On 6 May 2013, Adobe stunned the creative community at the Adobe MAX conference by announcing that Adobe Creative Suite 6 will be the last boxed version and that Adobe’s design products will be available only through the year-old Creative Cloud, which offers a slew of apps and services, along with free upgrades, on a subscription basis. Current users of Adobe CS6 will continue to receive support for the foreseeable future, and boxed copies of CS6 will remain available for sale.
So how much does Creative Cloud cost? Well, that can be a tricky question. For individuals, $49.99 per month will gain you access to the Complete package, if you commit to a year-long subscription. If you currently hold a license to at least one of the apps in Creative Suite 3 or higher, you can get Creative Cloud Complete for only $29.99 per month for the first year. A single app, like Photoshop, will cost you $19.99 a month with a one-year commitment or $9.99 per month if you own CS3 or higher. Both packages also include 20 GB of online storage for collaboration.
There are separate packages for businesses and education that offer substantial discounts. For instance, there’s the $69.99 per month, per user Team edition, which includes some additional software, such as InCopy, that’s not in the Complete package. And the Student and Teacher edition, which normally runs $29.99 per month, is only $19.99 per month on a special offer good through 25 June 2013.
But what if you need Photoshop or Dreamweaver for just a single month? Adobe does offer month-to-month pricing, but doesn’t advertise it — you’ll have to contact an Adobe representative to place an order. I did just that and found out that if you pay by the month, the Complete package costs $74.99 per month and a single app will run you $29.99 per month. If you’re contemplating buying an annual subscription and canceling it, don’t even think about it, as you’ll be on the hook for 50 percent of the remaining monthly fees.
Based on the higher prices and hoops I had to jump through just to discover them, it’s clear that Adobe isn’t interested in selling apps by the month. I think Adobe is making a huge error here. How many users pirate Adobe software because they’re amateurs or occasional users who can’t justify spending hundreds or thousands on a professional software package? I have never bought any of Adobe’s software personally, but if I could get a month of Photoshop for $30, I probably would buy it a few times per year. As Zee Kane, CEO of The Next Web, said last year, “Adobe’s main competitor in this space isn’t competing products, interestingly enough; it’s BitTorrent.”
Needless to say, Adobe’s decision to go subscription-only is controversial. However, not everyone is unhappy about it. I asked Mule Design’s Mike Monteiro about the change on Twitter. The usually outspoken Monteiro said only, “About time.” Mule designer Tom Carmony also praised Creative Cloud, saying, “I appreciate that the [subscription] model gives you access to all apps; stuff like Audition I wouldn’t have in a design bundle.” And TidBITS Publishing subscribes to Creative Cloud in order to have occasional access to InDesign and Photoshop — it’s much easier to justify a low monthly cost than spending over $1,000 on packages that will be launched only a few times per month.
In fact, for many users, Creative Cloud could be a blessing. A boxed copy of CS6 Design Standard runs $1,189.98 on Amazon, and includes only Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. That same $1,189 would buy you nearly two years of Creative Cloud at $49.99, which consists of way more software plus cloud storage. Even a single copy of Photoshop CS6 on Amazon costs $628, which would equal over 20 months of a single-app Creative Cloud subscription. If you’re a professional who wants to stay on the cutting edge, Creative Cloud is a sweet deal. And no need to worry about an update that doesn’t support your system, as updates aren’t forced.
But of course, if you’re a freelancer or more casual user who is happy to use out-of-date software (to the extent that’s possible with Apple deprecating PowerPC apps in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, for instance), you may not be comfortable with a monthly bill and the latest versions. Unfortunately, there isn’t much competition for the key packages in Creative Cloud. You could theoretically replace Photoshop with the excellent Pixelmator, Illustrator with Sketch, and InDesign with QuarkXPress or even Pages, but for the most part, Adobe’s software sets the industry standard and nothing truly compares for professional work. Until that changes, whether you like it or not, Creative Cloud is the way of the future.