Adobe Creative Cloud: The Slow Bleed

Businesses and users have trended towards paying for their software through cloud-based subscriptions over the last five years.  Subscription pricing models are straightforward; consumers purchase a provider’s services or products for a specific period of time, typically on a monthly or annual basis.  Cloud-based subscriptions allow users to access products through the vendor’s servers, and save their files either locally or on those servers.  Unlike pay-per-use or metered subscriptions, however, cloud plans can cause users to overpay for services.

Anyone who was working in the field of design in 2014 got a kick in the teeth when Adobe announced that they would no longer offer standalone versions of their software, and would be moving to a subscription model.  Updates for their Creative Suite (CS) line were halted, and designers were either forced to use outdated software or pay into Adobe’s new plan.  Adobe’s Creative Cloud (CC) subscription plan, while helpful to some college students and big businesses, makes entry into the field nigh impossible and hurts independent designers financially in the long run.

Creative Cloud presents major problems that would not exist were it a standalone software package.  The service forces users to overpay for apps that they have no need for, locks out users who do not verify their account ownership every 99 days, and ambiguously stores files deep in local files or on Adobe’s servers.  It is every designer’s worst nightmare to be stuck in a location with no internet access, and CC shuts them out from their files because they do not have “permission” to access their own files.  The worst problem of the bunch, however, is the pricing one.

An examination of Adobe’s plan page finds plans tailored towards Individuals, Businesses, Students and Teachers, and Schools and Universities.  Viewing the Individuals tab gets right to the heart of the problem: if a user wants copies of Illustrator CC, Photoshop CC, and Acrobat CC, all of which were included in the Design Standard version of CS, they pay $74.99 per month (or $599.88 per year)! That is because there are only options to buy a single app license, or buy all apps.  The lack of comprehensive, adequately-priced bundles hurts individuals and businesses, and it is clear from Adobe’s unwillingness to implement new bundles that the company has adopted a “f*** you, I got mine” attitude towards new, independent professionals entering the field.

Students and Teachers have an easier time paying for their plans, because CC allows anyone with an active @edu email address to get all the apps for $239.88 per year.  To put this in perspective, this is the same amount that an individual would pay for a single app license, about $19.99 per month.  The catch here is that if the user is a student, they already paid for tuition at a university.  Teachers seem to get the best deal out of the Adobe CC plans, provided that they aren’t running a side business and Adobe charges them for that instead.

Schools and Universities seem to get the worst of it, and the problem scales up monumentally.  If a small-town school has a computer lab with ten computers in it running Adobe CC, they must pay $299.88/yr per device, or $2,998.8/yr annually.  It is a decent chunk of change, but nothing compared to the cost to universities.  University of the Arts, for example, had four labs with twenty computers in them minimum; once universities see the bill for their CC subscription alone, it is no wonder that they raise tuition prices.

All hope is not lost, however, and there are hidden benefits that arise from the ongoing CC subscription fiasco.  Competition to create professional-grade image software has risen drastically, and all CC apps have open-source counterparts.  It will be a few years before they reach the level of sophistication that the Adobe tools have, but they do the job for now.  The programs, along with their Adobe counterparts in parenthesis, are GIMP (Photoshop), Inkscape / Affinity Designer (Illustrator), Scribus (InDesign), PDF Escape/PDFCreator/PDF Architect (Acrobat), DaVinci Resolve (Premier), Aptana Studio 3 (Dreamweaver), Synfig Studio (2-D Flash), Audacity (Audition), and LightZone / Affinity Photo (LightRoom).  These tools are not nearly as powerful and connected as Adobe CC, but they are easy on the wallet.

In conclusion, Adobe must change the options with their current cloud model or risk permanently damaging an already bottlenecked field by providing a huge financial barrier.  Offering a four-app option would help to reduce costs to entry-level designers with no academic affiliation, and a one-time verification for users who pay on an annual level would help reduce the stress of being locked away from their files.  Introducing a one-off standalone software package similar to CS could help draw in users that are otherwise turned off by a remote server handling their files, or do not update often.

It is a real shame that Adobe is trading a wider, more diverse field of designers for immediate profit boosts.  I would love to hear your opinions on the Adobe Creative Cloud software, so leave a comment about your CC experiences.  Thank you for reading, and see you next time!

*EDIT 1: Prices are reflective of those found on the CC websites on October 15th, 2017, and may not reflect future changes in pricing after the date of this article.  Jason from Pennsylvania also mentioned Manga Studio (Clip Studio Paint) as another alternative to Photoshop for comic artists.

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