Clouding The Issue
Adobe Moves The Creative Suite to The Cloud
Who Wins, Who Loses?
Caught in the Cloudburst
Adobe is the industry's 800 pound gorilla. As the old joke has it – "Where does a gorilla sit in a movie theater? Anywhere it wants to." Well, Adobe has just entered the theater and is about to sit down. Some people will think that its doing so is a fine idea, while others are likely to get squished. Which one are you; and for that matter, which am I?
To clarify this tortured analogy; what's happening is that Adobe is ceasing to sell the products in its Creative Suite (most importantly for us photographers: Photoshop) and instead will only be making them available for rental via the Cloud. This means that instead of being able to purchase Photoshop or any of the other Creative Suite products as a download, or in a physical box, you will only be able to rent it or them, on a monthly or an annual basis.
What are the implications of this? Firstly, the program itself will continue to reside on your computer. You will be able to use it as you wish, the only required connection to the Mother Ship will be a monthly or quarterly check in to ensure that your license has been paid.
I use the word license quite consciously, because all the software that we use is licensed. Your operating system...everything. Even when you buy a physical software package at a computer store, you don't really own the software that's in it, you license its use. The key thought here though is that this is a perpetual license. It's yours to use forever.
But, how long is forever? I don't think there's a single piece of software that is on my current computer (a 2012 15" Macbook Pro Retina) that is more than about 3 years old. The reason is that as Apple (and of course Microsoft) keep updating their operating systems to keep up with changes in CPUs, older software breaks and no longer will run. Lightroom 5 for example, will no longer run under Windows Vista. The things is, we're on a fast track. Technology changes at breakneck speed, and one has to either keep up, or be left behind.
Now, of course if you want to continue using CPM and WordPerfect, that's your right. Just don't expect to run it on a present-day CPU.
Which brings us back to the whole issue of the Cloud, Adobe and time-limited licensing. For better or worse, Adobe has committed itself and most of its products to the Cloud. Lightroom, though part of the Cloud, and rentable, will also remain available as a purchasable product. Elements will remain only a purchasable product. Clear?
Whenever there's a radical change, there are invariably both winners and losers. In the case of Adobe's Creative Cloud (ACC) some of the winners will be Pros for whom $20 or $50 a month is simply a cost of doing business (and, not that big a cost). For these Pros, the ability to work collaboratively on image, graphic or video files, with others located elsewhere in the world, is one of the great benefits of the Cloud. ACC also allows cross-platform usage. You can use your license on two seperate machines, one a Mac and one Windows if you wish. Even more importantly, you can easily authorize and deauthorize computers, and you don't need to be at the machine that is being deauthorized. So, for example, you travel from New York to London and discover that you accidentally left your laptop at home. Simply download the ACC program that you need, deauthorize your laptop, and authorize the machine that you're now using. When you get home, reverse the procedure. Actually quite cool, and useful to travelling Pros.
Other winners are those who want to have the latest and greatest features of any particular program available to them. In the past this meant purchasing a new version, typically every eighteen months. Adobe has indicated that they will be adding features to Photoshop, and all the ACC programs, as they are developed and tested.
Sadly we all will lose on the financial front since to continue to use the latest version of Photoshop will mean paying more in aggregate for a yearly subscription than the previous cost of a version upgrade. And for those who in the past would skip a version (unless there was a compelling new feature), the new cost is even higher.
One Photographer's Perspective
Bob Smith, a member of this site's Discussion Forum posted the following comment, which some people may not have considered:
I pay $100/year for Dropbox space. I get 30GB of Adobe CC space(*) that works pretty much exactly the same way (with a cleaner interface) included in the subscription.
I believe that the ability to easily create mobile apps through InDesign is a great portfolio distribution tool. I know a small handful of artists already successfully using it. With CC membership you get unlimited free submissions to the Apple App store (if you choose to use that route). Those are normally close to $400 each.
I'm intrigued by portfolio marketing through Behance. That has been about $100/year I think. Now included at no charge with CC membership.
You get web hosting on Adobe's rather substantial server network for up to four sites included with the CC membership.
* You actually get 2 GB of Creative Cloud storage, with an addition a 20GB @ $1.99 per month via an in-app purchase.
What to Do?
We can bitch, moan and stamp our feet, but Adobe will do what it wishes, and what they believe will be in the best interest of their shareholders and customers. "But", you say, "I'm a customer and I don't like it".
Therein lies the quandary. Adobe regards themselves as a maker and vendor of "professional" apps for the professional market. They believe that the new Creative Cloud offering will be well received by Pros, and will better suit their needs. But what about amateurs, student and those on a tight budget? (Note: Adobe has not yet indicated their student pricing policy for ACC).
It seems to me that Adobe has decided that leaving some folks behind in the process may not be a bad thing. For example, piracy has always been a huge problem. Now, that will be much reduced.
Adobe still has Lightroom and Photoshop Elements as time-unrestricted purchasable programs, and it seems as if Photoshop CS6 will remain available as well for the indefinite future.
It may be that for those unwilling, unable or uninterested in subscribing to ACC, looking for an alternative to Photoshop is in order. Many people are recommending a very inexpensive program for the Mac OS called Pixelmator. There are numerous others.
What am I Doing?
So – what am I going to do? Frankly, I haven't decided. I work mostly in Lightroom and only go into Photoshop occasionally. That's just my style of working. I own Photoshop CS6 and so am in no hurry at the moment to go one way or the other.
$20 per month isn't a fortune, but I can imagine down the road that when a few months go by without my going into Photoshop, I will resent paying it, as will many other occasional users.
For those who are not offended by coarse language, or Hitler humour, there is a hillarious video available on Youtube that summarizes how many people feel.