Adobe takes its flagship suite to the cloud -- but will customers end up paying more?

New Delhi, May 8, 2013 — Adobe, creators of the Creative Suite combo of imaging tools like PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign etc, are pushing customers to move  to a subscription model where they pay monthly or annually for Web–administered and downloaded editions, rather than pay once for a DVD-based version.

The peg for this change is the availability this week of Adobe Creative Cloud – a subscription-based service that includes more than 30 tools and services enabling professional-grade content creation and delivery across print, web, mobile apps, video and photography. Simultaneously, the company announced a significant update to Creative Cloud, introducing new versions of Adobe’s desktop applications including Adobe Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, Dreamweaver CC and Premiere Pro CC. Adobe’s desktop tools, previously known as Creative Suite (CS), are now branded CC to reflect that they are an integral part of Creative Cloud

While Adobe Creative Suite 6 products ( ie DVD–based) will continue to be supported and available for purchase, the company has no plans for future releases of Creative Suite or other CS products. A major update to Creative Cloud will be available in June. By signing up for Creative Cloud today, creatives will be ready to download and use these latest cloud-enabled innovations from Adobe as soon as they are available. Creative Cloud membership for individuals is Rs 2,700 per month based on annual membership; existing customers who own CS3 to CS5.5 get their first year of Creative Cloud at the discounted rate of Rs 1600 per month.  

Adobe also announced Creative Cloud for enterprise today and special licensing programs for government. . Existing customers, who own a volume license of CS3 or later, get their first year of Creative Cloud for teams at the discounted rate of INR 2230 per month per seat if they sign up before the end of August 2013.

IndiaTechOnline’s take: Adobe has been unsubtly nudging their users to a subscription-based service rather than an outright purchase for some months now – at least after the release of Creative Suite 6. This jumbo combo of tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, the DTP solution InDesign, the movie editor Dreamweaver and the document standard, Acrobat was already a pricey option – costing the equivalent of $ 2500/ Rs 1,25,000 at the best configuration. Individually tools like PhotoShop cost around $ 700 /Rs 40,000. If one looks at the subscription pricing, the company’s strategy becomes clearer and is driven by the agenda to make the customer pay again and again for the same product. 

Talk of free updates is  all very well – but our rough calculation tells us, customers will be in effect, buying a new edition every two-three years.  If this were a  true  Software as a service, pay by use model, then Adobe should be offering single use pricing for a couple of dollars. Instead, the company is merely offering   a subscription mode  where the one year subscription  is about a third of the cost of the  product. 

For those who preferred to buy say PhotoShop once  and amortize its cost by spreading its use to 3-5 years, that option is now not available, because the company no longer plans to support or update shrink wrapped ediions. 

Regular users of legal Adobe software may have noticed that even as it is, CD and DVD versions stop working after they are 4-5 years old since they can no longer be activated.

We stop short of calling the new CC avatar's  pricing, predatory  but we must share with our readers our take, that Adobe, by this “cloudy” step forward,  has effectively doubled the cost of using its software. 

Can we do anything about it? Very little. Adobe is in the company of software giants like Microsoft ( think Office 360) who are cannily using the push to the Cloud to ensure that customers are made to pay on a regular basis for software and services that hitherto generated a one-off revenue stream. 

Cloud based software subscription models may or may not be in the larger interest of lay customers. But they are  a definite bonanza for the companies touting this model. Like charity, financial wizardry begins at home.