On Monday, May 6th, in the AdobeMAX keynote prefaced (somewhat ominously) by a driving instrumental snippet from the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” Adobe announced that the next versions of its creative tools will be designated “CC” — and will be available only via Creative Cloud subscriptions. This means the end of perpetual (conventional) licenses. Adobe will continue to sell perpetual licenses for CS6, but only by download — no boxed software. The new CC tools will become available on June 17th.
There are compelling new features in CC:
- Camera Shake Reduction
- Camera Raw as a filter
- Intelligent Upscale
- Smart Sharpening
- On-object transform controls
- Area Type to Point Type conversion (and vice versa)
- Images in Brushes
- Auto-generated corners for Pattern brushes
- Greatly improved EPUB export
- 64-bit native (and this was a ton of work)
- De-Carbonized for future enhancements on Mac (another ton of work)
- QR Code generation
As for other applications, you’ll have to consult www.adobe.com: I’m a stodgy old print person, so I confess that I’m ignorant of what’s going on with the Web and video applications.
Pricing and Installing Nitty-Gritty
- You can now buy a year of Creative Cloud with one payment.
- If you own Creative Suite 3 or later, you can join the Cloud for $29.99/month for your first year. After that, the price goes up to $49.99/month.
- If you own a perpetual license for Creative Suite 6, you pay $19.99/month for your first year (and then $49.99/month in subsequent years).
- As with perpetual licensing, you can install on two computers (yours—not yours and your brother-in-law’s). And since the software is downloadable, one could be Mac, and one could be PC (no crossgrade charge). While the licensing implies that only one computer can be used at a time, I have CS6 running on my laptop and desktop at this very moment. InDesign and Photoshop are open on both, with no yellow terror alerts warning me that I’m going to Software Hell as a result. In my heart, I don’t think I’m violating the spirit of the license, since I’m one person. [suddenly, there’s a knock at the door...] Realistically, though, my arms aren’t long enough, nor am I sufficiently ambidextrous to truly be using both computers simultaneously.
- If you need Cloud applications on more than 2 computers, you’ll need another Cloud subscription, and another Adobe ID for additional subscriptions (no big deal; I have a bunch of Adobe IDs so I can test DPS stuff).
- As with the current version of the Cloud, you have to be online only to download and install the software. The software is installed on your computer, just like any other software. Once a month, it silently “calls home” to ensure that your credit card has been successfully charged; that’s the only time you have to be online. (There’s talk of more lenient arrangements, requiring the computer to check in over longer periods, and even more “conventional” arrangements possible for government agencies.)
- If you end your subscription, you’ll still have any files you’ve created, of course, but your software will stop working after a 30-day grace period.
- Don’t need all the programs? You can subscribe to individual products. But if, like most of us, you use more than one program, it makes more sense to just do the Cloud subscription. It gives you access to all the applications, plus numerous services, such as 20GB of Dropbox-like online file storage, free (basic) Business Catalyst hosting for a site created with Adobe Muse, and a free Behance ProSite account.
How do I feel about this change? I’m not utterly surprised — it does mean steady revenue for Adobe, and they swear that we will be given frequent new features to “sweeten the pot.” But I thought we’d be given a one-version warning before they pulled the trigger. I gather that Cloud adoption has been faster than Adobe anticipated—perhaps that hastened this move.
What should you do?
Well, it depends…
Stick with a perpetual/conventionally-licensed copy of CS6 if:
- You work alone, and submit finished files to print providers.
- You don’t anticipate creating EPUBs (or you’re happy tweaking the exported coded)
- You aren’t interested in Muse or the Edge family of products
- You plan to keep this computer and current operating system forever
What might force you into the Cloud:
- The need to collaborate with Cloud subscribers using newer versions
- The need to buy a new computer with newer operating system that doesn’t support your copy of, say, CS3.
- The need for Cloud-only applications such as Muse or the Edge products
- The need for features available only in Cloud versions of applications
I’m in an odd position: because I’m a trainer and writer, I have to keep current. But even when I was in prepress, I always upgraded my own software immediately, just because I loved playing with new stuff (and I had to stay ahead of the jobs coming in). So my natural bent would probably drive me into the Cloud. Mind you, I still have all my old versions, both for historical curiosity (“when did we get that feature?”) and to handle antique files in their native habitat (“It’s a PageMaker 6 file? How…quaint.”)
On top of that, I do freelance work for Adobe: I present at printer-sponsored co-hosts and at AIGA events. So I have no choice but to install the latest and greatest. So you might question my objectivity—fair enough. But I truly am trying to maintain my natural cynicism nonetheless. So, with that in mind:
Pros for Adobe:
- Steady revenue stream is good for bottom line (and that means that people I really like at Adobe get to keep their jobs)
- I’m trying to think of another, but that pretty much covers it. UPDATE: As someone remarked to me, maybe this means that the teams aren’t forced to exactly the same release schedule, since features can come “down the pipe” as they’re ready. That could benefit the development teams (and consumers).
Cons for Adobe:
- This could really piss off customers: the appeal of an optional Cloud may not carry over to the forced Cloud. If people don’t upgrade, revenue sags.
- Even if Adobe backs down from the forced Cloud, the bad taste will remain in the mouths of the disgruntled.
Pros For Users:
- Access to every application
- Cross-platform installation
- New features without additional upgrade costs
Cons For Users:
- You’re leasing software: stop paying, it stops working.
- Printers will either have to obtain multiple individual subscriptions, or use the (more expensive) Teams subscription.
- Government and other corporate agencies will have to make special arrangements for Cloud subscriptions, to accommodate firewall and other security concerns.
What About Compatibility?
The potentional for incompatibility with clients’ and collaborators’ versions isn’t new—I have numerous clients who are still using CS4 (especially on Windows). That’s why I keep all my old versions. Adobe has said that they will make every version from CS6 forward available, which implies that, even when “CC3” is released, subscribers would be able to download and install CS6 applications. So this sounds like we’ll have a continuum of versions available for those situations. How will any changes in file architecture affect us? Well, given that, for example, InDesign CC can export IDML that can be opened in CS4 or later, I don’t anticipate problems in the very near future.
I currently have CS4, CS5, CS5.5, CS6 Cloud installed on both my laptop and desktop computers. I used my AIGA 15% discount to purchase a PC version of CS6 Design Standard, and a Mac version of Design Premium, so I have “hard” versions of CS6 that I can install on both platforms if necessary. And if I wake up all my old laptops, I have everything back to the last century. Why, look—here’s my installer for InDesign 1.0.
Tell Us How You Really Feel
So, am I pro-Cloud or anti-Cloud? To quote an old coworker, “I feel strongly both ways.” Want to hedge your bets? If you’re not yet a Cloud subscriber, join AIGA at the Supporter level ($150/yr) or above, and take advantage of the software discount benefit to get a copy of CS6, and keep that on the back burner. Join the Cloud, see if you like it. If you don’t, you always have CS6 to fall back on when civilization collapses (which is imminent, given that elementary schools are not teaching cursive writing, basic grammar, or multiplication tables).
I’ll be frank— I don’t like the idea of leasing software. I know that software is licensed for use, not ownership, but it doesn’t evaporate when you have a conventional perpetual license. I don’t resent the fact that I “rent” my cellphone, cable, and internet services. But I wouldn’t want to lease a car, or rent my house. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes me uneasy about this, but I’m not fond of the idea. Despite the advantages (easy download, tons of features, the promise of constant improvements), the software now seems less real. Less mine.
Then again, it’s not exactly like leasing a car, since the software is not unchanging. If car leases were like Creative Cloud, I’d walk out to the garage one morning to find that I now had heated seats and a sunroof, without an increase in my monthly lease. I could get used to that.
I will soon have to present the new Creative Cloud model to groups, and I’ll be interested to see how they respond. Or maybe I should say “I’ll be steeled” for their reactions: maybe I’d better download “Whipping Post” to serve as the soundtrack.
It may be much like this:
What do you think?