Adobe Creative Cloud: I don’t like it, but I guess I don’t have to

by Steve Hickey

This post is part of two responses from our team to the recent news of Adobe discontinuing its traditional licensing mode. You can read the other post with opposing opinion here.

After nearly 10 years, yesterday Adobe announced that it will abandon its Creative Suite entirely. It has been rebranded as Adobe CC and will be sold only as their current Creative Cloud subscription model for the foreseeable future. There will be no more boxes, no more single-purchase downloads, no more ownership. Say hello to your new subscribed-to-death future.

I’m not sold on this whole idea, but I’ll start by saying something nice: I think the biggest benefit this will provide is focus. Adobe is free to put all of their engineering effort into a single version of the software again (Win vs Mac platform versions notwithstanding), and they’ll be able to create and push updates when they are ready instead of in a yearly monolithic bundle. They can respond quickly to changes in the way their customers work, a trait sorely lacking in their software thus far.

Compatibility issues between different versions are going to largely disappear after several years too. Once the holdouts with old versions of Creative Suite disappear that will mean everyone, everywhere that’s using Adobe Software is using the same version. This has some enormous benefits for anyone who has to share files in our industry, which is essentially everyone. Now we can just expect them to work, no questions asked.

The biggest drawback for me is going to be price. The new pricing is really only a deal if you upgraded every year anyways, or if you always bought one of the more expensive versions of the Suite without upgrade pricing. I did not tend to upgrade every year, so this just doubled-to-tripled the price of using Adobe software for myself and for several other people I know. I’ve used CS3 for almost five years and just upgraded to CS6 at the cost of just over a year of Creative Cloud.

Spreading out my purchases to finite, predictable amounts was very useful for budgeting and I imagine that for those who freelance more than I do it will be crucial. Depending on how well a freelancer has planned their pricing and cost structure this could be problematic for some of them, especially the ones working on older hardware still. They may need to start planning for an unforeseen upgrade to support the versions coming down the pipeline. When your day-to-day costs are uncertain there’s a great deal of benefit in knowing something is going to cost you $900 today and you can use it for the next 3-ish years as opposed to maybe $50 per month for as long as Adobe finds it beneficial to keep prices that “low”.

Ultimately, a slightly more complex pricing structure, where you can buy access to a subset of the software instead of the whole suite, would be nice to see. I’ve generally purchased the smallest version of the Creative Suite because I just have no need for the vast majority of what it offers, and most designers I know are the same way about it. Our agency is probably never going to need something like After Effects or Flash (shudder), which represent a substantial chunk of what we’d be paying for with Creative Cloud despite never using it.

The collaboration features such as Behance integration and their psuedo-Dropbox are also pretty unnecessary for us. As great as Behance is, it’s not crucial to getting our work done. It’s a nice-to-have, if you already use it. And unless their file sharing and syncing can be made to work as well as Dropbox, which tons of companies are already using and loving, then what’s the point? I supposed someone could get rid of Dropbox and use nothing but Adobe’s solution, but that won’t allow you to store or sync anything but Creative Cloud documents, requiring you to maintain both services, so it’s a pretty poor option.

What this really underlines though, is how dependent we are on Adobe to get our work done. I’d like to see how smaller software shops respond to this. We already have some great alternative software such as Pixelmator and Sketch that was unimaginable even a few years ago. Compatibility is always going to be an issue with those, but if they let you get work done in the way that users want to do it at a price that they find far more reasonable then they should thrive.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design