A lot has been made recently of Adobe’s announcement that all their software will be switching to Creative Cloud subscriptions, abandoning the software-in-a-box model. Even Hitler has weighed in. I’ve been using Creative Cloud personally for over 6 months, and most of my clients have made the switch, so I thought I would throw my hat in the opinion ring.
Overall my experience has been positive, but Diglloyd’s semi-conspiracy theory posts have made me pause for a second to look at what’s really going on, and try to look at this from other user’s points of view.
Last year at NAB 2012 I spoke with a few Adobe reps. Back then you could buy Creative Cloud, the apps individually, or Creative Suite as a package. I was still a CS5.5 user. The reps said they viewed CC as the future and they eventually wanted everyone on this model. So their announcement didn’t take me completely by surprise. Along similar lines, I found it strange at the time that they called all the apps CS6, even though for a few apps like Dreamweaver, Encore and others, the update from CS5 (or 5.5) didn’t justify paying for an “upgrade”. They were just called CS6 because all the apps are now CS6.
PROs (as I see them)
– Immediate upgrades – My main apps are After Effects and Premiere. In the last few years these apps have been through huge changes, many at breakneck speed. I need to be completely up to date to get compatibility with new GPUs, new features and bug fixes, etc. I couldn’t afford to be 6 months to a year behind. Creative Cloud made this easy. It’s nice knowing that another major upgrade won’t cost me as it’s included in the subscription.
– CC is cheaper if you were always upgrading as soon as a new version of CS was released. (For more info, see my followup post: Creative Cloud: A Look at Pricing)
– Easy budgeting for businesses – subscriptions make it easier to put together multi-year budgets. Your cost is locked and you don’t have to worry if an update will come out and screw up your plan.
– You get EVERYTHING Adobe makes.
CONs (as I see them)
– Confusion from using the word “Cloud” – The first time I heard “Creative Cloud”, I envisioned running Photoshop in a browser and was immediately turned off. But really, the word “Cloud” in this case means apps delivered via download, and Dropbox-style shared storage. “Cloud” as a buzzword is really annoying because it has too many different meanings.
– Can’t save downloaded apps easily – As an IT dude, I have a portable hard drive full of app installers for all of Final Cut Studio, all CS6, all CS5.5, a bunch of OS X versions and their subsequent Combo Updates, etc. Why? Because the internet in my area of the country is terrible and installing from a drive is a lot faster. All these installers require a serial number to be entered during installation, so I can use the same installers for all my clients and they just enter their particular serial number. But with Creative Cloud downloads, I can’t keep a single download and use it for multiple installations. So if each app is 1GB, and I have 10 computers that need to download 4 apps each, I need to download 40GB of files instead of 4. That could be days.
– Immediate upgrades to other apps while the apps you actually use, like Dreamweaver, might never really see upgrades. So what are you paying a monthly fee for? If your app of choice doesn’t get any love from Adobe, you shouldn’t have to pay the same price as a Premiere Pro user (I couldn’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure the bulk of the development at Adobe right now is concentrated on Premiere).
– Immediate upgrades from Adobe could break your plug-ins or hardware because third-parties haven’t had enough time to test the new software versions with their hardware or plug-ins. As a system admin, this makes me paranoid. I don’t want the edit systems to automatically download updates that might cause them to stop working due to conflicts. Adobe is basically saying that Creative Cloud will allow them to deliver major updates more frequently.
– Online activation requirements – I oversee a bunch of laptops that are used for media managing in the field. Many times these crews are out of contact for a month or more. They can’t have Adobe Application Manager freaking out when they’re trying to use a legitimate copy of Premiere Pro or Prelude for media management. Adobe needs to find an alternative way to deal with computers that are offline for extended time. This has been an ongoing problem for us.
– You’re just a renter – If you stop paying, you no longer have access to your files. If you purchased CS6, then you can keep using it forever. There’s no similar option with CC. An article on FStoppers digs deeper into this. Below, I lay out an idea for dealing with this.
– Management of licenses for business is pretty awkward – Brain Farm converted to CC subscriptions about 6 months ago. At the time there wasn’t a business option for CC. CC needs to be connected to an email address, but we needed to put CC subscriptions on the edit suite computers, which technically have no owner. So we had to create a bunch of random email addresses just for these computers. Kinda stupid, but it worked. Recently Adobe released Creative Cloud for Teams, which has central license management. Awesome. But it’s $70/mo, $20 more than the standard CC subscription. They add things like increased cloud storage, but we don’t use any of that stuff. I just want centralized license management. But I don’t want to pay an extra $20/mo/computer for that one feature.
– You get EVERYTHING Adobe makes – Most people don’t need this (but this is America!). Adobe also offers a single app for $20/mo, but I don’t know many people that only use one app. It’s usually two from my experience. But the pricing for two is pretty close to the pricing for everything. That would seem like a plus, but only if you’re using a ton of apps. People who use fewer might feel like they’re paying too much for the privilege. Especially if they’re using apps that aren’t updated very frequently.
– Legal issues – Diglloyd has dug into the licensing agreements and found some anomalies. I feel he’s being a bit alarmist for a well-regarded tech blogger, but I’m glad that someone is shining a light on the legal stuff. I feel these Terms of Service are used as a blunt instrument and are all too common in our increasingly litigious society. But that is a whole other topic beyond the scope of this blog.
Floating Licenses – I would like a way to deal with over-installation. Between all the laptops, workstations and everything in between, I have to oversee a lot of computers that at one point in the next 3 months, will all need to run an Adobe App. But I don’t want to pay $50/mo for some computers that might sit for a month or 2 between uses. It would be great if there was “Concurrent Users” licensing, or something even more granular where you pay for the one or two apps you use for the time that you used it. Right now I’m paying $30/mo for Creative Cloud on my home Mac Pro and I haven’t fired up Premiere Pro or After Effects in about 2 months. So that’s $60 for nothing.
End a subscription, you now own it – Here’s an idea, once you’ve been a subscriber for a year or so (long enough that you’ve invested something close to what the old purchase price would have been), you now own the most current version that you’ve paid for. If you’re currently using Premiere Pro 6.0.2 and you end your subscription, you now own 6.0.2, but don’t get access to any future updates or support. But you can at least open your old projects and keep working on the last version you paid for. Right now, if you end your subscription, the apps won’t launch. If you now extend this out to 5 years from now, I would be pissed if after paying $3000 in subscription fees (for a single computer) that I’m left with nothing but in-accessible project files.
SysAdmin-friendly features – I’d like more centralized management of app downloads, updates, etc. CC seems to be designed for a single Jack of All Trades working out of their house, and not for a creative facility.
Overall, I like where Adobe is going. But since these are uncharted waters, there’s going to be some unexpected issues and people need to keep an open mind. I think most of the above issues can easily be resolved. As long as Adobe is flexible, I think this will work out. I’m not one of those that believes the sky-is-always-falling or that every large business is out to get me. Since this concept is so new, we need to give Adobe the benefit of time to figure out the best way to make it work.