The Adobe naysayers have been working overtime lately. They aren’t talking about the quality of the Adobe software or the amazing advances in digital photography in the past decade, but their frustration with the change in Adobe’s pricing model. These frustrations are genuine, but I believe misguided.
The most common phrase I hear from the anti-cloud folks is “I don’t want to rent my software.” My question to this is why not? Renting isn’t inherently bad. Owning isn’t inherently good.
First, let’s make a differentiation. You are renting software, not your content. Adobe or no one else owns your photos. If you cancel your subscription, you cannot use Adobe’s software but you still own your raw photos. This should and never will change. Vendors like Adobe should never completely lock you in.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) pricing changes the responsibilities of both the customer and company. SaaS vendors live and die by customer renewals. From the customer perspective this means every month you get to decide if you want to keep paying or not. The company must keep you happy. Is Dropbox providing me enough value this month or do I want to switch to Box or Google Drive? Is Netflix providing me enough value or do I leave for Hulu or Amazon Prime (or nothing)?
The last listed MSRP for the Adobe CS6 Master Collection was $2,599. If I purchase this upfront, I am making a big upfront decision. I have bought into Adobe. I am essentially locked in. It may feel better because I “own it” but I have made a big upfront choice. If 6 months after I purchase this I want to leave, I lose. I am out most of my initial purchase.
Fast forward to today. Let’s say 6 months from now, Google, Apple or a scrappy startup comes out with a Photoshop killer product. If I just shelled out a boatload of money for CS6 than I will stick around to get my monies worth. Under the rental model – see ya. Bye-bye Adobe. Hello new awesome product. As a customer I win. Options are awesome.
Don’t think this could happen? I loved iTunes… until Spotify changed the way I listened to music. Things are changing fast. Scrappy companies like Mosaic, HDRSoft, and OnOne Software are adding value in new and awesome ways.
Adobe has actually made the customer switching costs much less. They now have a greater responsibility to wow me every month with new products and features that keep me opening up my wallet. If they don’t, I am gone.
I could also see a model where Adobe goes from pure SaaS pricing to more utility pricing. Maybe I only use Illustrator 10 times a year. My options until the Creative Cloud were to buy the software or use a competitor. SaaS utility pricing gives me the option to use Illustrator for my limited use without paying full price. If I love the software, I can upgrade for more. Adobe wants this to happen so they will try to wow me. Again, as a customer, I win.
This is just about some of the benefits of “renting” software. We haven’t touched on the other real benefits of the cloud, which is enhanced collaboration, anywhere, access, automatic upgrades, and seamless integration with third party services. This is where the cloud is clearly superior to desktop only software. (My real beef with Adobe is in providing almost none of these benefits for photographers with their current offering).
This is not to say the SaaS pricing doesn’t have some negatives. But to say the upfront “boxed software” / paid upgrade model was perfect is disingenuous.
Change is hard. There were those who thought digital would never be better than film and that editing in Photoshop wasn’t “real” photography. We are still having the HDR debate. Monthly pricing models are good for the customer and for the company. Adobe continue to wow me or I am sure another company will. I for one am rooting for someone to challenge Adobe and give me more choice but until then, I would rather pay monthly and keep my options open.
Rich has published over 100 courses on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.
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