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I’ve been using Photoshop since version 1.2. I’ve used many other Adobe products including their type faces, InDesign and notably (recently) LightRoom.

I’ve generally thought that Adobe products, while expensive, were worth the money. But many companies are moving to download-only solutions and it makes sense that Adobe would too. Hence their invention of the Adobe Creative Cloud.

But the Creative Cloud product has caused some confusion in people’s minds. They think they are buying a service like Google Docs that STAYS in the cloud. Not true. Photoshop stays on your computer, not in the cloud. These are not web-based apps. But unlike the old days when you had to pay big bucks to access EVERYTHING Adobe offered, now it’s just all part of the package. For as little as $30 a month (For existing Adobe CS customers) you can have the full Monty. People who are new to Adobe pay US$49.99 a month if you commit to the one-year plan. If you want to sign up for a month-to-month plan, it costs US$74.99 per month. If you just need Photoshop, Adobe is offering a subscription for point products as well. You can get individual products like Photoshop CS6 or Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 for US$19.99 a month for an annual contract.

Bottom line is that Creative Cloud is merely a software subscription, not a cloud-based solution. It allows Adobe to streamline the update process, doing away with the artificially – imposed 18 month cycle. It also allows people to pay for what they use. You can buy a one-month subscription or a yearly subscription. You don’t have to plunk down any deposit or buy-in fee. The cost of ownership is spread out so you don’t get a big hit to your budget all at once.

Other myths about Creative Cloud include the notion that you have to be connected to the Internet to use CS products purchased via Creative Cloud. Not true at all. You can work off-line as you always did. Adobe merely checks once a month to make sure your subscription is active. They aren’t stealing your data. They’re looking for a security token that says – “Yep I am legal.”

The list of software you get for the money is mind-boggling. Here’s what I get with my Creative Cloud membership.

  • Photoshop CS6
  • Lightroom 4.3
  • After Effects CS6
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 Family
  • InDesign CS6
  • Flash Professional CS6
  • Illustrator CS6
  • Firewords CS6
  • Muse
  • Dreamweaver CS6
  • Audition CS6
  • SpeedGrade CS6
  • Prelude CS6
  • Flash Builder Mobile
  • Edge Animate
  • Adobe Acrobat XI Pro
  • Creative Cloud Connetion
  • Touch App Plugins

…And a nifty application manager that helps you keep track of what you’ve downloaded and what you haven’t. You also get automatic notice up updates. And here is where Creative Cloud shines.

Recently, Adobe added more than a dozen new features for their Creative Cloud customers. If you buy DVD’s and upgrade every 18 months on the old cycle YOU WILL NOT GET THESE FEATURES* – they won’t be available to you until the next update. But if you are a CC customer they come to you free, and right now.

The latest updates include Retina Display support, Smart Object support for Blur Gallery and Liquify, CSS support for web design, workflow improvements that include crop tool refinements, better naming of merged layers, etc., New 3D effects, image-based lighting enhancements and enhanced detail for textures.

Adobe also announced a new team-based functions for groups who work cooperatively on docs. It’s the kind of functionality I expect and want from a computer program – it just works and it always works at its best.

This solution solves lots of problems. For instance, I am about to get my first Windows Workstation. If it weren’t for Creative Cloud, I would have to buy a whole new set of discs and install from scratch and my investment in the Mac version would be worthless. With Creative Cloud you get a license to install the products on two computers. So I can de-authorize my iMac and instead, download the software to my new HP machine. That alone makes this decision seem very sound to me.

There might be some very limited cases where Creative Cloud doesn’t make sense. For instance if you don’t use many Adobe products, or use them often, or update often, then you might save money in the long run if you buy discs. But for everyone else, I think it’s a no-brainer.

*Retina display support is available now for all CS6 customers.


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Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. I had wondered what exactly Creative Cloud was. Now I want to ditch the software I own and sign up. Thanks for the run down!

  2. Interesting post. You are making a very compelling argument for switching to Adobe’s subscription model. I guess there is no one, perfect strategy for all Adobe users and everybody needs to take into account their own circumstances. In any case, your post got me thinking. In the past I wasn’t considering switching to the new model but now … who knows.

    Post was edited by moderator to stay on topic…

  3. Thanks for the article Scott, but there are a few points you made that are incorrect.
    In your last paragraph you say that there are some very limited cases were creative cloud doesn’t work. Scott, these socalled limited cases are the majority of Adobe’s customers.
    The vast majority of Adobe’s customers are guys just using a few apps. Only small and big production houses and some busy individuals, who turn out creative stuff all the time is this subscription model good for, nobody else wants it.
    The huge minority (majority) Adobe is ignoring are blokes/sheilas who don’t need to upgrade all the time, who are happy to stick to one version for 3 years or so and when they can afford it upgrade to a newer version and they will keep on doing so. Then why is Adobe making it even harder and more expensive (especially for overseas customers) to stick to the licensed version?
    Some major drawbacks for this subscription version are:
    A… A complete dependency on Adobe without any other choice, this includes price rises after licenced version have been abolished. Adobe products have always been expensive and Adobe is by now a monopoly, that is not a good thing.
    B… There is this fear that Adobe is going to push CC so hard that they will find enough reasons one day to abolish the licensed version.
    If you like CC, well that is great, it will work for some, but I rather own my licensed version then having to pay rent for the rest of my life.
    Scott your article is biased towards CC being good for everybody. It certainly isn’t for the majority of Adobe’s customers.
    Adobe has been asked many times if they can quarantee the continuity of the licences model. To my knowledge they haven’t done so yet and that is a worry.
    Also the shameful conduct of the Adobe ceo in Sydney, Australia just last week, were he blatantly refused to answer question about the huge extra cost of licensed versions here and arrogantly kept pushing the CC model while being questioned about the price differences is an indication of an unreasonable bias towards CC.
    When a company ceo needs to duck and weave like a slithering politician about its product strategies then my friend everybody who owns a license needs to brace themselves.
    Thank you.

  4. @Filip Krygsman sounds like you have an axe to grind so I doubt the validity of your comment from the get go. I also completely disagree with your assessment of Adobe’s market.

    You mis-characterize my post as well as Adobe’s position. That is a sign your argument is weak.

    You also either do not understand the CC product or are blinded by your obvious disdain for Adobe.

    I stand by my post and believe it adequately rebuts your comment. The most incredible thing you said was…

    “A complete dependency on Adobe without any other choice…”

    Horse crap. Just the opposite is true. You have more choice than ever if you subscribed. You can use it for a month or a year or forever or switch if a competitor offers a better product.

    And if Adobe wants to abolish disks so what? Lots of companies have have done that. And all will eventually. You are free to use any of the dozen or so competitors to Adobe to edit your photos. Nobody is making you use Adobe products nor do you have any RIGHT to use them. It’s a free market. Your argument would carry much more weight if you offered facts instead of the biased opinions and mis-characterisations.

  5. Hi Scott,

    As a customer based in the US, I’m sure it makes great sense to you, but looking from Europe I don’t think Filip Krygsman is out of order, given the Adobe price model where we pay 1.6 times the US prices for the same product, and this is the same in Australia. It’s not a monopoly – Corel and Apple adequately demonstrate, but the market leader is clear.

    My needs are simply Lr and Ps, and I am constantly worried that if my system crashes and Adobe is off line I will not be able to continue work (and I have been running bits of the Internet since 1982, long before most people knew it existed, I’ve seen many come and go)

    I buy my house, my car, my CDs (physical). I used to question the reason of people who rented TV sets; so why on earth would I want to rent software? Particularly at a rate that significantly exceeds my “occasional buy” costs? No-one, not even your well expressed piece, has convinced me. If I had the slightest need for InDesign or Dreamweaver my answer might be different

  6. @Andrew Macpherson your comment leads me to believe you just don’t get it. This statement is revealing…

    “I am constantly worried that if my system crashes and Adobe is off line I will not be able to continue work (and I have been running bits of the Internet since 1982, long before most people knew it existed, I’ve seen many come and go)”

    Whether or not your system crashes and Adobe is offline you will still be able to work if you are simply not too lazy to make a backup. You can restore your system and all will work as it did before. This is a red herring. In my experience, you’re just as likely to not be able to find the discs when the system crashed. That all said – you are welcome to buy the discs if you want to limit your access. But discs are going away. And it’s not just Adobe. Get used to it. That is a fact. Backup and you have no problem. By the way I tested this. It works.

    Lastly – you’ve never bought a piece of software in your life. You have licensed its use. To compare this to buying a house or car is silly. Not even close.

    If you just don’t want the advantage of a product you can download to any computer, running Windows or Mac OS. If you just don’t want the latest features as soon as they are available. If you just want to pay a very high upfront cost for something you might not use forever – the discs are the way to go for you. But I think if you look at it objectively, the new system – while not perfect – offers some real advantages. There is no one size fits all solution. The CC product offers choices. Choices are good.

  7. Sorry to say your comments about backups are ill informed. If only it were so simple…

    When recently I had to restore after a disk failure, Photoshop insisted on reconnecting and validating my licence, so if Adobe were to go offline I would not be able to continue to work.

    For you as a US business CC is right (you’ve done your analysis). For me as serious amateur it isn’t, much as I respect you and your wonderful podcast/site, my mileage has varied😃

  8. @Andrewknots – Sorry to say YOUR comments are ill informed.

    Please explain something to me. You are saying that Creative Cloud isn’t right for you but you bought it anyway????? Otherwise how would you be able to claim I am wrong???????

    Or was it that when you installed from a disc – you were asked to validate? You see that would be different. It’s not something that happened to me when I restored from a backup including CC. Either we’re talking about two different things and you’re assuming they apply equally – they do not – or your very confused.

    As I said in the post – it’s not for everyone but I would like to say that because YOUR mileage has varied doesn’t mean mine has :)

    All I can report is my own experiences.

    • Dear Scott,

      As I think we’re approaching this issue from entirely different premises, we’re unlikely to agree. Thank you for your insights, and your wonderful podcasts that so shorten my journeys.

  9. I am so glad I ran across your post! I have been vacillating on weather or not to plop down some money on Adobe Creative Cloud but I kept hearing negative info and the info seemed to constantly change from source to source so Thank you this was very helpful!

  10. If I have not got the wrong end of the stick then for about £17 a month I can always have the latest version of Lightroom & CS6 on tap,which is cheaper than buying both and keeping them updated. But although £17 a month these days is insignificant, when you add all the “only this per months” they can mount up and when it is your hobby and not your income it is only a nice to have. But then without a regular income Adobe cannot keep producing these excellent products for our use so you could look at it as a charitable donation but getting something in return.

  11. Even though the license check is only once a month or so, I’ve been bitten too many times in the past by software that checked for license validity “infrequently” and been burned when it refused to work in some 11th hour emergency where I needed the software working the night before some deadline and the check failed somehow. With the very recent story of EA’s DRM causing so much havoc in Sim City, it really makes you stop to consider if it makes sense to have any software that must undergo regular license checks to continue working.

    I like the idea of regular updates, and Adobe has been delivering some interesting things to CC users. I just wished the model was more like the Mac App Store, where you buy an app outright, you download an authenticated copy once but then no checking for validity is done from that point on, and regular updates also are provided that are free (until a major version release).

    To some people the lower monthly price makes Photoshop possibly more approachable. To me though all I can do is add up all those monthly fees going forward for years and it starts to look kind of expensive (especially since like other people, I generally would wait six months to a year before upgrading to a new version of most software AND upgrade pricing is also lower – the subscription pricing is like buying it from scratch each release).

    The one good aspect of it is that if you really only needed Photoshop irregularly, you could buy it just a few times a year pretty cheaply and get by with other tools the rest of the time.

  12. @Kendall – the recent EA DRM issue has absolutely less than nothing to do with this post or Adobe. There is zero connection. It is a red herring. The rest of your comment has merit in so far as you are welcome to your opinion. As we stated in the article CC isn’t for everyone – but it is the future – for ALL software. There will be people who don’t like it and they are welcome to switch to something else or live with the limitations of the DVD – based version, which they may misplace, have stolen, or get damaged. Then they have less than nothing too :)

    I think Adobe should have an option where you can buy the product outright – as you say – like in the App store. The problem is that it would have to cost more and then everyone would complain. So I think they found a good middle-of-the-road. But someday they may switch to that model. Who knows?

    But what will you do when you can’t get Photoshop, or Word, or anything else for that matter in anything but this cloud-delivered format? Give up computers?

  13. Scott, your confusing downloadable software and subscriptions. Adobe is clearly pushing the subscription model because they make more money selling you a subscription than outright purchases.

    There is nothing about the CC that has anything at all to do with providing the latest software releases to the customer base, it has everything to do with collecting money every month from as many users as possible. There is nothing that prevents adobe from providing software updates to existing full-purchase customers except a business model designed to extract as much money as possible, which has been a part of adobe’s history all the way back to the J Warnock days. (However, at least back then they provided major bug fixes without requiring an upgrade)

    If you think tying your livelihood to a 3rd party is a good business practice your extremely naive. License servers go down. Companies go out of business. Companies change their policies.

    So when adobe decides they are discontinuing a software product that you rely on to conduct your business, and shuts down support with your CC license you will be sitting with a non-functional piece of software.

    Or as has already happened to other cloud-based products, and the servers are compromised or go down (think Amazon’s servers, Google’s servers, Apples Servers, Blackberry’s servers) and you are on deadline and you system decides its time to phone home, you’ll be sitting with a brick for a computer because your software will no longer work.

    CC is great for adobe and single non-professional users that want access to a range of software to play with, but is a terrible business model for business that need to rely on there systems to work without third-party intervention.

  14. @PhillipG you’re being pedantic. And there is NO business – not ONE – ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD that doesn’t already rely on third-parties to function. That argument is completely specious.

    And even if your comments about “extracting money from customers” were true so what? That’s what we all do if we’re in business. I’ve been “extracting money from customers” for 41 years. That is how I make my living. That is how every business makes its living. I do not see the reason for all the concern here. Buy CS6 on DVD if you feel that way. You’ll have it for life. Until your hard drive fails and you realize you can’t find the DVD or it warps or is misplaced or stolen or computer companies stop making DVD readers, etc., etc. etc.


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