« How Affiliate Websites Work | Main | Updates: I Lose »

Wednesday, 05 June 2013


What is the plural of "kerfuffle"? Kerflufflae? Kerfluffleux? I am ducking all of this until I am forced to adapt. After upgrading for the last three versions of PS, I still haven't either a) mastered Photoshop or b) figured out how to get things to look like they did with CS5, when at least I could rely on finding the navigator in the toolbar. . .

I do think that the uproar comes from folks feeling like the ground is shifting under their feet too quickly. After all, your "rights" as a licensee are practically non-existent. It really turns the idea of customer service upside-down.

FWIW (to address a throw-away point above): there is no functional difference between a utility bill and a tax. In fact, politicians feel much more comfortable passing laws that will increase your utility bill than they do raising a tax. But from your wallet's perspective the result is the same. I would posit that much of the photo industry has migrated from an industrial model (use it till it breaks) to something more like the fashion industry (use it till it's out of style). Good for them and both good and bad for us. Can you imagine going to sleep like Rip Van Winkle for 50 years, waking and running around with your SD card (or floppy disk) trying to make a "print"? Ha! OTOH, I can record photons bouncing off black cats at the bottom of coal mines, so I have that goin' for me.

Even at $10/month, that's $120/year. I upgraded my Photoshop version about once every 5 years for $199. That comes out to $3.32 per month. I use Photoshop very rarely, but when I need it, it's there. I buy cars with cash (I don't lease). I bought a lifetime membership to my gym 9 years ago (it cost the equivalent of 2.5 years of monthly dues). I bought a lifetime subscription to Sirius/XM 8 years ago (it cost the equivalent of 2 years of monthly service).

My point is, OWNING something (that doesn't require costly upkeep) is much better in the long run than RENTING it. Adobe is making us rent their software now. If the cost goes up to $20/month after the introductory pricing, Photoshop will now cost me 6 times what I spend on it now. For something that I use very sparingly, that is not acceptable.

Pricing is really the only problem with CC I see. A lot of folks seem to upgrade every few versions. They don't have a need for the latest and greatest. This will cost more to them. However, it was pretty clear this was going to happen based on the limits of what versions can upgrade.

Your theory on them keeping $10/mo per app is admirable.. but I'm not convinced, not after how this was all handled. However, that would be a pretty good price point.

The full suite is actually a decent price for shops that stay on top of new versions and utilize all the apps. I'm not sure how many people fit this though.

The BIGGEST concern I have? It doesn't necessarily have anything to do w/ CC, but the fact it highlights just how dominant Adobe is. There really isn't a good alternative in the professional realm. However, personally, I'm a LR guy, so the majority of my work is in there. They are keeping it cloud-free, but I suspect the cool tablet sync stuff will require a subscription. The excuse is it stores stuff for you, but why can't I point it to my own resources?

I'm all for rationality and had the file availability issue worked out immediately. However, this,"... Except, they won't. For existing users, the price is $10 a month. It's only $20 a month for brand-new users (or current users of really old versions). Yes, it's a one-year "introductory" price. But, I've got good reason to think it'll become permanent and, anyway, that's what it is now. Ten dollars. Not $20." is irrational in the extreme. The price WILL go up to $20, or more likely $30, per month. Once Adobe has you by the s&c's, they'll extract every penny they can to improve the bottom line. Tell me, have you ever sold a current version of PS in order to make (i.e., save) some money and return to an earlier version? Don't drink that Kool-Aid.
I'm a CS user and even if I can get it for $20/month for the first year, it'll go to $50/month (the present year-2 price) soon enough. This is DOUBLE what I would pay to upgrade every 2 years and QUADRUPLE the cost if I skipped every other upgrade.

Adobe has botched this badly, but the "creative" hiding of the price is probably not an accident. It´s the result of greed. They price the same product downloaded from the same servers differently depending on with country you are buying from. Having to deal with this greed every other CSx version when upgrading is bad enough, but having this greed showing up on the bank statement every month is going to be a bit to much to stomach. I would probably have found the US price aceptable, but more than 2 times the price for the same product from the same servers at the same cost to Adobe is just more greed than I´m comfortable with.

This move by Adobe will probably cost them a lot of customers, but the remaining customers will probably give them more revenue than they get today. The losers in all of this will probably be developers of plugins and tutorials, as the market in numbers of PS user may shrink.

And as Ctein says, this CC thing have no direct bering on piracy, that will continue as it is today.

One possible good thing that may come out of this is that with so many people pissed of, it may be an opportunity for someone to develop a real alternative to PS and break the monopoly of PS.

I'll be curious to see where you're going to go with this next installment. To date, the licensing approach has basically been: we've spent a bunch of money to create this product and will be spending a bunch more to market and support it. We anticipate selling so many copies at full price, so many upgrades, etc. If they fail to sell that many, they make less money; sell more and they make more. There's incentive to understand what will drive customers to purchase the next version.
This works great for someone like me. I'm a real lightweight PS user. I upgrade rarely (went from CS2 to CS5). So Adobe doesn't make much money on me. On the other hand, what are they losing ? Force me to upgrade every release and I'll just stop using PS. Like I said, I'm a lightweight user and can get by with PS Elements or a competing solution.
The new approach demands ongoing payment for the right to use the product. It reduces the risk for Adobe; they can much more easily predict their future revenues. As a consumer, though, what's the benefit to me ? I don't have to wait for updates ... but I'm not eager for updates anyway. And now that I'm promising to pay for them without knowing what they are; where's Adobe's incentive to produce what I want ? (Granted, they can eventually stand to lose out by failing to satisfy customers, but the dynamics change). A subscription is something you pay for new content delivered on an ongoing basis. When I've finished reading the current issue of some magazine, it's not really terribly useful to me and I look forward to the next. I want today's news today; tomorrow, I'll want tomorrow's. I don't really want tomorrow's Photoshop. I don't even want CS6. I don't want a 4K television (or even a 3D television). I don't want HDMI 4.0 or 7-channel surround.
I'm happy that corporations continue to advance the state of the art in all of these things, so that down the road, when I am ready for a new something, it's vastly better than the old whatever. They develop new technology to procure new buyers; upgraders or young people buying their first gizmo. They make money. And sometimes, they make bets that are doomed to fail. 3D seemed ill-fated from the start and while I don't know how successful it has been, it seems to me that much of the market has resisted having it crammed down its throats.
It's a healthy situation when a company has to do a good job or its customers will just say "no, thanks". Adobe's lack of competition and subscription model make for an unhealthy situation.
Despite all this, I'm not overly bothered (because I'm a lightweight PS user !) I'll use CS5 until I can't use it no more, and then I'll figure out what to do next. I rely on LR for raw conversions, so don't care about ACR currency. (And DNG is always an option).

I will be interested to see why you like this idea. Personally, I dislike it not because it would cost me more, but simply because I dislike having a monthly subscription fee. I like buying things with a one-time payment. There are already too many things that I have to pay for month to month on some sort of subscription or per-usage plan.

It is an advantage of sorts for new users that they can buy a one-month subscription to Photoshop for $20 to try it out, rather than having to fork out the old one-time purchase price. Essentially, Adobe can now charge $20 for a trial license, and you can extend the trial forever, but you have no way (legally, anyway) to continue to use the product without continuing to pay.

As a long-time user, since Photoshop 4.0 and a retired hobbyist, I get no credit for all my years of upgrades. I now use PS 6.0. I am appalled at the new pricing and I am voting with my feet by not switching to CC. Screw them!

As a suspicious, cynical person, Adobe's ineptmess (sic) appears disingenuous. Burying $10/month deep was no accident of bad marketing but more likely a sap to newbies who might take offence at privileged pricing. But I too will probably like CC if only for instant updates and the ability to start using the Suite, tools avoided due to cost.

CS3 and LR4. For now.

Mess with LR licensing and you've made me a Capture one Pro user, Adobe. C1P has more sophisticated editing tools anyway and inertia is the only thing that keeps me with LR.

With CC, pay more for something I can no longer even keep should the perpetually required monthly payments stop. I have PS CS6; I'll keep using this for as long as possible. Hopefully, this gives competitors several more years to sufficiently bulk up before I switch. But sure, looking forward to reading next column, as I'm always open to a more optimistic interpretation assuming that the benefits are real and offset existing concerns.

Adobe as a corporation is like a shark that has to keep swimming to stay alive.

Under the old model, upgrades were strong enough that a large number of people upgraded. That seems to be coming to an end. If you can believe the photo forums, many people thought CS6 was a little weak, and a lot of them said they really didn't want much more from PS anyway -- that they were satisfied with what they have. If too many people decide they are satisfied, what happens to income?

The subscription model is Adobe's solution for that. They not only get their money, they get even more of it, without any real commitment (or maybe even ability) to provide much in the way of serious upgrades. But what about the customer? Are they really better served by paying more for a service than they did in the past, for less in the way of improvements? Of course not -- but this whole thing has little to do with the customers and their needs.

I know that Ctein is smarter than an average working stiff like myself, but I will be astonished if next week's revelation blows my socks off. I can't imagine what it could be, because the equation is so simple: Less for More. What could he come up with that would change that in our eyes, and cause us to start Adobe parades in all the major cities? What could it possibly be?

Adobe has worked hard for more than a decade to earn the backlash to this announcement. Blame for which lies with the executive management of the company from Shantanu Narayen on down, not "some of their strategy and marketing people." It is very much a culture where internal dialog overshadows the voice of the customer and unclear external communication is a direct result of competing priorities and unclear visions within the company.

There are a lot of great people at Adobe and many of their products are still the best, but the brand itself is tolerated rather than loved for a reason. Strong competition in software for photography and other artistic endeavors is sorely needed.

Dear Paul,

I think making flat-out assertions of "will" rather than "could" when one has no data to back that up is, to use your phrase-- irrational in the extreme.

I've been watching Adobe pricing trends ever since they started down this road. Have you? They don't go in the direction you posit. That's no predictor of future performance, but it's sure not something that favors you making such a confident assertion of future fact.

Show me your data.


Dear Dennis,

Sorry, you ain't gonna draw it out me of this week. Else, what would I have to run next week?! [grin]


Dear Craig,

Me, too! Like I said, I surprised myself. I figured all this out last fall, so I've been waiting see what would happen. Thought I'd be waiting another coupla years (didn't we all!), but the broad strokes have played out like my analysis, so I'm feeling comfortable with it.

pax / Ctein

I've personally owned every version of Photoshop since V1.0 (purchased in September , 1990) and never had any version "reset" itself or had to re-enter the serial number unless I was reinstalling the software.

IMO the big rip-off in the rent/subscription model is that Photoshop, as a program for photography, was slowing noticeably in its course of development. Adobe's 18-month upgrade cycle was making less and less sense as newer versions seemed successively less necessary or even desirable.

The innovations in the last two versions have been, from a strictly photographic viewpoint, underwhelming. Some have been gimmicks or even inconveniences – for example Quick Selection Tools that didn't improve on what we had; silly ways of bending knees and elbows; and the unnecessary Properties palette that hogs monitor space. Nothing that made a major difference for photographic work (nothing like, for example, the Perspective Crop) appeared in PS5 or 6. Adobe previously forced us to upgrade so we could process files from newer cameras, but now LR takes care of this.

Less to change meant less to sell. PS was becoming, like a hammer or shovel, a tool that did not often wear out or need an upgrade. That is, until some brilliant marketing officer / rip-off artist had a customer-abusing brainstorm and decreed that 'from now on, we'll charge 'em rent.'

I am sorry, but I just don't see where you get that $10.00 per month. The cheapest 'single use' fee I get is the educational one for $19.99.



I just read Scott Kelby's editorial in the latest issue of Photoshop User. Not surprisingly, he defends Adobe's Creative Cloud policy, mostly on the basis of price: He notes that if you upgrade every time a new version comes out you will save money with the new policy (assuming Adobe doesn't raise prices in the future... though, once everyone is on the "Creative Cloud" version, there's little incentive for them not to raise prices).

This is something like leasing versus buying a car: If you replace your car every two years or so, it's actually cheaper to lease than to buy.

But what Adobe's done is remove the option of buying. Entirely.

Imagine what the reaction would be if a car manufacturer announced they would no longer sell you a car but would only allow you to lease. What do you think would be the reaction if one manufacturer had a near-monopoly on cars (what's Adobe's share of image editing tools?) and announced they would not sell but only lease them?

It's not about money, it's about control.

In my view, when a company behaves the way Adobe has in this and other instances, which is to act as though customers have no choice, and will take whatever Adobe chooses to offer, at whatever price they choose to offer it, They should not be rewarded for that behavior.
Only by voting with our feet do we make that message clear.
For me, this is separate from the software thay make,--which is very good . It's about the kinds of companies I choose to support with my business.
Having used Photoshop since version 5 (pre CS) and currently owning CS5 , I will miss it , but I just can't reward a company with such blatant disregard for customers with my business.

They have the right to do anything they want with the software they create, and customers have the right to deal with companies that treat them like.......customers

As someone that works in the tech space, my biggest concern is that we'll all be forced to constantly use Adobe's latest code release. Every code release has bugs. That's just the nature of software, except now the releases will be coming more often, thus you'll be dealing with bugs more often. They should be fixed more often as well, but it can still be massively annoying.

What annoys me is the lack of choice. Why doesn't adobe continue to sell the product - jack the price of up X% to cover the cost of a hardware security key plus a margin - and also offer subscriptions. Presumably most people will tend to the latter. But the option will be there for mug punters - like me - who prefer not to pay licence fees for non-business expenses.

No one can force you to use a product you don't like. You may like or not like a product because of quality, price, performance or whatever. I read all these posts and it seems many believe Adobe has a gun to their head, compelling you to pay for their product. Adobe, like any industry, has the RIGHT to charge what they think they can get. If they get the pricing/marketing/service wrong, if they go in the wrong direction, they will lose business/money/profit. If you don't like CC for whatever reason, then I have a really simple bit of advice: don't use it. Vote with your wallet. Adobe will listen to their bottom line, believe you me. Any business is only viable if it is profitable. And Adobe is very concerned with profit.

Dear Christian,

Thanks for helping to making my point! Here's a link to the pricing page for existing users:


Don't ask me how I got there the first time-- I bookmarked it, because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find it again. Sigh.


Dear Tony,

You could very well be right that it was no accident. It was still horrible marketing. See Christian's comment: Even with me saying that the $10 price existed, he couldn't find it.

It would be as if, when Adobe released CS6, they had simply listed as being available for $600 (or whatever it was, I'm not bothering to look it up) and you had to go through amazing efforts to find out that as an existing user you could upgrade for only $150 (again, made up number).

I have no doubt that if I were to go ask the marketing people (or, as Zalman suspects, upper management), they would give me some reason why they did every stupid single thing that I've damned them for. Still makes them stupid.


Dear JC,

I can't promise you that next week's explication will blow your socks off. I do suspect, though, that you will find it mildly revelatory.

How loose are your socks, anyway?[g]


Dear Dave,

What prompts Photoshop to revalidate itself is not something Adobe will discuss with me (I've asked in the past). It's part of their anti-piracy efforts. It used to be triggered by a certain level of hardware modification, but it seems to be more sophisticated than that now. Or flakier, take your pick. In any case, I've had CS6 reset itself twice on my iMac and once on my MacBook Pro. The iMac has had no changes in internal configuration. The MacBook Pro has had its hard drive replaced twice during the period… But neither of those replacements triggered a reset. Apparently whatever the system is, it's now smart enough to ignore that kind of hardware upgrade. But what it's seeing that makes this happen, I don't have a clue.

I should mention that everything I wrote in this column (and the next) came entirely out of my own head or publicly available knowledge. None of it comes from any inside source at Adobe. But ... I ran both columns through a contact at Adobe for fact-checking, to make sure I didn't get any of the factual information wrong. He did find one very minor nuanced error in my original description of validation that I changed before submitting the column. That was it.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Ctein, my work computer - where Photoshop CS6 resides - does NOT go online. Not ever. Never has and never will.

It was like pulling teeth to get Adobe to get me the right info to activate it. Many hours with their tech jackasses - and from my experience that is being polite to these know nothings - and I still had to get outside help to load and get it running. Never had that experience before.

S-L-O-W internet connection here in the country makes cloud stuff difficult. A number of applications of less memory intensive programs time out on me. Makes for frustration, just what I do not need from Adobe.

I would rather have the disk, load the program on my work computer. Occasionally download an update and transfer it to my work computer than any monthly anything.

Add in that I never have monthly or yearly charges to a card. I don't trust these folks at all.

Yes Adobe have committed a massive PR blunder here with this. I could make no sense of the pricing here in Oz on website. So I rang up Adobe and spoke to a very helpful chap and he couldn't make any sense of it either so I eventually got put through to someone more senior who "knew everything". We went through it all, discussed my needs and usage patterns and I got everything squared in my mind and then he tossed in as a final remark "Of course you're not the kind of customer Adobe wants." Well as a semi retired editorial photographer and photo educator who also is branching into film and self publishing I thought who do they actually want?

The other blunder is the pricing. There is now no need to have separate pricing levels for different countries as the product is delivered via the net, but Adobe still insists on giving the US market the most attractive pricing and then gouging the other countries horrifically. Add to the fact that the Creative Cloud will not be available to many countries and you'd thing that with their current marketing of the product they actually don't want anyone to use it.

I’ve resisted weighing in on this for weeks and now that scoundrel, Ctein, has pushed me to actually write something. Bah.

The “Adobe” problem is not the licensing model, nor who owns what, nor whether your work will be preserved. The problem confronting Adobe and their distant competitors is mature technology. Adobe has been fashing around for years, now, because there simply is not much more to add. Their software is top-of-the-heap, built to an often mind-boggling level of engineering that most of us don’t need or even know exists. The only place they could improve is the print pipeline where color management is still way too arcane even for professionals but the audience for that sort of improvement is professional or obsessed and both of those cohorts are small populations. The only opportunity they can hope for is new printing or display technology that handily displays double the density range of current technology and then keen new features will be keen new features the average enthusiast will happily purchase.

So, their revenues are diminishing. What else would you expect them to do other than find a sturdy (if low) revenue stream ’til Captain Kirk & Spock come back to visit with a little technology gift?

This dire situation is true throughout all art software product lines with the possible exception of video editing where there is still ample room for innovation (given the colossal data manipulations necessary to get out a paltry 30-second commercial).

(An aside: the people who actually build and maintain the software you use to make your art do not deserve the thoughtless bad mouthing that is a too-common part of the internet conversation—they like making cool stuff for artists and work fiercely hard for it to be the best.)

The concern for longevity in file formats has been nicely addressed by Ctein in previous columns. But you should realize that it’s not an either-or situation. In fact, Apple and Microsoft have built-in support for Photoshop format (because it’s a published format). As in the underlying operating system, not an application. Ever wonder why you saw a decent preview of your image in the folder listing? They can’t and won’t implement the 0.5 micron blurring layer effect that’s possible in the application itself, but the basics are there and if you want things to last—go basic. Graphite on vellum is a good idea for a millennia-long life span.


I've been a long-time PC gamer, and this sort of thing has been going on in PC gaming for years.

And, for the most part, "always online" and "tied to THE CLOUD™" as bad as it sounds.

The most recent example is the heavily botched launch of SimCity, the latest iterations in the (formerly) popular city-building game.

EA, the publishers and all-round Worst Company In America, made the game completely and utterly tied to their "Cloud™" (I loathe that term - it's a techno thought-terminating cliché) for the claimed reason that the game was so big and huge and complex no puny home computer could ever run it, so it needed the power of EA's server farm to run.

This was a lie, of course: the real reason was DRM. For starters, the general programming of the game was so laughable at launch it was impossible to believe that off-site server farms were being used (or could even help); secondly, it took about five minutes before a canny hacker discover that the game doesn't do any real work in THE CLOUD™ - you could run the game "offline" for 20 minutes with no ill effects. It was pure DRM. THE CLOUD™ was not needed.

Now, granted, that mightn't necessarily be the sort of thing that affects Adobe - they might get it right, actually use THE CLOUD™. But I ain't holding my breath.

The real problems are the sheer logistics of it all.

Almost everyone who tried to run the game on launch day was greeted with the "Unable to create your city" error message - the game's term for "There isn't enough room on the server."

The game was sitting on your hard drive. It was taking up space. Hell, technically it was even running...just that you weren't allowed to use it, because EA hadn't put on enough resources (which it INSISTED you use...even though there was no reason to use it - it was just a Rube Goldberg crazy machine) to let you use it.

It was nearly a week before most people could play the game, and even then EA had to disable a bunch of features. And problems continued for weeks after that.

It left everyone with a very bad taste in their mouths.

The game Diablo 3 had similar launch issues - the infamous "Error 37" when there weren't enough slots on the server.

But at least you get constant updates, right? New functionality, bug fixes...sure. But that doesn't always work out so well.

Imagine if one morning you went out to your car to go to work and found out Ford had updated it - the pedals had shorter throw, they put in racing seats, the power band for the engine had changed, or the stereo now had the volume knob on the right instead of the left. They might be good changes, but when you're running late for work, or just want to bloody DRIVE somewhere with no fuss, it's annoying. Consistency is often better for end users than improvements. What you thought you were using had changed with no input from you.

It's also not unheard of for patches to introduce *new* bugs. The game The Elder Scrolls: Dragonborn had this recently: the game would auto-update, then gamers would play it to find that there were MORE bugs than before. There's also been the bizarre situation in some games where patches were issued, and then the users were told to to NOT use the patch because it broke more than it fixed. Already installed it in good faith, or because it was auto-installed? Whoops. Tough.

You might all be thinking "I don't play games, don't care", but all these problems are perfectly applicable to ANY sort of software.

Most of these gripes can be applied to an always-online Photoshop...with much more dire implications. You don't have to play a game.

But if you're a working imaging professional, your livelihood depends on it. Got that big rush job due this afternoon at three? Oh, Adobe CC has updated and now none of your tools are where they were before. And all your presets and saved actions are no longer recognised - but you should be happy, because the new version of actions is now 4% more efficient!

Working in the field? HAHAHAHAHA! Sucker.

On a flaky net connection? What? People have flaky net connections? Our engineers have tested it, and it's fine on our internet connection...doesn't everyone have 100Mbps fibre connection like we do in our labs, right?

Oh, you can't access our server? Yeah, it's kinda swamped at the moment, and we're doing maintenance - maybe tell your client to bugger off and wait till Friday, when we will have finished maintenance. Honestly, we're only good for 10,000 simultaneous users - maybe if you all weren't such greedy and rude users and formed an orderly queue, this wouldn't happen. I don't see how this could possibly be a bad thing; we already have your money.

I'm not into subsidising so called progress, so I stopped doing so. About dependencies. XS4ALL stopped the weblog service I was using (will stop it end of july). So I stop using XS4ALL at the end of july, thus ending my web presence alltogether.

Have had similar problems with other web services, suddently I could not run PHP anymore on my account and had to upgrade, etc. etc. etc. etc. The list is long and prospers.

All my mistakes off course. If you don't own a product, don't make the mistake that you are save from changes. That is what makes renting software such a bad idea. I know I've worked for companies that rented out software and didn't care RATS ASS about changing the "experience" for subscribers if they thought it could be done cheaper, for instance by using a "web interface" instead of a dedicated and also ofline usable application.

And indeed, in about 55 days I'll be gone and I will prosper.

Greets, Ed.

Website soon to be extinct.

my opinion: Adobe doesn't believe in the future of its current line, and is using the seeming misnomer, Creative Cloud, because it actually thinks its future is in the cloud; Adobe's short term strategy is to string along as many of its traditional customers as it can while it builds a new business model and customer base from the "creatives" it sees using cloud-based mobile devices; see this interview with Adobe CEO Narayen for how this is being sold to the investors:


also, you wrote: "The only difference for the user is that Photoshop CC revalidates itself on a regular basis (30–99 days, depending on the license), while Photoshop CS only does it when some internal bit of logic deems it necessary. That's it."

actually, there's a big difference: when CS needs to do it, it's because it doesn't find validation credentials; yes, it's glitchy, but the validation is supposed to be a one-time thing (and has been for me) unless you do something like switch hard drives

in contrast, the CC validation is absolutely periodic, activating repeatedly not because of glitches but because it is supposed to; and when the CC validation fails, you are cut off much faster than a 30-day trial mode; also note this from the CC terms of use "Adobe may also terminate or suspend all or a portion of your account and/or access to the Services for any reason" — that is a very different proposition from the perpetual license

Good summary of most of Adobe's problem with CC: communications to the client. For such a big change, they really didn't educate their customers very well.

As for the anti-piracy angle of CC, I'm sure pretty soon someone is going to work out how to hack the call back to the mothership and find a way to circumvent it. I wait quietly in the sidelines to see how Adobe handle this ...


when was the last time you saw anyone attempt to start a social movement over a change in product licensing terms?!

Well, 1983-1984 and 1998 come to mind.

"Some of their strategy and marketing people need to be fired".
Ya think?
I wrote this many moons ago:
"Millions have Photoshop at their disposal on their computers and have never paid a cent for it. Why? Because a) The starting price is exorbitant. b) Adobe's worldwide pricing 'policy' for something you can download from the internet (i.e. World Wide Web; supposedly) is ridiculous. US price $699 Europe price €689 (Ex VAT)= $921 - That's for the English version of PS CS5. Their US pricing makes no difference between hard copy or download - Europe €20 more: FOR DOWNLOAD!
For a Spanish version it's €849 (Ex VAT)= $1135. That's a $436 premium per copy for the translation (I bet translators can only dream of that kind of money for their work). c) All their cut-price offers have only been for the US market. Again insulting their 'worldwide' customer base.

Net result: When a company treats potential customers this way; people say, the hell with this, where can I get a free copy?
Then Adobe wonders why there are so many pirated copies of their Photoshop out there - DUH!!!
I also wrote (and sent to Adobe):
"They’re excellent at designing software but downright stupid when it comes to marketing the stuff. If all the people in the world who have Photoshop on their computers had been charged just $100 Adobe would have made much more money. It seems they’ve still not got the idea and are still desperately chasing their tails and wondering why so many don’t bother to buy it and pirate it instead or just install GIMP etc …"

Now they come up with this 'brilliant' new idea - stupidity thrives at Adobe HQ.

Hi agree with Mark,

For me the problem is not just about money, but the way you spend it. I really would like to have the option to chose, to buy or to lease, but i can't do it anymore.
What i will do? well, i will still need to use photoshop, so i will follow Adobe, i don't have any other option at the moment.

I've had a subscription for over a year now. It suits me, but then I use several of the "creative suit" products and I like to just look at the monthly expenditure as part of the budget. That's maybe not a common situation for photographers or people following TOP. In actual fact I use the products very rarely for what I regard as photographic work. All that is done with Lightroom, and I suspect I could also happily use another non-Adobe product.

But this is a blog about photography, and I wonder how many people have had time to look at the changes in the Lightroom 5 Beta? One of the biggest relates to to the healing brush, and for me it means I will no longer have to make a round trip to Photoshop for certain types of edits. So, I think that is something to ponder when thinking that Adobe are neglecting a community of faithful followers.

It's funny how much energy Adobe needs to spend on explaining that the CLOUD version of their software does NOT run in a browser or on their servers, and works perfectly fine if you have no or a slow internet connection (apart from that "installing" triviality).

Makes you wonder, why did they call it CLOUD in the first place? Do they understand the concept?

I'm waiting for the day when all the software companies decide to adopt Adobe's "Cloud" concept. Do you think people would happily fork out "rent" for all the software packages that they have, and use every day?

Is this REALLY what the personal computing revolution was about when it was born? I thought it was about a certain type of freedom..an equalizer of sorts.

This whole thing REEKS of the things that companies decide to do because they know they have a monopoly on the product they are selling.

It is exactly what happens when a company gets so big that they have their heads in the CLoUds..incredible arrogance and, in my opinion, downright un-American in spirit.

I disagree with Ctein, not a damn thing good about this. I don't rent anything except floor sanders, jackhammers and some extra lighting equipment when I need it. I want to OWN and HAVE the tools I use every day. I also know the price of those things when I rent them..That price doesn't change the next day when I return them. Adobe can and WILL change this price and it won't be going down.

Hi Ctein,

I did not make any of the incorrect assumptions you pointed out, but having worked in the IT industry for 30 years I can see far more issues with the Adobe model.

A lot of large corporate customers for instance manage licensing and software distribution centrally, sometimes for their entire company across multiple regions.

Individual desktops are locked down and firewalled off from just about any inbound transaction, especially those that sniff around and potentially disable software or make changes to your local configuration.

To support this model, they would have to place all their "creative staff" outside the firewall or in their own DMZ with limited access to the rest of the company. Some already do because they use Macs and cannot be properly virus screened.

Adobe's argument is apparently that it costs too much to support both periodic upgraders with full versions and frequent ones who would be better off with continuous delta improvements.

So they should make it cheaper too then?

Besides which this is baloney. Sounds like they need to buy some decent version control software.

Providing continuous upgrades is fine up until the point that you need to change core parts of the product, which requires far more extensive backward compatibility testing. Continuous upgrading also constrains you considerably when it comes to changing interface features.

So they will occasionally have to ship major versions which replace all the existing executables, just as they do now, and version control these changes as major releases, just as they do now. It does not stop them shipping incremental improvements to existing versions, just as they do now. And fixes, of course.

But up until now, corporate IT managers and the rest of us could wait until the bugs in each new version were unearthed by early adopters. Not any more. Imagine your company has 1,000 licenses all being upgraded over the internet at the same time without your knowledge or any compatibility testing...

Corporate IT managers do NOT like beta testing. From a customer POV, versioning is much safer.

But in fact they could just continue to version the product as they do now, support both types of customer with no issues whatsoever, and allow people to lease or buy as required.

Let's be blunt. There are NO meaningful benefits to customers that could not coexist with a perpetual licensing model for a tiny upfront cost difference in support terms.

In fact the only issue this address is their revenue stream.

All the positive spin is obfuscation. All it does is remove choice and control and raise costs for a substantial subset of non-intensive users, as well as removing a large degree of long term operational security.

My guess is that Adobe changed its model to facilitate dealing with enterprises more efficiently rather than policing one-application Photoshop users. I know of many companies that have fifty to hundreds of seats. This is a smart move on Adobe's part regarding the enterprise market segment. As far as individual one-app users, it would be nice to have the option to go with CC or a one-time fee for upgrading.

I was angry when it was announced, like many others that use PS for a hobby. If I made a living from photography, I believe I'd feel differently about this change.

I do agree that the primary reason so many of us are upset is due to the poor communication from Adobe. I tend to upgrade about once every two years, meaning that I'm probably paying over $8/month currently, so the $10/month change for the next year isn't a real game changer. However, I sometimes go 2 - 3 months without using PS currently, so when I start paying on a monthly basis, vs. every other year, I start thinking more about what I'm getting for my money.

I tend to believe that the $20/month is where Adobe wants to be for a PS user, and that prices it at a level I'm just not willing to pay for. If you're correct about the $10/month being permanent, I would be more amenable to the change.

My plan is to sit on the fence for the next year with my PS6 and watch what happens. If Adobe sticks with the CC concept that they have rolled out, I expect that I'll eventually migrate to a non PS workflow.

I'm interested to read your take on why this is good for us.

The cost of a "single app" purchase of Photoshop CC to an existing UK user is $13.60 though as Ctein says, it requires a lot of digging to find that out. I'm not clear whether this price includes tax (20% in the UK).

@Mark Roberts-- that's one of the clearest analogies I've read on this issue. I have a 2004 Honda Accord and it is quite a pleasure not making payments on it any longer. Only 80,000 miles and plenty to go... New cars are "changing rapidly" but I feel no pressure to upgrade at the moment.

Still, it's off in one area. I pay the $20 a month Adobe subscription currently (education rate) but feel pressure to cancel. As someone mentioned, it's death by a thousand cuts. I also pay $10 a month for Office, $15 a month for the NYT, some amount for our local paper, give $20 a month to our local public radio station, and I think $5 a month to TOP (I forget). Eventually you start to look at the pile of charges and realize they add up and one should cut back. For me, Office and Adobe are easy cuts. At the same time, I never would have purchased them at retail value, so at least they get some money out of me, and I get to try out the latest tricks for a little. And unlike an auto lease, I can cancel, then restart as needed.

The main reason I doubt that the price after one year will remain $10/month is that the price for a new user (or one with an old version of PS) is $20/month. If the intent was that new users had to "pay their dues" at $20/month for a while and then their price would drop to $10/month, I think Adobe would have mentioned that. As it is, it sounds more like $10/month is a one-year-only special for people who have newish copies of PS, and $20/month is what Adobe regards as the natural price.

Now that they're leasing, rather than selling, their products, I think they're going to raise the prices. I suspect they're looking at Autodesk's prices and thinking, "Can we get something like this for ourselves?" Perhaps they will adopt usage-based pricing, so that small studios get charged modest prices, while major production shops get charged very high prices.

I've never yet seen a monopolist that didn't overprice their products, even to the point of reducing their profits.

Dear John R.,

That was one of my first questions to Adobe, which I did get an answer to. Updates will not be forced on you; you decide if you want to install one.

That was an important one to get an answer to, because forced updates can create all sorts of compatibility and obsolescence problems (e.g., when a new version down the road no longer supports the operating system you're currently running).


Dear Bear,

Based on what I'm reading on their website, Adobe may very well decide to continue selling CS6 indefinitely. Someone there is clearly thinking about the scenario, anyway.

But, it would just be the existing CS6. Trying to maintain parallel development tracks would be the worst of all possible worlds (some of why will become clearer after next week's column). There's no particular reason for nor advantage to a hardware security key, other than for the very small percentage of Photoshop users who have no Internet access whatsoever. Everyone else pretty much hates them. I can't imagine Adobe giving that even a second thought, and I'd agree with them on that.


Dear Paul and other "foreigners",

Not dismissing your concerns whatsoever, but, as Mike frequently writes, this is an American publication being (mostly) written by Americans, so that's the scope we write about –– it's what we know.

Something that's important to remember about nonphysical products (or mostly nonphysical) is that there is no correlation between unit cost and what gets charged for them. Even back in the day, oh so long ago [grin] of Adobe shipping boxes, you'd be impressed to know just how low the unit cost was for providing a physical Photoshop box, anywhere. For that matter, the entire Creative Suite just involves sending along a few more DVD blanks, it's not like they send you manuals any more. Fulfilling a full CS physical order costs maybe 10/15% more than fulfilling a physical Photoshop order. But full CS costs several times as much.

This is true in the US as well as out of the country. What all these companies are doing is selling you “value”, nothing that's related to “cost of goods.” If some corporate mouthpiece starts to go on about how much more expensive it is to provide the overseas orders, blah blah blah, they're just lying. Compared to the price of selling it to you for, it's only modestly more expensive to deliver out of the US, even including duties and tariffs. They do it because they can get away with it.

Now, that said, the dynamics might change when the products go entirely virtual. It's because the logical disconnect is bigger. It's like the way it bothers us when we see the price jacked up on some “pro"-featured version of a product when we know the shipping code is exactly the same and the publisher just enables a software switch. It's fine from the “value”-pricing point of view, but it doesn't feel sensible to us. Which can produce consumer backlash, and then the company has to be “fairer” in pricing its goods.

I'm not suggesting what will happen or even might happen. Just throwing out some ideas for thought.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

One issue I haven't seen discussed yet, exchange rates for those of us outside the USA. Frinstance, the Australian dollar has gone from 1.05 to 94 against the US dollar in the last month or so. This is a price hike without Adobe raising prices, and could be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

"Makes you wonder, why did they call it CLOUD in the first place? Do they understand the concept?"

I guess it's because Creative Subscription didn't sound sexy enough?

As an amateur photographer who uses and really likes Lightroom, I have this to say about Photoshop: 1) I hated it. 2) I cannot believe I paid $600 for CS3. 3) If it had been a $20/month subscription back then, it would have been a one month subscription and $580 more in my wallet.

So, Adobe, you might want to rethink this subscription thingy a bit more.

"No one can force you to use a product you don't like."

Absolutely. The problem comes in when there is an effective monopoly for a product that is pretty much necessary to do some things you may need to do. What Adobe needs, not only in this area, but others, is strong competition. Then the voice of customers will have a little more sway. Right now, they know that many will complain, but in the end stick with Adobe because there is no real alternative. (No, GIMP ain't it.)

I must admit admiration for Ctein's ability to get information from Adobe in only several tries. I have never tried the PR department though, only...giggle, giggle..."customer support." The fact that Adobe flubbed this seems pretty much in sync with their normal attitude towards users.

Keep in mind Microsoft is trying the same thing with office. True, this is driven by Wall Street and more predictable revenues, but if you get ore frequent updates, and need the software, it may be a positive. That said, since I can't write off the costs as a business expense, I'm looking at freeware rather than CC or Office 365...

Waiting for part two of this series.

Dave Fultz has hit the nail on the head. I posted my issue with the licensing model. That's my problem. But I agree completely that Adobe's problem - what's driving them to this licensing model - is simply that there's little they can add to a mature product that makes enough users want to upgrade on a regular basis. Intuit has the same problem with Quicken/Quickbooks. Yet year after year, they churn out updates and use "time bombs" to drive reluctant users to upgrade. (After a period of time, your current version of Quicken keeps working, but you will no longer be able to download transactions from financial institutions ... what's the technical reason for that ?)
Really, what they ought to be doing is acknowledging reality, slowing development on these products and repurposing their work force. Problem is, they have no new ideas. Innovation is for the little guys - a couple friends in a garage. Big companies don't innovate; they wait until the couple of friends in a garage are successful, then buy them out.
It's also just part of a corporate direction lately ... predictable revenues & costs beat unknowns. Corporations like defined benefit "retirement" plans, anything they can do to keep health care costs steady, and steady, reliable income streams. From cable TV to mobile phones contracts (talk about obscene ... one area where technology keeps getting more expensive !) I just ordered season passes to an amusement park (because we'll be nearby on vacation and the season pass is cheaper then buying tickets 2 days !) and the website kept wanting to upgrade my season pass, with it's one-time fee, to a monthly "membership".
In this era of crony capitalism and (IMO) unprecedented corporate greed (and I consider myself a moderate conservative !) I think it's generally wise to assume that any action a corporation takes is probably in its own best interest (and the *short term* interests of its stockholders, particularly board members) and not its customers or employees. Then if you're wrong, you can be pleasantly surprised.

So look at this scenario:

You join the cloud today convinced its what you need. Never mind the price.
You use it for about a year or some decent time in which you create several layered master files.
During this time PS CC receives some updates and probably new features that you use in those layers.
You save your output files as flattened tifs.
After this period of time you change your mind and decide you don't need the cloud any longer. You cancel your subscription.
A few weeks later PS stops working.

All those layered master files with your work becomes no longer accessible, as they won't always be backwards compatible to the older versions of PS you do own.

Now extend that time to 5 years instead of 1 ... now you have a big problem.

This is why the concept of the cloud fails in my opinion, its not just a financial decision. This is why I'm moving away from adobe products and will never join the cloud.

Here in Italy, it IS called "Garbage Tax".
BTW I've just bought Lightroom 4. Hope it will never follow CC...

I've been watching this all with great interest, even though I only use Lightroom from Adobe's suite. I'd love to use Photoshop, as I really want the extra ability for masked layers & layered 3rd party plug-ins but quite frankly I've never found it representing value for money.

As we're talking negative here (and I see some positive from the new move, but not much) - I hate the move to bundling and possibly frequent but unscheduled development releases. I want LESS features from Photoshop, not more, and I definitely don't eant to touch any of the other software. It would have been nice if this move enabled me to pick and chose more of what I want, not give me access to extra features that represnet zero value to me and a significant cost.

Don't care about online distribution if I can turn off auto-updates but I care very much about having to purchase a bloat of features that I don't want. That's the key reason I don't use the software now. Whether I can afford it or not is irrelevant: Adobe has decided to go for a "value-based" pricing moedl. For me, it represents very poor value.

And while we're on value-based pricing, when I've been on the corporate purchasing end of software, we put a lot of effort & money into supporting competition against a leader we considered to be over-charging. That is the effect being seen amongst the amateur community: walking to the competition because it doesn't represent value.

As for the distribution model, again speaking from my corporate experience, this might also end up being counter-productive for Adobe. This model of licensing and distribution is very hard to support for a large corporation and highly disliked by users, who prefer far fewer updates to their software: the productivity costs of frequent change usually out-weigh any potential fucntional benefits.

I anticipate Ctein's positive takes - should be interesting, as always.

MS is indeed trying the same thing with Office. The difference is they're pulling it off (and Putting the lie to the idea that dual development is required).

MS is doing 2 things that Adobe should be.

1. Making the rent version a good deal. Buy is 1 license, Windows or Mac only, $120, perpetual. Rent is $99/year for 5 licenses which can be used on any supported platform (yep, deregister the Windows version, install the Mac version with the same license). Great deal unless you only have 1 PC. I pay, both my PC's and SWMBO's have Office.

2. Smart authentication software. There's no difference between the rent & perpetual versions besides the validation, which is online and differs only at the backend server & purchase points. Buy a perpetual and you get limited updates, rent and you get unlimited updates and extra licenses. Both authenticate the same way, via your Microsoft account.

And this is why I have Office 365 home Premium, but won't get CC. I've done the math on CC's price structure and it varies from almost break-even ($250 more expensive over 10 years) to a massive cash grab ($2300 more over 10 years) depending on your current license state.


"Really, what they ought to be doing is acknowledging reality, slowing development on these products and repurposing their work force. Problem is, they have no new ideas. Innovation is for the little guys - a couple friends in a garage. Big companies don't innovate; they wait until the couple of friends in a garage are successful, then buy them out."

There is much truth in this. Large companies have too much invested in their core products to tear them up and start from scratch. This is very much the case software. Take ACR, for example. It is the virtual definition of a mediocre raw convertor, despite its many features and its huge user base. Most of the improvements over the years have been in the form of new features, mainly incorporated in Lightroom, but the actual quality of the conversions has improved relatively little, IMO. In contrast, look at the new raw convertor Photo Ninja. With a grand total of two programmers, it puts ACR to shame. Can people make do with fewer features in order to get really superior output? Some can, but most will choose not to, mostly out of force of habit.

The problem that we users face with Photoshop is that, unlike raw convertors, there are few alternatives. Corel has some mainly Windows based image editing programs, but they have never caught fire. Is that because they are inferior, or because they are not Adobe? At least we can now hope for new players with new ideas to fill the void that Adobe's subscription policy will create. Then we may get some truly innovative image editing products.

It's just craziness, I do not have the money to be paying a monthly subscription fee and even if the latest Photoshop eventually it will get so outdated with how technology is advancing lately and we will all slowly give in to paying this subscription fee.

Also I like what John said "I guess it's because Creative Subscription didn't sound sexy enough?"

If you could see me right now you would see I was clapping you, applauding your common sense where others seemed to have lacked. It is so true that Adobe have made this unnecessary complicated, so many photographers I have asked have wanted to know "what is the cloud" and why has this appeared so suddenly. I'm sure that the creative cloud will be a good thing but like you I wish they could have gone about it in a less complicated and sudden way.

The comments to this entry are closed.