otherwise, Facebook even?) the ability to peek into this “cloud” if questions of national security come into play for instance? I know it’s a stretch, but let’s say someone does a photoshoot for a gun club, with models posing with rifles, et al, could that be construed as “potentially threatening” enabling authorities the ability to monitor the creator based on some loophole in the User Agreement and Patriot Act, or shots including government buildings, bridges, etc? This may just be the small part of me that holds onto conspiracy theories from my teenage “rebellious” phase, but with everything going on, why would it be too big a stretch to think it could happen?

Something else to take into consideration are plugins. Let’s say we spend $200, $500, $1000+ on specialized plugins to be utilized in Photoshop to streamline our workflow (I currently have probably about $1500 or more worth of software plugins running through Photoshop that I’ve acquired over the years). If we do buy into this monthly subscription and do so for say a couple years, upgrading equipment in the interim (computer, et al) while the Creative Suite programs become unsupported in the mean time, those expensive plugins may become entirely useless if we choose to stop paying for access to photoshop, in design, etc. Pretty crappy. I wonder what companies like Alien Skin, Topaz, NIK and others think about this as it will certainly affect their respective bottom lines if this goes the way it looks like it’s gonna go.

Okay, that will end my rant. While I admit, much of this frustration is largely based on a giant hypothetical, I can’t help but feel this will really open up the market for a Photoshop/Adobe competitor to absolutely pounce on this error by Adobe. I understand that the cloud can be useful for some, but why force it upon people. Having the option to choose to buy your software, or subscribe to a cloud based system to gain access to it works for everyone, except perhaps for Adobe shareholders. Listening to customers and providing choices, how novel. Unfortunately, I feel the time of companies doing what is best for or at least listening to their customers is going more and more the way of the dinosaurs. Adobe has received the last money that it will from me unless it reverses this.

How about for you?

10 thoughts on “*Dear Adobe, what in the world are you thinking?

  1. Tyson, I couldn’t agree more. I recently saw this online and had a little rant to my unlucky girlfriend about it. I love the feeling of having purchased a piece of software and having it as mine for as long as I care to use it. The excitement is on par with owning CDs and Vinyl and new camera equipment. Damn exciting. But this feels as though we are paying the price of owning the software but only being able to rent it out (which is usually why rentings cheaper, not in this case however). That mentality wouldn’t fly anywhere else.

    I am a lightroom user and would hate the idea of all my works being on the cloud.
    as stated earlier, I like owning the things I use, Im old fashioned that way, makes me feel all happy knowing that this is another tool in the toolbox and Paying monthly for the use of lightroom or photoshop almost cheapens the experience, makes me feel as though the tools i’m using are merely borrowed (for a high price).

    I understand the cloud has its benefits, I use skydrive to store a load of things and its great. But running software like this seems, like you’ve stated, to benefit no one but adobe.

    Cheers for the rant and opening the podium for us to have a little go…

    Keep up the good work


    • I really want to find someone that this makes absolute sense to. I’m really not seeing the universal benefit. I get that change is inevitable, and eventually technology will be moving closer and closer to this type of delivery method, but I just feel it isn’t yet mature/stable/well defined/safe enough, especially when handling such potentially crucial pieces of peoples intellectual property. The willingness of folks to sign off on this type of integration is kind of crazy to me.

      I’m all for cloud based storage, as long as we have a choice to A) do so and B) choose the content we utilize cloud storage for. Needing to access software via the Cloud and use these vapor based programs to host and alter our images is something I can’t quite get on board with. Have it as a choice? Sure, for those who see the benefits outweighing the costs absolutely, but having it as the only choice if one chooses to upgrade is nuts to me.

      Thanks as always Chris.


  2. Tyson,
    Don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say as a defense of what Adobe is doing – it is not – I don’t like it either.
    But a couple of points should be clarified – neither the software program (PS, LR, etc) nor your photos are “in the cloud”. The programs are downloaded and used on your own computer just like they are now and your database of photos is maintained on your own hard-drive just as it is now. The only “cloud” access required is that you must connect to the internet at least once every month so the software can “phone home” and confirm you have paid your monthly “rent”.
    If not, the software remains on your computer but deactivates so you can’t use it. In fact, it is possible to pay to rent it for one month, then let it go dormant for three months, then reactivate for one month, etc.
    The confusion comes, I believe, because the “cloud” subscription also includes a certain amount of cloud-based storage for photos, projects, data, etc, which you can use or not as you wish. If one did choose to put a lot of stuff on the cloud and not on your own computer, then you would be stuck paying every month to maintain access to it.
    Also, Lightroom is now included in the cloud subscription but it is the one program that Adobe will continue to sell also as a free-standing “you own it” program. I think if they did this with both LR and Photoshop they would quiet down a large part of the backlash, because, as you noted, others who use a greater portion of the Adobe programs will probably come out ahead financially in this new scenario.
    The ones who lose, obviously, are individuals who buy an Adobe program and use it for several years before upgrading – and I think that describes a large percentage of photographers. I know I have done that and so have friends of mine. Adobe is aggressively trying to stop that model and get money from us every year no matter what.
    They say they will support CS6 for a couple of years with bug fixes and security updates, but no new features.
    One very important question a friend brought up is – if you have CS6 on your computer (you own it) and you jump into the “cloud” subscription for a period of time and then back out – will it mess up your CS6 installation? Adobe is notorious for finicky installations and I could see that happening. But if it doesn’t, that could be the best of both worlds – CS6 for your regular day-to-day post work and jump into a month of cloud from time to time if you need an updated feature or to do indesign or premiere pro work, for example.
    Well, I guess this comment is more than long enough – signing off…
    Aloha, Stephen in Hawaii


    • Here’s how I explain the “Cloud” part of “Creative Cloud” to people:

      Your software isn’t in the cloud and neither are your files. It’s your *ownership* of Photoshop that’s in the cloud.

      And your ownership ends (and your software evaporates into the cloud) as soon as you stop making the monthly payments. Or as soon as Adobe goes out of business (think they won’t? Kodak was once one of the top corporations in the Fortune 500). Or as soon as your computer can’t reach Adobe’s servers – possible at any time even now in countries with repressive authoritarian governments and possibly in the U.S. before long the way things are going.


      • I appreciate your clarification Mark. To me, the terminology is pretty much moot. Whatever they want to call it, or define it by, the fact that we will not have the choice to rent OR own, is the fundamental sticking point. The call in, cloud based subscription here is the main problem for me, followed by the need to subscribe to access any cloud based file storage you may buy into, as I feel it’s safe to say is the case for many. While the term “Cloud” is largely misunderstood (Adobe offering cloud based storage alongside calling their remote subscription service “creative cloud” doesn’t help) it is still a relatively new direction for software. I also find it funny that one argument for this new approach was to ensure those using the software were paying for the software, and it was hacked within a day. I’ve never been one to support the pirating of software, but can’t help but feel a little happy that Adobe are going to potentially suffer for this choice. I guess they’ve seen corporate subscriptions rise, but hopefully they will have a substantial enough falloff from individual licenses to offset this. A monthly bill for creative software is something I really hope does not catch on. If so, we may need to pay hundreds of dollars a month to use our computers, which seems to be a potential direction this may go in the future.

        Thanks for the comment,



  3. My understanding is that these apps will have to phone home to get authorization to run. If not renewed on some regular basis they won’t work. Some current users have had troubles when using a laptop away from Internet connection. (God help you if you’re still on dial up, I know folks that use these products in that situation) I also assume that Adobe will be using their advantage of having an opening to your computer for other purposes, i.e. monitoring uses of their products, monitoring your system, and other things that they can use and share with others for a fee. Maybe EXIF data, IPTC, etc. Also given their inability to manage security in Flash & Acrobat docs it will also be a potential entry point for hackers and other evil doers.

    No matter what advantages it may be for users it’s likely more of an advantage to Adobe. They’ve been watching Apple & Google walled gardens and control & they want a piece of that action. Get used to it. The cloud is more for the all of them than us. Sadly we lost this battle years ago. We’ve traded convenience for security & privacy.


    • This is where consumer interaction can be so powerful though. I will continue to use CS6 and look forward to the next company that will capitalize on this bringing a competitor to the market to fill the hole left. If enough of us refuse to go this direction, the market will self correct and someone will see the benefit to offering their adobe alternatives for sale in a non-subscription based model. Or I just continue to get use out of the tools I’ve already paid a lot of money for. Adobe might actually be doing me a huge favor with this move, I am already saving $50 a month! Thanks Adobe!!!


  4. I think cloud access to updates and the full creative suite could be a good thing – the thing Adobe has got really wrong is the pricing model.

    I can even see where Adobe is going with the pricing – from their viewpoint it looks like a bargain for consumers. With the CC you get the full suite of all Adobe products for hundreds less than you would purchasing the full suite (around $1k I believe).

    But what Adobe is not seeing is that even if a customer has access to the full suite where before they only used Photoshop, they may not use any of the other applications – so suddenly to the consumer, it looks like they are paying a lot more. And even if you do use the other applications, you are paying more after just a year and a half than you would have buying the suite outright.

    Lots of people like to sit on upgrading after a new version comes out fora month or even a year. So the CC pricing basically doubles or triples what they would have paid even if they planned to keep relatively current with applications.

    If Adobe had set the pricing such that it was break-even between a photoshop purchase and the CC subscription after three years – then even to CONSUMERS it would start to look like a bargain. Basically, Adobe should have let everyone pay the current student pricing.

    On the face of it the student pricing would seem to bring in less money for Adobe, but I think the opposite is true. Because it would be less in a year than buying the application, more people that wait a version or two between upgrades would sign on to CC because it was a little cheaper. And many people that pirate Photoshop (and other Adobe applications) would at that level be tempted to come in out of the cold so to speak.

    Basically a subscription based application is asking people to give up a lot of certainty and so the customer has to derive a lot of benefit in return. For what Adobe is asking, there’s simply not enough benefit to draw people in to changing how they buy software.


    • Thanks Kendall,

      I completely see why Adobe has done what it has done, I just don’t agree with it myself.

      All of this comes down to renting vs owning, that’s it. I feel the renting model will become more normal in the future if they continue to find success with it, which to me is ludicrous. Can you imagine having to pay $20/mo for photoshop, $15/mo for your OS, $15/mo for your word processing program, $10/mo for your mail service, etc, etc, etc. It doesn’t seem like an issue for many now, and many can easily justify the cost for Photoshop, or the full gamut of programs, but it is a probe in many ways I feel, to test the market with Microsoft and now Adobe really deciding it is the more profitable way to license software, which I’m sure it is. I just feel it is a very poor way to offer value to your customer.

      IF, Adobe said that after 36 months (or thereabouts) of paying $20/month, you were then free and clear to use the software, for free, forever, then I’d say okay, that works, but that won’t be the case I’m sure.

      10 years down the road from now, I’m curious to see if people who have at that point paid $2400 for photoshop (assuming the monthly price doesn’t go up over that time, which I find laughable, but we’ll humor ourselves here), really feel that they’ve received value for their investment. Surely there will those that do, and I don’t mean to say that they’re in anyway wrong. If you get value from it, and feel the price is justified, by all means, go for it. To me, I don’t see the value in something I tend to need, and not having the option to purchase it outright.

      I choose to buy and own my cars, I choose to buy and own my homes, I choose to buy and own my computers, camera equipment and other tools necessary for life, work and the like because they become assets that I can monetarily control. I can sell my house, my car, my computer, my camera, hell, I can even sell my license to Photoshop if I wanted. I don’t plan on renting my software, plain and simple.

      I have no problem with a rental situation, as long as the option to buy is also there. Here, that is not the case.


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