Co.Design

Adobe: 5 Reasons We Killed The Creative Suite

The Internet isn’t happy that Adobe is discontinuing its Creative Suite. So we gave Adobe the chance to respond to the worst criticism.

Yesterday, news broke that Adobe wouldn’t be producing a Creative Suite 7 (CS7). Instead, the company planned to migrate their users to their Creative Cloud platform, which requires a monthly subscription to use.

Adobe was eager to make their case, so we took a call with Adobe’s director of product marketing, Heidi Voltmer. Here’s what she had to say about the decision to take Adobe to the cloud.

1. Creative Cloud Adoption Was Faster Than Expected

"In the last year, we’ve seen great adoption of the Creative Cloud since launching in May: 500,000 paid complete members. I can say, the adoption we’ve seen in the last year has surpassed our expectations. We definitely got the message from our customers."

2. Frankly, Multiple Platforms Are Harder To Maintain

"Through the last year, we’ve been maintaining the Creative Suite on top of the Creative Cloud. It’s been a little bit of a challenge for us internally to do these two different things at once. To do Creative Cloud as our one thing and do it exceptionally well puts incredible pressure on Adobe."

3. The Cloud Pushes Faster Iteration Than Boxed Software

"All the product teams [Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.] are going toward the model of what makes sense to them. Some might have quarterly updates. Some have already had more than one update per quarter--like two or three small features or updates."

4. Faster Iteration Equals More Value

"We don’t believe in this idea that you want to own some software that’s stuck in a point and time that doesn’t get you the best benefits. Right now, we are not exploring other types of payment plans because our goal is to provide the benefits of subscriptions, not find if there’s a way to pay off one version in time. In some of these spaces, like the web and video space, there’s always new tech to support."

5. Creative Cloud Isn’t Foremost A Piracy Prevention Tool

"Reducing piracy really isn’t one of the key things we looked at with the Cloud. The reality is people learn how to hack around copy protection and pirate if they really want to. There’s no way to avoid piracy. There’s always someone out there who’s smart enough, who will keep working at it until they get it free."

* * * *

Much of this makes sense, but I still don’t believe it’s the full story. Here are the other reasons that I think drove Adobe to this decision that went unsaid:

  • Adobe Will Make More Money This Way (Short Term).

    Let’s just come out and say it. In moving us to subscriptions, Adobe has converted every regular user into the most loyal customer possible--the type who buys any new company product, whether it’s needed or not. And related to that …

  • Adobe Can’t Guarantee Necessary Software Features.

    Adobe wouldn’t share its global sales numbers, so I can’t speak to the general ups and downs of the software. But I can look at what happened with Flash, a once-integral Adobe-owned and backed technology that’s now virtually extinct. To sell users on a new $800+ software suite, they need to bank on the new, crucial features we’ll need years in advance. The catch is, our digital world moves faster than ever. And if Adobe makes the slightest missteps, suddenly they can lose out on tens (or even hundreds?) of millions in revenue to a wasted upgrade cycle.

  • It’s Not Piracy Prevention, It’s Piracy Upselling.

    What if, instead of digging through torrents and message boards full of serials and cracks, you could use Photoshop, right this second, for $20? Who of credit-card-bearing age wouldn’t do that? Because as much as we can all figure out that that’s $240/year for the rest of our lives, Adobe is repositioning their most basic apps into impulse-buy territory--they’re not shunning pirates; they’re welcoming cheapskates in as fervently as possible. You know, before (auto)billing them over and over again (as it’s definitely worth noting, you do need to commit to a full year of service upon signup). And on this point--to Voltmer’s credit, she acknowledged that the 12-year-old, credit-less techie (who may have pirated past Adobe products) is a market that the company was regrettably failing to serve.

  • Adobe Needs To Get Users Into The Cloud Before Its Competitors Do.

    Do you remember what happened when cloud-based Google Docs launched while Office was still a piece of software stuck in your PC? And did you watch as Microsoft eventually released a cloud-friendly version of Office that seemed late at best? Adobe knows a ubiquitous, cloud-editing platform is inevitable. And if they don’t herd their addicted users onto that boat now, another crazy startup may have already sailed away with them.

Personally, I think Adobe should have known better. By all means, push the Creative Cloud--the seamless, collaborative technology is inarguably the right technological direction--but sell it to the market as the better option, not the only one. Consider what happened to Netflix when they, for just a few moments, became cocky with their irreplaceable market dominance. They lost users. Their stock tanked. And while Netflix seems to have dusted itself off, that wasn’t without leaving a stain on its reputation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Adobe changed their model, if we hear that the Creative Cloud (v1) is available for a one-time, one-user unlimited purchase that saves a bit of dough over two to three years. But then, to keep revenue flowing, it announced a CC2, and a CC3. And suddenly, Adobe’s platform has greyed boxes over certain new tools that you haven’t paid for yet.

Read about Adobe’s other big announcement, Project Mighty, here.

A previous version of this story listed Photoshop Cloud at $10/mo rather than $20. The $10/mo rate applies to CS3 and above upgraders, not new Adobe customers.

[Clouds Image: Vjom via Shutterstock]

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242 Comments

  • A Nichole Davis

    Still does not reinstate the fact that software will expire and become unusable and we have to pay a darn monthly fee. The joy of owning CS is that even when updates are not available for that version and I choose not to pay for an upgrade, I still have some dang software to use. This is utter B.S., as if not, we wouldn't be forced to keep on paying and keep on renewing.

  • Joe Santana

    As a 20-year customer of Adobe, I'm urging Quark to offer $300 upgrades to anyone with InDesign CS4, 5, 6. Files from the Cloud version of InDesign lock out CS6 users. The originator has to re-save it as a CS4 file, not a CS6. Adobe's name is mud. We need alternatives to having the cloud of smoke rammed down our throats.

  • ASHPoD

    I'd still rather buy each version individually. I have no plans to stop using Photoshop for the next 15 years at the least (after that, I'll probably graduate with a PhD and I'll be eternally busy with stuff >.>). There'll likely be 3 significant updates within that time. I have the professional version, and it costs 600 dollars. So 1800 dollars in 15 years... costs just as much as the 10 dollar subscription for the Student version, based on price, is only half as capable as the... oh my, I just proved my counterargument as the better version... I hope that doesn't happen to me on an AP test or anything O_O

  • Srosen

    So I could update my PS version for only $10 per month - for ---- ever!

    Or buy a legit student/teacher version for $325.

    Payback is 28 months. I'm leaning to pay the $325 - since it now appears there will no longer be any major upgrades....

    Agree or disagree?

  • No more Adobe for us

    This is truly a poor move by Adobe. They are not considering how many users are sporadic and have purchased full suites just to have available when they need it. It almost like insurance for projects. Sometimes you use one app a lot and other times something else. We are a small company that uses the master suite and now we are seriously looking at other alternatives since this move would force us to pay a lot for something we may or may not use regularly. We were the "lets upgrade every other version" type of folks. With the older suite being relocated to another workstation for back up usage. This made their products an OK value. But now Adobe CC is forcing loyal users to pay continuously whether they use the products or not.

  • YAUNa

    +1 on that. But I read somewhere where Adobe simply expects "low end", i.e. US, to drop out. Clearly, we ain't on their radar. My biggest problem with the cloudy scheme is...Adobe, in reality, owns YOUR assets! Think about it. Their ridiculous statement that "you'll always have your files" does nothing if the files are "frozen" in time due to the march of "progress". I've downloaded some rather old, but still pertinent AE files only to have CS6 tell me it won't deal with them and to go BACK to a previous version and re-save. I can do that because I am a LEGITIMATE owner of CS 5.5 who, after laying out that much cash, did the CS6 upgrade. I know it will be difficult to find non-Adobe software but I'm motivated to look and have been. I may have to purchase some replacements, e.g. AVID in place of Premier, but Da Vinci Resolve is free and offers node based action to boot. It will be painful to "get it together" but I want to own my assets which means owning the products that manipulate and produce them. BTW, same goes for Microsoft and their office cloud. There, I have a very old program that interfaces with Excel. Had I not bought and kept Excel 3.0, this program would fail as it simply does not recognize any "new" Excel format including those provided for "backward compatibility".

  • armchairnavigator

    whats the incentive for adobe to improve the product once everyone is on pay monthly scheme ? none.

  • Willie

    This is one of the bigger problems. Adobe gets all the money, all the control, and we stay weak. Adobe doesn't have to work hard to improve the products or listen to our wish lists. After all they will already be getting our money no matter what. This will make Adobe lazy. When it was just perpetual licenses, Adobe had to make sure that the upgrades were so good so that we would give them our money. Adobe worked hard to earn our business. With the creative cloud subscriptions, this is no longer the case.

  • Snalbandia

    Just look at cable companies, let's pick Comcast, it all started with the low price of $80 per month, next thing I know my bill is $175 per month...once you are in the system they can jack up the price anytime they want! My suspicion is that the $50 p/mon is the temporary price to get everyone hooked...

  • Doctorbond

    You may be right - but even at $50 it is over twice the price of buying upgrades once every 18 - 24 months.  Excessive greed never pays - they will find that out - in the meantime we'll have to stick with CS6

  • Soluciones Pacificas S de R L

    Im from Honduras.

    We do not have access to fast computing for cloud machinery.
    It's good bye for me, Adobe. It's such a shame. I loved your company.
    I need an alternative for ID. Does anyone know anything? Im willing to buy it.

  • Andy James

    Faster update, they say. Cheaper, they say. I'm just worried if this renting-software is followed by other companies! Imagine, other than paying Adobe apps $50/month, we also have to pay Windows, Office, or whatever other software we use MONTHLY!  This is financial oppression!!!

  • dn

    The PAY MONTHLY FOREVER business model is copied from utility companies who all have the most enviable cash flow arrangements with their customers. With the influx of more and more MBAs at so many institutions and companies, this cloud scheme is not surprising. It's the ultimate business model. Most of us know someone whose company's management was outsourced to a group of business consultants who find success by cutting employee benefits, and reducing full timers to on-call employees. It's another chapter in the hard-core cut throat business practices of today. As job security evaporates, workers can't spend as freely as
    they once could, but still, universities, hospitals, insurance companies, software companies etc etc etc etc, all take a bigger bite out of us every month. These monthly payments will keep rising until capitalism, poisoned by greed, collapses. The myth of self regulation through competition is only working for the small stuff. This process is not sustainable.

  • al

    1: "we’ve seen great adoption... We definitely got the message from our customers."
    Everyone agrees that having the *option* to subscribe is a good thing. It's making it the *only* option that has everyone up in arms. 

    The idea they are listening to their customers is nonsense - it would be like the Coca-Cola company saying "Coke Zero sales have been great, so we're dropping all our other products. We definitely got the message from our customers!". Subscriptions suit some people (e.g. people starting out, recent graduates, people who only use these tools occasionally), but not others.

    2: "...we’ve been maintaining the Creative Suite on top of the Creative Cloud..."
    This is nonsense: they're the same product just with different payment plans! Customers even download and install them the same way. The only things needing different maintenance are the information pages and payment platforms.

    3: "Some [products] might have quarterly updates. Some have already had more"
    That's fine. Why not give Suite customers the option to buy product-specific updates early, then have the cost reduced from the bill when they next buy a Suite update? So if Illustrator brings out a new feature tomorrow and I own CS6, I could pay $50 for it tomorrow, and then when the next CS version was to come out, buy the full upgrade with a discount of, say, $25 to reflect the money I've already spent. 

    This isn't an obstacle, it's just something needing a tiny bit of creative thinking. An opportunity, if they played it right.

    4: "Faster iteration..."
    See 3.

    5: "It's not around piracy prevention"
    No, it's not. It's about Adobe making sure they no longer need to innovate or create new features in order to make money from existing customers.

    Before, existing customers only opened their wallets when Adobe bought out new features that were worth the price of an upgrade. Going subscription-only would mean existing customers would need to keep paying no matter how little work and investment Adobe put into improving their product.

    It's about Adobe trying to monetise inactivity.

  • Poopoo

    Stop ya whining. You'd think they were asking you for $1k a month?? It's $29 bucks.

    Well worth it. Unless you are all pirate users.

  • Doctorbond

    But it used to be $15 a month - if you're fine with a 100% increase then good luck to you - but I'm not