excerpts, quips, and musings on the production and post-production industry, and other stuff of interest

Adobe and Creative Cloud

The question: Is software a product you buy once and own perpetually or is it a service that you buy access to and pay associated monthly costs?

Traditionally, software has been the former - a product. If you want to edit you buy a license of Final Cut, Avid, Premiere Pro, or Vegas and you own it. If the manufacturer updates the software you can chose to purchase the upgrade or stay put at your current version. If you want to manipulate photos you buy a license of Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture and you own it. If it's upgraded you choose to buy in or not.

Now along comes Adobe and they announce their Creative Cloud offering last year. I brushed it off. I really didn't pay much attention to it. The Cloud could work for some people, but I prefer to own my license perpetually. Some machines we "retire from daily use" but still have an old version of some software sitting on them in order to do some menial task. It's not a "big iron" system anymore, but it's also not worth the scrap heap. It gets repurposed and an older version of whatever software that I've purchased goes on there.

Then along comes this little nugget of information: Adobe to Stop Selling Boxed copies of its Creative Suite software. Uh-oh! As of May 1, 2013 it looks like Adobe will no longer manufacture discs. If you want to use Adobe software your only option will be the Creative Cloud. So who wants to pay for software perpetually? 

Here's Adobe answers for why they believe the Cloud is better than discs:

  1. It's less expensive up-front than purchasing discs ($50/month instead of $2,600 for the Master Collection)
  2. Lower cost due in part to lower manufacturing costs (no discs/manuals/shipping), therefore it's also a "green" solution
  3. Allows for updates to roll out faster to user base
  4. User has access to any piece of Adobe software at any time; essentially every user is buying the Master Collection whether they need it or not

Again, this is the question of is software a product or a service. Adobe is squarely moving into the latter camp, treating it as a service now (much like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Spotify, or Amazon Prime). The biggest hurdle to software as a service is if I stop paying for it I lose access to all of my project files. Whereas, when I bought a perpetual license (via boxed set or download) I owned a serial number for 1 or more copies of that software. If I chose not to upgrade, I could still run that software as long as the hardware and OS I ran it on (Mac or Windows) supported it. Under the Creative Cloud, if I stop paying I stop using. The software as a service model is basically the same as leasing a car. I don't own the car. I don't keep the car long-term. I use it for a brief time and give it back. This Cloud model guarantees a perpetual revenue stream for Adobe. Nothing wrong with that. But I'm not comfortable being locked into renting my software.

My proposal is for Adobe to maintain the Creative Cloud as an option for access to their software. However, in addition to the Creative Cloud, they also allow for a Purchase + Maintenance option. This is very much like how Autodesk runs their licensing. I buy a license to Premiere Pro CS6 and I buy a subscription at a monthly or yearly rate, which allows me access to any updates that Adobe pushes. At the end of the subscription I can chose to continue under the plan or forfeit my future access to the updates, but not to the software overall. So I would still own CS6 (plus the updates I downloaded during my subscription phase) as long as the OS and hardware I have would run it. If I want to get back into the subscription model I would have to pay for the next term plus some reentry fee. 

There are several threads on the CreativeCow currently discussing this exact problem. See here and here. All of this boils down to how Adobe wants to license its software - as a product or as a service. They've traditionally done it as a product and are now moving exclusively towards a service based model. I believe they should keep the service based model, the Creative Cloud, and also add in a Product + Maintenance model. The latter option bridging the two extremes.

UPDATE: It appears Adobe will still offer perpetual licenses (also see video below where the Creative Cloud is touted "as an option," not the de facto way of procuring Adobe software). They're just down playing it in order to push their Creative Cloud offerings. As of Monday, May 6, it appears Adobe's next version will only be available via the Creative Cloud.