Adobe’s move to the Creative Cloud isn’t sitting well with all of its customers. Over 5,000 of them have now signed a Change.org petition calling on the company to keep selling packaged software.
The blowback started on Monday when Adobe said that it will no longer sell new versions of its Creative Suite products — including Photoshop, Illustrator and other iconic applications — for a one-time fee. Instead, customers will need to buy an ongoing subscription to the Creative Cloud service in order to get future versions of the products.
Although pundits see it as a necessary move, many customers are worried that the change will end up costing them more money and give them less control over their applications.
“In the short term, the subscription model looks to be okay, but over time the only entity that is benefiting from this is Adobe,” says petition, written by Derek Schoffstall of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “The (no longer) current model: paying a one time fee for infinite access is a much better business model and is better for the consumer.”
Creative Cloud isn’t really a cloud — it’s marketing term describing something that the software companies love: subscription based software. Adobe’s applications are still installed locally and don’t run in the browser. But the service does include a few online services, including 20GB of storage. Users can run the applications offline, but you will need to go online to verify your subscription once a month (or, in the case of yearly subscribers, every 99 days). Subscriptions cost $20 to $50 a month, and include several features, such as 20GB of online storage and, of course, the use of several Adobe products — including Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere.
Regardless of what Adobe calls it, many customers are unhappy. “Due to the nature of the ‘upgrade at gun point’ nature of the change, and the forced ‘renting’ of software at prices that could be jacked up at anytime, I will not continue with the Adobe brand,” wrote one person who signed the petition.
But not all customers are upset by the new pricing. Mikkel Aaland, a professional photographer and author of several books on Photoshop, says it’s the only way Adobe can survive in an era of cloud services and 99 cent apps. “People think Adobe is this big company that’s invulnerable, but I’ve seen a lot of companies come and go, and I want to see Adobe stay in this game,” he says.
The subscription model could be a boon to Adobe’s competitors, such as the lower cost Photoshop alternative Pixelmator and the open source image editor GIMP. Aaland says that he’s too invested in applications like Photoshop and InDesign to switch any time soon, he’s excited by the prospect of more competition. “The pricing could breath new life into the alternatives,” he says.
On the other hand, many professionals will be able to use the latest Adobe software without having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars up front. Since Adobe tends to offer new versions of its products every two years, customers who buy every update may end up saving money in the long term. For example, a four-year subscription to Creative Cloud will cost new users about $2,400 — assuming the price doesn’t go up. A copy of the Creative Suite 6 Master Collection plus one upgrade at the current price would cost $3,650. The savings are even better over six years. Cloud users won’t do as well on single apps, as opposed to the Master Suite, but will still come out slightly ahead.
But users who tend to buy one version of a product or suite and use it for several years without upgrading will end up spending more than would have under the old pricing model — even those who update every other cycle (roughly every four years). And it’s exactly this type of user from whom Adobe is trying to extract more money. Adobe used to offer upgrade pricing to those who owned a copy of a product no more than three versions old, but last year the company changed its policy, offering upgrade pricing only to those with the most recent previous version.
But Adobe is keen on the subscription model for other reasons as well. It would also provide regular recurring revenue instead of bursts of sales when customers upgrade, Adobe chief financial officer Mark S. Garrett said during an investors and analyst call on Monday. The Creative Cloud service has landed over 500,000 paying customers since it launched last year. Garrett said on the call.
Adobe’s move is part of a broader trend towards cloud-based software offerings. Software-as-a-Service companies like Salesforce and Workday have had tremendous success selling alternatives to enterprise software that is expensive and difficult to maintain. But shifting traditional desktop software to a subscription-based model is only just beginning. Microsoft rolled out Office 365 in 2011, which, like Creative Cloud, provides both online storage and installable desktop applications for a monthly fee.
But Microsoft Office director of communications Clint Patterson wrote in a blog entry this week that while he agrees with Adobe that software subscriptions are the future, Microsoft won’t discontinue packaged software any time soon. “Unlike Adobe, we think people’s shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time,” he wrote.