aNewDomain.net –Adobe started this war but designers like our NYT best-selling author and illustrator Tim Downs will end it. If it’s not too late. Adobe drew its battle lines first, Tim says, after last week’s release of its Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC and other print and digital design tools. That’s because Adobe’s new Creative Cloud software subscription service will change how designers and corporations buy and use Adobe’s products (um, services) forever more.
Read on for Tim’s Creative Cloud review …
Cue the ravens if you got the “forever more” reference. Adobe’s Creative Cloud is just the first salvo in the new licensing war propelling designers toward an Orwellian future run by evil, evil software overlords. And the news gets worse. Here’s my Creative Cloud review.
Let’s start with this. In Creative Cloud, designers no longer are able to buy Adobe software with a license that will last in perpetuity. Never again will we be able to plunk down our — yikes — $1,500 and walk away with software we own. Software that leaves us free to thumb our noses at new releases for years or as long as we want to, or until Apple yet again upgrades its operating system software to render our applications unusable. Whatever comes first.
This is all such a big deal because Adobe Creative Cloud is a subscription-0nly service. This is the whole pivotal point for this Creative Cloud review. It’s for digital licensing of Adobe’s popular design applications, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and other great tools that have become the gold standard in the many realms of digital and print design. Will anyone go for this? Here’s a graph I created based on data from a CNET study.
Image credit: Tim Downs for aNewDomain.net
The subscription requires members to sign up for annual $49.99 or monthly $29.99 usage plans that entitle the designer to download the suite of software to his or her computer and use any or all of the tools. You can license individual applications a la carte, too.
Of course, there’s a higher price point for team licensing for corporate use, and there are discounted plans for teachers and students. Each subscription model comes with a small amount of online storage for sharing and posting documents — but that’s where Adobe’s so-called cloud computing concept ends.
The system downloads the applications to your computer — you max out at two installations on two devices, and not simultaneous installations. After that, Adobe checks membership licensing periodically with an online check. If it turns out you cancelled your subscription, Adobe will disable the software on your computers until you reinstate membership.
And you no longer have access to your files unless you had religiously saved them back to earlier versions of the software, a tedious and often damaging process.
Few hobbyists ever bought the full Creative Suite. They were more likely to struggle along with Photoshop effects or possibly purchased a single copy of Dreamweaver, Illustrator or InDesign over the years. Weekend photographers, newsletter designers and people who dabble with web design for personal use are the kinds of hobbyists I mean. Some of these folks will dig deep to buy a version of one of these packages or, more likely, will be using the student version they bought in college years ago.
Pros: Crickets. Zip.
Cons: You won’t use it enough to justify the monthly payment.
A freelance designer already regularly utilizes some or most of the main design applications — InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver. But he or she will get the new version of Creative Suite only when absolutely necessary. It’s too pricey. Shelling out $1,500 every 12 to 16 months to keep up with Adobe’s aggressive upgrade cycle just doesn’t fit into the realistic economics of the full or part-time freelancer. You’ve got to pay the rent first.
Pros: Well, the CC quiver of arrows is pretty full, allowing designers to explore software they couldn’t afford before. That means access to all new features as soon as they are available. Also, there will be no more worrying about Adobe eventually finding out about their illegal pirating of the software for the past five years because they couldn’t afford the price tags. Wink.
Cons: When forced to choose between food and CC, most designers will choose food, or at least espresso. So, in a tight period they’ll be forced to cancel the Adobe Creative Cloud membership. That will render all their work effectively useless and non-editable, unless they backed it up to work with previous versions, as I described above. Plus, every freelance designer is used to her clients being at least one or one and a half versions of Creative Suite behind them. So the fear of investing money into CC when their clients won’t be able to open documents is bound to be mortifying.
The Design Studio, Ad Agency and High-end Corporate Designers
But alas, the Cons: YIKES. Cost. Workgroup membership is $69.99 per seat. Using the example of a medium-sized design firm with 30 workstations equals more than $25K a year to rent design software. Adobe will purportedly make updates available as fast they come out, which is an IT nightmare, since each update will need to be tested to make sure they are compatible with non-Adobe font management, CSS or other software on each designer’s machine before implementation.
Most of us have seen the Adolf Hitler Creative Cloud parody by YouTube’s Evil Edison. It is fairly offensive and profane, but this particular one does accurately express the sentiment the design community is feeling over the move Adobe is forcing upon generations of designers — to go from licensed products they pay dearly to own to rented software that is ridiculously expensive. I hope you’ll take this Creative Cloud review into deep consideration before spending a dime.
And though yes, we will yell and scream and hate Adobe for this, the reality is this: Until someone builds competing products we should and will actually use, eventually we’ll all line up and pay our 50 bucks every month for the rest of our careers. So Adobe has started the war? Is it already over? You tell me. For aNewDomain.net, I’m Tim Downs.
Based in San Diego, Tim Downs is a technologist, reviewer, commentator, and senior art designer at aNewDomain.net. He’s also the NYT best-selling author and illustrator of the New York Times best-selling How Computers Work and other award-winning and NYT best-selling books. He is a lifelong curiosity monger, a geek, an explainer, a top tier and award-winning graphics artist and, to put it mildly, a pop culture genius. Email him at Tim@aNewDomain.net.
Paul Bonner here. Can’t say that I agree with you on, well, just about anything. Sure the all-cloud announcement was a shock, but, to cite one of your examples, I don’t know any freelance designer who wouldn’t be better off paying $50 a month to gain access to the entire Creative Suite than being forced to come up with $1,500 or more every couple of years because a client, or a printer, or a short-term collaborator is working on the latest CS version and can’t deal with someone being two versions behind. (I can say that with the confidence of a fairly large sample size, since I was married to a freelance designer/art director for 27 years.)
Frankly, I still don’t see a downside to this for anyone working in the design business. Having seen lots of designers sweat over having to purchase a few typefaces, or fret over not being able to afford the full Creative Suite, access to everything Adobe produces for $50 a month should seem like a godsend. And if it’s not — if Adobe starts to jack up its prices, or all its products turn to crap overnight, there are always alternatives. Tons of purely cloud-based offerings like Creately, Pixlr, etc. Of course, free cloud-based apps tend to come and go without notice. And desktop alternatives. Don’t feel like paying $50 a month to mostly work in Photoshop? Maybe it’s time to see how productive you can be with GIMP.
On the other hand, if you want software from a company that innovates constantly, and pays its programmers, and has technical support, and fixes its bugs in the same decade in which they’re discovered, you’re going to have to pay for it one way or the other. And Adobe’s $50 a month still sounds like a bargain to me.
Well stated Tim! And don’t get me wrong, I like my brick and mortar software too! But I think it may be a losing battle. This is just another perfect example of how the internet and computing are being hijacked by HUGE corporations. They get what they want and then tell CBS This Morning to complain about the Government monitoring of email transactions (not emails themselves but just the transactions) when they get to see everything we do online. Try changing your Facebook preferences to a 100 year old female and sit back and enjoy the sidebar ads. Lately I love how the crap I buy at the grocery store now shows up in ads within hours of purchase. And thus this is why they want you to be Cloud based. They want to know exactly how you plan to use their software.
Wait now that I think about it, Neo became aware in the 7th iteration of the Matrix! I wonder which iteration this is?
I agree it depends on where you sit, for sure.
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