Adobe Creative Cloud is coming to a Web Designer near you

Adobe PhotoshopAdobe Creative Suite – including Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator – becomes a cloud-based subscription service.

As announced at Adobe MAX, the Creativity Conference, Adobe Creative Suite (CS) will now become a cloud-based service. Starting from June 2013, Adobe CS, which includes Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Premiere, will be available as a cloud, subscription-based service. This makes CS6 the last version of the Creative Suite – it remains available as a standalone product on a perpetual license basis to existing customers, but is already pulled from the market. The future products will be re-branded as CC instead of CS, to reflect the move to the “Creative Cloud”. This is a bold and controversial move, which only an ultimate leader in creative software like Adobe can risk taking.

The offering is only cloud-based in a sense that internet access will be required at the time(s) of renewal (but not in between). Customers will be able to use the product suite for as long as they keep renewing their monthly subscription. When they stop, the ability to access the product suite, along with the ability to manipulate all previously created files will be lost.

Creative Cloud membership for individuals is currently priced at $49.99 per month based on annual membership (interestingly, it is priced at £46.88 in the UK, which is nearly 50% more expensive based on today’s exchange rate). Existing customers, students, and teachers get discounted pricing of $29.99 per month. Whether this makes Adobe CC services more expensive than your previous investment in Adobe CS depends on your circumstances. Companies and professionals that are using the product suite on a daily basis will probably find the new and old pricing comparable at this point in time, but the mere nature of the cloud-based model implies Adobe’s full and immediate control over product pricing and product roadmap in the future.

Quite clearly, this move leaves occasional users, hobbyists, and students behind. By moving its creative product suite to the cloud, Adobe essentially cuts themselves off from this part of the market and makes a stand to position the company, and its products, as elite, professional software, with a price to match. As a result, young people, small businesses, and potentially even universities will start looking for affordable, “good enough” alternatives.

The cloud-based service model also raises the issue of support and customer service – something that Adobe is yet to prove it can do well. Even though support forums already exist, their importance will become critical once customers lose control over when and how the product upgrades are done. Web Designers and Editors who find themselves stranded by an unwelcome upgrade the night before a go-live date, will no doubt have the highest expectations for effective and immediate support.

Only recently Adobe bundled all the creative software products into a Creative Suite, and re-priced individual product licenses (for Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and the like) in a way that pushed organizations to buy the full product suite instead of single applications, whether they needed the full package or not. The decision to make Adobe products cloud-bound, once again, leaves customers no choice in the matter and does nothing to respond to customers needs.

The move to Adobe Creative Cloud also lessens the pressure for Adobe to innovate. Perpetual licenses required compelling evidence of added value in each and every new release, but with the move to the cloud, the only incentive to improve the product will have to come from Adobe’s (almost non-existent) competitors. Essentially, in the current market, many of Adobe’s creative products are irreplaceable. Macromedia Fireworks, which was regarded as somewhat less sophisticated alternative for Adobe Photoshop, was acquired by Adobe in 2005 and will not be part of Adobe Creative Cloud. (RIP Fireworks.) Macromedia Homesite, once a leading HTML editor, was acquired by Adobe in 2005, and went into a steady decline before it was eventually discontinued in 2009. QuarkXPress has a significant marketshare in print publishing but remains behind Adobe’s product InDesign. Adobe Illustrator is an industry standard for vector illustrations, with CorelDRAW being an alternative for Windows/PC platform. After Effects has virtually no competition at all. This gives Adobe a unique, powerful market position – an advantage that they need to use wisely.

This blogpost was first published on Digital Clarity Group website in 2013.