Adobe Creative Suite is Dead! Long Live Adobe Creative Cloud! The Misconceptions

(Sorry about that headline. I just got done watching Game of Thrones.) Gentle readers, I have some news. There will be no Creative Suite 7 or CS7 as it’s commonly referred to. Adobe is, from this release forward, putting all it’s eggs in the Adobe Creative Cloud basket.

Today, Adobe announced new versions of the programs we photographers, editors and designers have come to know and mostly love. (Announced, not released… I know… I was under the impression it might be released today as well… I was mistaken. Not until June now, I hear.)

I’ve been noticing some panic/anger out there on some of the Adobe related forums and I thought I would try to clear up a few things. I don’t work for Adobe, although I have a few friends who do. The following information is based on my research the last few months and not directly from anyone at Adobe, although a video that Adobe just put up about some of the misconceptions out there confirms what I have discovered.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud. Coming in June.

Welcome to Adobe Creative Cloud, whether you like it or not.

I think I actually do like it and I’ll explain why.

This certainly makes it easier for me to decide whether I’m going to stick with buying the upgrade to the Master Collection of Adobe products, which I have done for the past few releases or move to the Creative Cloud. I have no choice any more. If I want to upgrade my Adobe software, I have to sign up for the Creative Cloud. Or stay put with CS6, which I won’t. So there’s that.

I’ll admit that I’ve had some anxious moments about Creative Cloud. Last year when they first rolled it out, I considered switching to it, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, the launch of CC last year left a lot of creative artists, myself included with more questions than I could find answers for. The roll out was a bit sloppy, in my opinion. For instance, was Lightroom part of the CC? I use Lightroom as much or more than any other Adobe product I own. At the CC launch last year, it wasn’t included. But it would be soon we were told. When exactly, was unknown. It meant I was going to have to buy the newest version of Lightroom 4, separately in the meantime.

Second, I was concerned that if I went to the Cloud and then later decided after a year that I didn’t like it, I would have lost my Master Collection upgrade path discount. In other words, the upgrade for the Master Collection was around $700 or $800, if memory serves, but to buy the full version again was $2600. Not a decision I wanted to regret if I chose poorly.

That decision is now moot. Like I said before, there is no CS7 coming. I can continue to use CS6 as long as my computer will run it, because I own it outright. But to move forward, I, like everyone else out there, have to move to the subscription-based Creative Cloud. I’ll be renting my software.

Some good news is that Lightroom is now finally part of the Creative Cloud package. And I’ll get some of the incremental updates now that I was missing by choosing to stay with the CS6 outright purchase during the last year. There have been a few new features added that weren’t the usual bug fix updates as well as some brand new programs I haven’t had a chance to check out.

Okay. So what does all of this no more CS, only CC mean… Really?

The good news is, that because I waited a year, my first year of Creative Cloud will not be $30/month, as I had expected, but only be about $20/month because I own CS6. That was a nice surprise. For those with CS versions 3 through 5.5, Creative Cloud has a first year upgrade price of about $30/month. If you have no upgrade path from previous Adobe versions, it’s $50/month for the first year. (I say “about,” because with tax, it’s a few dollars more. My monthly subscription price with tax, is exactly $21.24/month.)

So yay! $21/month. Already $120 less than I thought I was going to have to spend for the first year of my Creative Cloud subscription. What will I pay next year? $50/month. More? Who knows. Only Adobe. I’m happy with this year’s monthly fee. But next year? That is a bit of a concern.

Now here are some of those misconceptions I mentioned at the top.

Will I be running my Adobe software over the internet? What happens if I have to use an program and I don’t have an internet connection? I don’t want to run Illustrator in a web browser!

This is probably the most misunderstood issue with how CC works. With CC, you download and install the software on your computer just as you always have. Your apps, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, etc., are all locally installed on your computer. Files you create with your Adobe software are also stored locally, just as they have always has been, unless you choose to upload your files to the Adobe Cloud to share your work in progress with a team, for example, but no one is forcing you to save anything to the Cloud.

So there’s no reason to panic about, “What if I have a deadline and my internet goes out and I can’t get online to work?!!” Nope. That’s not how it works. You could be in a bunker in an undisclosed location, three miles below the surface of the earth, sitting under a single bare swinging light bulb, with no internet and still work on your projects. Although I might suggest you get different clients if that’s the case. No, you’re never opening up After Effects in a web browser or anything like that. It’s all local, unless you want it to be something else.

Chicago September Sky

Chicago September Sky

If you buy an annual Creative Cloud subscription, you will however, have to connect to the internet every 180 days to allow your software to check to see if you’re still paying your bills. If you subscribe by the month, you’ll have to connect every 30 days or so. I think that’s pretty reasonable. It’s true that when I’m traveling, I can go a few weeks with questionable internet access, but knowing how Creative Cloud works now, I’m less anxious about my software suddenly not working because it thinks it’s not licensed. It’s true, things can go wrong, but I have to think that Adobe will do everything it can to prevent horror stories of creatives losing clients because of missing deadlines due to a CC licensing snafu. That would be really bad PR for Adobe.

So, let’s review so far. You download the software and install on your computer same as you ever did. Of course if you were one of those holdouts and still ordered the boxed retail version, then I guess, yes, it’s a bit different. But I can tell you, my closet is full of original boxed copies of software dating back to the 90s and I won’t miss trying to find more room next to boxes of old software that won’t run on my current computer OS, just sitting there gathering dust.

Note to self: I should probably clean out my software closet.

Onto our next misconception:

Once I’m on the Cloud do I have to upgrade my current software every time Adobe releases an update?

Again, no. I know there are a few good reasons to not always be running the latest and greatest (?) version. Your client is running an older version and you want to be compatible with what they’re running. Your IT department wants to make sure there are no issues in the latest dot release before committing an entire company to a new version. You’re in the middle of a project and as some experts say, you should never upgrade your software mid-project. These are all excellent reasons to not upgrade every time there’s a slightly new-ish update.

So no, you can stay on any current dot version of Adobe software for, I believe, up to a year. Again, that seems perfectly reasonable.

What happens if I hit a rough patch and I can’t pay my monthly subscription fee? I don’t like the idea of renting my software.

Well, in today’s economy, that’s a very good question. Probably the most compelling question of all for some. Renting the software you make a living with, does sound crazy scary, doesn’t it? As creatives, we’ve all been hit pretty hard by cut backs and crazy low budgets. If for some reason you can’t find $20, $30 or $50 depending on what your monthly subscription is, yes, your software stops working. (Shiver.) That’s the hardest thing for most people, me included, to wrap our heads around.

However, you can always use an older version of CS if you own it. Most of your files will probably open in the most recent previous version. There will certainly be exceptions, of course. Knock on wood, I hope it won’t come to that for me and I have no reason to think it will, but I’m going to keep CS6 installed on my studio computers, just in case. Just knowing it’s there, reduces my queasy stomach about that perfectly valid concern.

But I only use Photoshop. Why do I have to pay for all this software I’ll never use?

A super excellent question! And one that Adobe is beginning to finally give a decent answer to. You can buy a single application Creative Cloud subscription for say, just Photoshop, for about $20/month if you’ve never owned it before. Previous Photoshop owners, back to CS3, will pay about $10/month, at least for the first year. That might seem high for some people to pay that much for a single application. I don’t entirely disagree. But remember, if you don’t own any previous versions of Creative Suite, you’d be paying $50/month for everything on Creative Cloud. For first time Photoshop buyers, it works out to $240/year. The old CS6 price of Photoshop only is $700. So yes, it’s actually a fairly good deal.

It would be nice to for Adobe to bundle Lightroom with Photoshop at the $20/month price and who knows? Maybe Adobe will come up with several different kinds of Cloud pricing depending on what two or three programs you use in your specific industry. The Adobe people I’ve heard talk about it seem very open to feedback from their user base concerning future plans for Creative Cloud. Ask, and who knows… maybe you’ll receive at some point down the line.

Lightroom will continue to be available for purchase as a stand-alone application if you remain Cloud adverse, or as part of the Cloud if you aren’t. Lightroom has become very powerful in the last few versions, and it’s not entirely unthinkable that if you choose to look for alternatives to Photoshop in the Cloud, Lightroom could do most, but just slightly shy of all of the heavy lifting for you, Cloud-free. Lightroom 5 looks really, really good in that regard.

What if I want to buy CS6 and own the last own-able version of Adobe’s products?

While support for CS6 will be limited to bug fixes and only for a short period of time I would imagine, Adobe is keeping CS6 available for purchase for at least a while. Perhaps they learned something from watching one of their competitors absolutely freak out their installed customer base about two years ago when that competing company killed most of its professional line of software in one day with no notice. I’m looking at you, Apple.

There are some good things about being forced, yes, we’re all being forced, to go to Creative Cloud. For instance, ever since that Apple Final Cut Pro X roll out debacle, I’m much less of an Apple Fan Boy than I used to be. An ex-Fan Boy, if you will. If I should ever decide I want to go PC when I upgrade my studio’s computers, I don’t have to worry about whether I own Mac or PC versions of Adobe software. An individual Creative Cloud license allows for two installations on two computers you use, such as a desktop and a laptop. Again, same as it ever was.

Now, however, one of those computers can be a Mac and the other can be a PC. Creative Cloud is platform agnostic. Don’t ask, don’t tell. You can even change your platform of choice from one to the other in the middle of your annual subscription. Just deactivate the software on your Mac, for instance, and download and install the appropriate platform version on the PC you’re replacing it with, or the other way around.

I’m actually in the middle of a freelance editing gig for a local Chicago design studio and editing on a PC for the first time in 15 years. I won’t say I’m as comfortable on a PC as I am on a Mac quite yet, but I’m getting there. As a freelance creative, just like it’s a good thing to be able to edit with software from different vendors, I believe it’s a good idea for me to be comfortable on multiple computer platforms as well.

For people who know me well: Yes. I said it. Hell has frozen over for this ex-Apple Fan Boy.

By the way Apple, about those new Mac Pro Towers we keep waiting for?….. Don’t make me wait too long. I’m getting more comfortable on a PC every day.

Hopefully this answers a few of the concerns I see out there about Adobe’s Creative Cloud plans. Adobe certainly is looking at all of this from a financial bottom line standpoint (no matter how they position it in public) as well as any creative benefits this all may have for the rest of us. They’ve never known who was going to buy the next version of CS and who was going to stay put with the version they had. With subscriptions, they can plan better. And we creative professionals can as well. It’s a fixed cost every month, instead of writing a big check every 12-18 months or so (unless Adobe get stupid and start increasing it every year like they were a cable company).

The death of the Creative Suite may be a bit of a shock to some, but like everything in life, things change. We’ve all had to adapt to so many things as artists in business, especially in the past decade or so. Understanding the how and why, makes it a bit easier to move into the unknown.

Hate it or love it or somewhere in between, the new Creative Cloud is coming in June.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

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