First let me warn you. This will be a rant. But I also want to go on the record and say that I love Adobe software. And when I say that, I say that as someone who has been a paying customer since 1993. Much of what I do both professionally and personally would not have been possible if it were not for Adobe software. So I consider myself a fan.
But I’m becoming less of a fan as time goes on because my future relationship with Adobe is cloudy thanks to the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Adobe Creative Cloud is coming and if the reports and press releases I have read are correct I am concerned. Cloud services are all of the rage at the moment and for good reason. For some tools and services a cloud based approach truly enhances the user experience and delivers important benefits.
Adobe Creative Cloud though feels like an attempt by Adobe management to force people to move to a model that is far more expensive but provides little additional value. It feels a little like that infamous Netflix pricing decision.
Here are the issues that I see:
Moving to a Subscription Model
This makes perfect sense if you are Adobe. Subscriptions allow Adobe to smooth out its revenue stream, free it from the tyranny of the treadmill upgrade cycle, and reduces the hassle of having to convince users to upgrade every 24 months for “milestone releases” and then mid-cycle releases which I assume would arrive be annually. It remains to be seen how big or important the annual releases will be.
Adobe keeps telling me that the Creative Cloud will be available at an “extremely attractive and affordable price”. Currently that “extremely attractive and affordable price” is $49/month with a year commitment.
A one year commitment at $49/month is $588 which was just about the upgrade price for my last version of Adobe CS Design Premium. If you are required to make an annual commitment and Adobe continues their 24 month milestone upgrade cycle then you’ll have to pay for two years in order to take advantage of those the major milestone upgrades. That brings the total financial commitment to $1,176. Gosh, this feels even more “compelling” now. Wait, I thought I saw you stumble, let me give you hand up onto the upgrade treadmill. Really, once you get used to it you’re going to love it…
And what about access to your files and work? What happens if I have to cancel my subscription for some reason? Does that mean I can no longer access my files or work on the things that I have created? For some, that might not be a big deal but it is not a viable option for me.
One last thing about on pricing & upgrades: Adobe’s recent announcement that they were going to require users to upgrade to the latest version of their software in order to continue to receive future upgrade discounts is pure management stupidity. They backed off of this in part because of the open letter that Scott Kelby sent them but the delay is only temporary.
I suspect that somewhere in the bowels of Adobe, there is a cadre of newly minted MBA, spreadsheet jockeys talking about “acceptable customer attrition rates”. Ignore them. They are wrong on this issue. You’re about to “Netflix” yourself. There is still time to “just say no” to this stupidity.
This whole thing about the subscriptions and the upgrades has done more than other single thing to make me think that Adobe no longer really cares about their customers. It feels like arrogance and it comes across like a desire to punish the slow movers. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s the impression that I get.
According to Adobe’s press release I’ll have access to the entire portfolio of tools including the new generation of software that “embrace touch interaction to re-imagine how individuals interact with creative tools “.
Maybe I don’t run in the right circles but I’ve never met anyone that truly knows how to use all of the Adobe tools or even has a need too. If you are doing professional level work (or you aspire too) you have to focus intently on small area to become good. It’s very, very hard to be truly good at more than one or two things. Print design, web & interactive design and video all require different ways of thinking and different skill sets. For that reason I suspect that the vast majority of people don’t need more than 2-4 applications for the core creative work they do.
I personally use Lightroom and Photoshop primarily. I use Illustrator & InDesign some and occasionally I’ll break out Dreamweaver. I have no need for Flash, After Effects or Premiere Pro, Edge or Muse. I could care less about touch enabled apps. I’m not doing any serious work on a tablet and the ability to upload the files and edit them somewhere else is not compelling at the moment.
While this might be enticing to larger creative teams or ad agencies I still wonder why should anyone have to pay for tools that they cannot or will not use? Not every member of every team needs every tool. It’s just another way to try and justify the high monthly subscription price.
I don’t want to be forced to pay for a bunch of stuff I’ll never use.
Automatic Access to upgrades
This sounds great but while some features are compelling I don’t want/need everything every time. I have upgraded to every major version of Photoshop and Illustrator but a good example of this is the recent Adobe CS 5.5 upgrade.
I read the features, realized they didn’t appeal to me for the $389 upgrade price and so I saved my money. I would be really angry had I been forced to pay for that (of course with the new Adobe upgrade policy mentioned above, I’ll probably be financially punished this kind of disobedience).
I believe customers vote with their money. If Adobe adds compelling features people, myself included, will upgrade. If not, they won’t. While that kind of pressure is tough on a company, it encourages (forces?) Adobe to do the very best possible job that they can because it’s not compelling people won’t buy it.
A subscription model eliminates that pressure to perform and I think sets users up to fund minor upgrades that may or may not be meaningful or needed.
Interaction with the Creative Community
What kind of interaction is Adobe going to offer that I’m not getting now for free through the web, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites now?
Adobe has not elaborated other than to say, “the Community will facilitate presentation, sharing, and collaboration on creative projects”. Ok. I take it back. I don’t really know that means. Maybe it will be “Kuler” than I think. It could mean anything. Or it could mean nothing. Clearly my marketing brethren have been hard at work because while they have said a lot, there is nothing meaningful to it at all.
So where is all of this going? I don’t know. I guess we’ll wait for all of the details to come out but based on what’s been shared so far it’s my prediction that my relationship with Adobe will be partly cloudy with a good chance of storms moving in over the next 12 months. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. I sincerely hoping that someone at Adobe is listening to what customers are saying and thinking seriously about the impact on long-term, small customers like myself.
I’d love to hear from others who might know more about the Creative Cloud or whether they think my reasons are wrong. Drop me a line if you like.