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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.
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]