Adobe recently announced that all of their Creative Suite software products, which includes luminaries like Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects, will be moving to a subscription-only, download-only, cloud-based business model. The good news is that you can get legitimate versions of all of these programs in a bundle for a paltry $50. The bad news is that your license expires after 30 days. You can no longer pay for an Adobe CS product once, and own it indefinitely. Going forward, they won’t even be called the Creative Suite any longer. Welcome to the Creative Cloud, everyone, where it’s always cloudy with a chance for clouds.
This is a gutsy move on Adobe’s part. It’s always seemed like their old business model, however flawed it may have been, was a key component to their success. Sure, there were gobs of people that used their products illegally, and legitimate customers would often choose not to upgrade until it was absolutely necessary. However, through it all, Photoshop has remained unchallenged. It’s Coca-Cola in a world without Pepsi.
It’s hard to convince me to subscribe to an expensive service. I’m one of only 17.8% of Americans that choose not to pay for cable television. Sign up for Hulu Plus? No thanks. If I’m going to watch network TV with commercials, I’d prefer not to pay for it. Cough up $80 a year for faster shipping with Amazon Prime? Nope. I’ll wait a few extra days for that thrilling box of diapers, thanks. My $7.99 Netflix streaming plan is the one rare extravagance I indulge in.
In the new Adobe reality, professional users will be relived of paying big bucks to upgrade to get the latest features, and newcomers will have a much more budget-friendly admission price to get access to the best tools. Those are two really positive aspects of the new business model. However, it’s the casual user of Photoshop that gets nudged out of the picture. When Uncle Bob wants to Photoshop the dog’s head onto Aunt Margret’s body for the Christmas Card, I don’t envisioning him dropping $50 to do so.
So here’s the big question: historically, how many casual Photoshop users eventually ended up becoming accomplished amateurs and pro customers? I can’t speak for everyone, but if Photoshop had been $50 a month all along, I doubt that I would have learned as much about the program as I have. Much of the glorious graphic design that you see on this site, such as my thumbnails, are the product of my ancient copy of Photoshop CS3.
If I paid $50 to use the Adobe Suite for a month, I would certainly feel pressured to make the most of it. That’s a positive, I suppose. You’ll feel compelled to use the stuff. You’d probably force yourself to take care of a bunch of projects that you would normally put on the back burner indefinitely. In other words, many, many dog heads would be placed on Aunt Margaret’s body—in short order.
Outside of Photoshop users, there’s a lot of drama unfolding around this business model shift. Obviously, the video people who recently switched to Adobe Premier following the icy reception of Apple’s Final Cut Pro X have the right to be upset. It’s a weird situation. Some people are really happy, and others are really upset. I’m neither. However, I can confidently tell you one thing: I am not going to pay $50 a month. Eventually I’m going to need a Photoshop replacement. Looks like, at long last, it’s time to bring out the GIMP.