Adobe used its MAX conference keynote on 6 May to announce changes to its Creative Suite software line and year-old Creative Cloud subscription sales. Moving forward, Adobe will sell its software, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, After Effects and more, solely through subscriptions to Creative Cloud, which cost £46.88 per month for individuals based on an annual membership.
"This is the decision of our company – to focus on Creative Cloud – and it's huge," said Scott Morris, Adobe's senior marketing director. "It's an even bigger decision than when we moved to Creative Suite years ago."
"In the same way [as Creative Suite], there will be customers who have a hard time with it at first. But today our customers are on Creative Suite – they got over it; they saw the benefit of it; and that's exactly the type of transition we're going through," he said.
Adobe CC: Reactions
Morris wasn't wrong about some customers having a "hard time" with Adobe's decision to go subscription-only.
Following Adobe's announcement, Derek Schoffstall, a photographer and college student, started a petition on Change.org demanding that Adobe back away from its subscription-only model. The petition collected 10,000 signatures within a week.
Schoffstall's petition asks Adobe to reconsider its subscription-only plans, restart development on CS6, and continue to offer perpetual licenses alongside subscriptions.
"It seems that you have decided to forsake everyone but big business. Well, you've made a mistake," the petition reads. "We are in a corner because although we may have the option to use CS6 now, in the future we will be forced to subscribe to your CC subscription in order to stay relevant with updated software."
In the preface to the petition, Schoffstall argued that consumers and independent freelancers would end up paying more in subscription fees than they had buying a one-time-charge license. "In the short term, the subscription model looks to be okay, but over time the only entity that is benefiting from this is Adobe," he said. "The (no longer) current model - paying a one time fee for infinite access - is a much better business model and is better for the consumer."
Some of those who left comments on Schoffstall's petition called out the cost as a reason for their dissatisfaction. "Due to the nature of the 'upgrade at gun point' nature of the change, and the forced 'renting' of software at prices that could be jacked up at anytime, I will not continue with the Adobe brand," wrote Lee Whitman.
"I don't lease my car, I don't lease my house… why should I be forced to lease my software," Joe Paetzel wrote about the fact that Creative Cloud subscribers are effectively renting Adobe's applications.
Microsoft has also taken a swipe at Adobe's decision to go subscription-only. "Unlike Adobe, we think people's shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time," said Clint Patterson, director of communications for Office, in a blog post. "We are committed to offering choice – premier software sold as a package and powerful services sold as a subscription."
There are some customers who think the move to a subscription-only model for Adobe is a good idea, though.
Geekanoids told us on Twitter that he thinks the Creative Cloud is fairly priced and will be happy to move to the subscription model, while Chris Mayer tweeted: "Considering how rampant piracy is of Creative Suite apps, the subscription-only path is the only sensible option for Adobe."
When we asked our readers how they feel about Adobe's plan, more than half expressed their concern that they will be unable to afford £38, while 12 per cent said that the monthly cost is a lot to pay for each of the users in their business, and 30 per cent said that they do not need all of the applications in Creative Cloud, so are unhappy with being forced to pay the full amount. Just 6 per cent of our readers said that they're happy with the changes.
Adobe CC: Reassurance
Adobe executives have been fighting the case for the Creative Cloud.
We spoke to Adobe vice president David Wadhwani to talk about the changes, who told us that the company doesn't want to limit who has access to Adobe's software. "I feel very deeply that what we want to do is get this technology in the hands of as many people as we can."
"The way we do that isn't necessarily to take what we're selling now and make it cheaper and cheaper," he said when we voiced our readers' concerns about the price of the Creative Cloud. "Because I think there is an inherent value that what we're creating gives creative some of new value we want. However, I think that there are decided opportunities that we can take some of the technology that we have now and surface them in different ways that are more affordable and more approachable to a broader set of customers."
We also asked whether Adobe will be introducing individual suites for different types of Creative Cloud users, to which Wadhwani replied: "We have to ground ourselves in terms of where we think the market is going to be a few years from now. Making specific suites again in terms of the Creative Cloud will add a lot of complexity to purchasing decisions."
"Overwhelmingly, when you compare the people who've complained about the new model to the people who loved it, it definitely skewed heavily to the new model," said Scott Morris. "Obviously we would not be making a decision this big if the percentage of people in that category was so big it was the wrong thing for us to do."
"We do know the average number of apps people download and install in CC. It's high," Morris added. "People are doing more with CC than they are with CS."
"One reason people were resistant to CC is they were afraid in year two we'd raise the price to $100 a month. We have no intention of doing that. If we did that, we would completely lose everyone's trust and fail in what we're doing."
Adobe's focus on Creative Cloud will also mean that subscribers will have access to new features on a regular basis, as it will allow the company to roll out updates more often.
"We'll be releasing updates as soon as the features are ready, so you can expect to see features rolled out," said Wadhwani, noting that he also expects the company to have aggregating points to help "tie it all together and help tell a complete story."
Wadhwani highlighted that customers will now have access to every one of Adobe's applications, rather than a selection commonly purchased through packages.
"What we're starting to see is more and more of our photography user base get into video, and more graphic designers wanting to learn about web. So as that happens, I fully expect to see more usage of our tools across all of the different elements," Wadhwani told us.
Adobe has also assured its swing to the cloud won't impact its channel or retail relationships. Adobe exec Paul Robson said the company won't be disengaging its retail partners. Instead of buying boxed versions of its software from retailers, customers will be able to purchase point of sale activation cards from some stores.
"The feedback we've had from our retailers has been really supportive," Robson said. "It's a nominal cost for the card to be on the shelf and allows every retail partner to range all Adobe products at the same time."
In addition to its software announcements, Adobe also revealed its new hardware ventures, Projects Mighty and Napoleon, a digital, cloud-connected pen and ruler for the iPad.
Mighty and Napoleon have had a much warmer reception than that received by Adobe's Creative Cloud announcements, despite the lack of a release date, or even release year.
Adobe will be rolling out updates to its Creative Cloud apps, including InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Muse and Photoshop, on 17 June.
Updated 14.05.13 to change prices to include VAT.