It wasn’t that long ago that when you wanted a new piece of software you went out and bought it took it home and installed it to use for many months or years. Some time down the line you may decide to upgrade it which would mean repeating the process.
Times have changed and for Adobe that meant changing from a purchase-the-box-and-take-it-home model to a subscription model called the Creative Cloud. It launched in Spring 2012 and the idea is you pay them a monthly fee for the software and download it instead of paying a large up front cost and getting a physical DVD in a box.
From Adobe’s point of view this makes a lot of sense. There are no large ticket prices to scare people (just a more reasonable looking monthly fee) and they can update their software whenever they want. No distribution to worry about so less infrastructure costs and, therefore, more overall profit.
From the consumer’s point of view it also seems, on the face of it, a good proposition. You don’t have to fork out massive sums on a suite of software and then guard a physical DVD in case you ever need to re-install it. You also get any software updates immediately without having to wait for a new boxed version to come out.
This all sounds fine from both sides. Until, that is, you start to work out how much it’s all really going to cost you.
If you buy every update that Adobe releases then you may find that the subscription model works out about the same price. This assumes an upgrade cost of around £1,000 every year. The subscription is £46.87 per month making an annual cost of just over £560 per year. However most people don’t do that. They skip versions. I bought CS3 and then skipped CS4 going instead for CS5 when that came out. I didn’t bother with CS 5.5 either. By timing your upgrades correctly you could go from (for example) CS3 to CS4 with a free upgrade to CS5. The overall cost worked out at about £20 a month, give or take a few quid. In other words, in practice the monthly charge for the complete Creative Cloud is significantly more than a “real world” purchase of boxed CS software.
I signed up straight away, lulled into a false sense of worth by the cut price first year cost of £27.34 for access to virtually every product Adobe makes. The novelty saw me trying out lots of their software and although I’d settled in to using just a small number by the time my annual renewal came up I didn’t really pay that much attention to it.
Until, that is, I realised I was now paying £46.87 a month.
I thought I’d missed the boat and would have to pay this huge fee until May 2014 when my first full price year of Creative Cloud membership ends. It made me sick in the wallet department, especially as I’d stopped using most of the Creative Suite because the tools either didn’t work for me or I’d found better alternatives (and crucially, these alternatives aren’t based around a subscription model). I’ve dumped Dreamweaver for Coda 2. I wasn’t getting on with Adobe Premiere very well so have gone back to Final Cut Express 4 with a view to buying Final Cut X when I get my new Mac Pro (FCX won’t run on my current Pro).
It’s only Photoshop that I find I use every day, with InDesign and Acrobat relegated to occasional projects and, to be frank, InDesign CS 5 and Acrobat X both of which I have licences for “boxed” versions that will do all I want them to just fine thank you very much.
In early October 2013, Adobe announced that they had been subjected to a sophisticated hack and they emailed affected customers of which I was one. My debit card details have been compromised, although Adobe maintain that all card details were encrypted. It doesn’t make me feel too comfortable, really, and already being a bit miffed at paying nearly 50 quid a month for mainly just using Photoshop, I’d had about enough.
I decided to cancel.
In the small print, Adobe say that they charge 50% of your remaining contract with them if you cancel before your year is up. I already knew that, and when I contacted them that’s what they told me. When I pointed out to them that they lost my debit card details they agreed to let me cancel without paying the fee saving me £165. Well, it’s saving more than that because I would’ve paid Adobe well over £300 for the remainder of my year and then £46.88 per month for ever after that.
What about when you retire? Do you need to take money out of your pension to continue to pay Adobe for software that isn’t earning you money any more?
I feel that the subscription model, while it has some merits and will work for some people, isn’t perhaps the best thing for most small businesses and one-man-bands. If you use lots of their products you may be able to justify it, however if you’re like me and find yourself using a small number of Adobe apps then it may not be worth while.
For now, I’ll go back to CS 5 as I can use that for free having paid for it already. It’s possible that I’ll take out a subscription for Photoshop CC at £17.58 per month although having just whinged about the subscription model I’ll go back to Photoshop CS 5 and see how I get on. I hardly ever need to use the most recent additions to Photoshop and although I may miss some of the tweaks that found their way into the more recent version I’ll see how I get on.
I can certainly survive with the earlier versions of InDesign and Acrobat and although I have licences for them I probably won’t even re-install Illustrator or Flash.
I very much hope Adobe re-think things going forward as there are many of us less than happy with our recent experiences with the company. It’s a shame, because Photoshop is great and deserves to be available in a form that makes sense to people’s wallets.