In Defense of the Devil – Adobe’s Creative Cloud

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While I was sleeping, Adobe finally discontinued the traditional software license in favor of the subscription model. I’m not sure whether or not to laugh or get depressed over some of the over-reaction from the “CG Community”, who have posted predictable marxist responses that can be sum up to greed, big-corperations, fascism, being forced to do something, and Adobe triggering mental instability. I’m bouncing between considering laughter and depression because I know for a fact that there are many extremely bright and intelligent people who read, troll, and post on these message boards. We are also living during one of the most affluent times in human history. We live in a time where even the most worst off among us (especially in the West) has access to great knowledge, wealth, and opportunity. (Which are being eroded away by progressive bureaucrats.) Even if your stuck living on the street, people have access to numerous charities and government welfare programs.

Sadly many of these “creatives” were raised and indoctrinated with socialist/progressive ideology and mythology. We have a perpetual chain of people who, from cradle to grave, eat and regurgitate this garbage to others. Most of us have a very weak understanding of how Western Society has gone from poverty and tyranny to great wealth and freedom in the past century. Children are not taught that wealth is created or earn, but that wealth is stolen and forced out of someone else’s hand. Kids are taught and reenforced with crap like wealthy countries grew richer by exploiting and stealing from poorer countries.  Parents, teachers, friends, politicians, and even corporate elites spout nonsense the business and corporations are bad, evil, greedy, immoral, and seek to exploit customers at every turn. Before you know it, any move a big company makes that irks someone turns into the next civil rights movement. That’s why people are so morally confused when it comes to much bigger topics like war, economics, poverty, etc. We are drowning in misinformation and don’t know how to filter fact from rhetoric.

We also want our cake and eat it too. We want the prize, but we’re not will to do whatever it takes to win it. Healthcare is no longer a privet service you pay for, but a “right” that your government is obligated to provide. We instinctive look to squeeze every drop of blood out of a stone instead of recognizing the value that a product or service can bring to our lives and businesses. That’s why we have multi-national corporations producing or sub-contracting third-part manufacturers to produce products in filthy, dangerous, and degrading sweat-shops in third-world nations to fabricate our iPhone, computers, and numerous other products. Consumers want to buy products for as cheap as possible, but are unwilling to pay for the costs of labor and taxes to produce the same products at home. Then they bitch about the sweat-shops, as miserable as they are, in spite of the fact that they are paying wages large enough to help pull those laborers and their families out of the grinding poverty that they were previously suffering from.

Ideally speaking, I believe that the creative is the ultimate capitalist. By their very nature, creatives create something from nothing and sell that product for a profit. They are some of the few people on this planet whose job has the most flexibility. The creative can work as a part of a business, as an entrepreneur running their own company, or as a solitary freelancer. Sure you have to bust your ass just to make it big. But that forces people to either think outside of the box, or to consider their creative pursuit as a hobby. Most people either can’t or are unwilling to push and stretch themselves. That’s why most people go no where in life. They are trapped in dead-end jobs with no hope of a future. The creatives who write, draw, build, etc has no choice but to push themselves. If they don’t push and stretch, creatives don’t grow. They stagnate and die unhappy.

For those of you who are throwing a fit over Adobe’s new licensing scheme, I don’t sympathize or feel sorry for a single one of you. If any one of you made a similar decision which resulting in the same nasty knee-jerk reactions that you sling at Adobe, you’d be furious at your customers and think of them as stupid and moronic. A business is simply a collection of people who are organized by government paperwork. The sole goal for any company is to make a profit. Profit is a very GOOD thing. Just like you, no company is in the charity business.

 

Times Change, So Does Software

Computers, software, and the internet have gone through some radical changes. I this past decade, computers have gone from bulky desktops connected to more bulky CRT monitors that were barely capable of doing 2D graphics to smaller phone and tablet devices that can stream video from anywhere. These massive leaps in technology are sometimes tough to deal with, but things are only going to get more and more advanced. When I was learning to code in HTML back before the turn of the century, the big thing was to optimize everything from code to graphics, to as small a size as possible. (A high-speed connection at that time was a luxury even for companies.) When Flash came to the scene, it was a God-send. Flash files were small, powerful, and advanced for its time. Now high-speed internet connections are wide-spread and even wireless. What used to take days to download can now be downloaded in minutes. Companies all across the internet have taken advantage of this massive amount of bandwidth. A couple of years ago, Apple opened its Mac OS X version of that App Store, selling Mac software and delivering it via download. Apple soon offered its new version of OS X (Lion at the time) exclusively from the App Store, making Snow Leopard the last “boxed” version of its operating system. Selling OS X exclusively through the App Store application was a major calculated risk. This new advancement rubbed a few people, who were used to buying boxed software, the wrong way. Yet in the end, it saved customers time and money and the new software strategy worked. Adobe, Microsoft, and other software companies saw Apple’s success and are now following in Apple’s footsteps.

Adobe Delivering Software Via “The Cloud”

Instead of creating its own App Store to sell and deliver software, Adobe has chosen to offer its software lineup via the Creative Cloud. Starting with the next round of updates, Adobe will offer its software exclusively through its Creative Cloud on a subscription basis.

Adobe’s new Creative Cloud strategy has been around for a while. No one should be shocked or caught off-guard. This is the current advancement in software and the internet. There is now little incentive for anyone to sell software in a box. Shareware authors and smaller companies have been selling software as a download for over a decade. People have been pirating software, fonts, and music for even longer.  As mentioned previously, high-speed connections are wide-spread. Downloading gigabytes of software now takes minutes instead of days. Hiring someone to design, print, shrink-wrap, promote, and deliver millions of boxes in a hundred-or-so different languages is still extremely expensive. For Adobe, this is a smart move. It can save a ton of money and distribute software in a more efficient manner. The Creative Cloud strategy will also allow Adobe to generate a steady stream of income (virtually eliminating the peaks and valleys that come with development cycles), but become more flexible as one of the world’s largest software companies.

 

Costs Verses Value

Adobe is also making access to its software more convent to its customers. Instead of having to buy the physical version every time an update has been released or for another computer (for a large chunk of change) customers can purchase a much cheaper subscription and have access to Adobe’s entire line up. That’s right, for a measly $50 USD and a year’s commitment, Adobe is offering you its entire software lineup! To me, that’s a huge bargain. (I’m not anywhere close to being rich.) The Adobe CS6 Master Collection on Amazon right now runs just shy of $2,100 USD. That’s a down payment for a used car! Elsewhere, it’ll cost you $2,600 USD before any sales tax. At $50 USD, it would take 52 months or 4 years of use to equate the amount of time it would take to reach a one-time payment of $2,600+. Adobe’s developmental cycle ranges between 1 to 2 years. The full version of Adobe PhotoShop CS 6 (not the Extended version)  by itself runs for around $700 USD. The update runs for around $200 USD. Let’s use the numbers we have and assume the you buy a full copy of PhotoShop for $700 USD. Within the next four years, wanting to stay up-to-date and cutting edge, you buy the next two updates at $200 USD. That’s a total of $1,100 you’d spend within four years time on just PhotoShop. If you’re a graphic designer, you’ll also buy industry standard Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Adobe Acrobat Pro. If you purchased all of these titles off of Amazon, you’d pay an additional $1,600+ USD. If you buy the Adobe CS6 Design Standard Collection (which contains all of these titles) you’d fork over $1,189.98 USD for the boxed version. The download version will run you $1,127.98! That’s on Amazon!

For $50 USD per month, you get the entire Master Collection, plus updates, and storage on Adobe’s cloud servers so you, your friends, and clients can access your files anywhere in the world. This also includes all of the other software and services that Adobe currently offers to its customers. Students, who pay for massive student loans that can reach up to $100,000 USD, who pay for $100+ textbooks, and live in dorms that make apartment living look affordable, pay a measly $30 USD per month for everything. Back when I was wasting my time in college, graphic design students only had three options to get by and get assignments done; pirate the software and risk viruses and worms, spend the evening at the computer lab rushing through assignments using computers other people messed-up, or shell out the money to buy the software so you can work from home. Imagine how much time and money students will save thanks to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

If you only buy one copy of any of Adobe’s software titles and never purchase an update, never risk upgrading your operating system, and never buy a new computer, you will come out ahead. That’s the only way Gregg Keizer’s claim that users who pay a one-shot fee get ahead financially pans out. But computers eventually break down and technology continues to rapidly advance. That means software can easily become obsolete in a short period of time. In turn, software makes greater and greater demands on hardware. That’s one of the reasons why I bought my iMac. That’s one of the reasons why I’ll eventually buy a new 2 Terabyte hard drive. And a little later, a new Mac. You may want to take advantage of new time-saving features. The costs of the subscription model will start to look pretty good after a while. Now if you are so broke that you can’t afford $50 USD per month, why the hell are you even considering buying professional-grade software?

That’s not to say you can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t use the same version of any software title for as long as you can milk it. I know people who are still using PhotoShop 5. When I did my stint a professional graphic designer, a large chunk of places were still using Quark Express 3.x. (At that time people in the industry were scared to death of upgrading software due to fear of bugs and incompatibilities come press-time.) You, like any grown adult must weight the costs and benefits of any purchase. Illustrator had a string of unstable versions a while back, causing a lot people to sit on their older versions of Adobe Illustrator. Yet during that bad string, Adobe was adding some real cutting-edge features to Illustrator. In the U.S., Adobe had to orchestrate a massive outreach campaign to persuade customers and printers to adopt Adobe InDesign. In the end, only you can decide what works for you. No one else. Adobe is not “…robbing small business, freelancers, and the average consumer.” like myopic fools Derek Schoffstall (who is also a college student) claims in his petition on Change.org. I’ve yet to find an Adobe-hired thug digging through my wallet. If I did, I’d laugh at him. Regardless of what business decisions Adobe makes, you still have a choice.

 

Yes, You Do Have a Choice!

Even though Adobe’s software line up is considered the gold-standard, you do have alternatives aside from sitting on your older version. In PhotoShop’s case, there are a ton of photo-editing and painting programs that are extremely affordable. Google them! None of them have all of the features that are packed into PhotoShop, but not everyone needs to insert 3D objects into their photos, adjust the perspective of a building, or use the puppet-warp feature.

If you are stone-broke and have a functional computer, you may want to consider free, open-source alternatives such as Gimp or Krita (which can edit images in CMYK space and go toe to toe with Corel Painter). Both of these programs are more than capable when it come to image editing. Both programs have been around for a very long time, are very stable, and constantly maintained by true believers. If you want to draw vector art or create logos, check out Inkscape. Inkscape is also another mature open-source program containing many of the features you’d find in Illustrator. Inkscape also produces compliant SVG graphics. For page layout, download a copy of Scribus. Even though Scribus is a relative newcomer to page layout, it feels much like Adobe PageMaker, and can produce PDF files which are a standard among printers. For 3D modeling, sculpting, texturing, and rendering, Blender 3D is a more than viable option. The Blender foundation has just released a new version with the FreeStyle render engine finally included.

 

You Don’t Own Software

I know this is splitting hairs and jumping into the topic of intellectual property, but people often say, “I own a copy of Such-N-Such Software.” Also one of the refrains being bandied during this collective tantrum is that, “I don’t own it.” Unless you’ve written code and compiled it into something usable, you’ve never owned a single piece of software in your life. Software is not a tangible item. You can’t hold it in your hands. Yet you can hold a disk that has software. People and companies “sell” software by selling you a license, which grants you the right to use a program. (For example, ZBrush’s current license agreement allows users to use the program on 1 desktop and 1 laptop.) That’s why when you give a friend a copy of a program (not your license) or redistribute software across the internet without permission from the owner, it is deemed as piracy.

Then there’s the “rent-to-own” argument. I even made the mistake of loosely equating renting to Adobe subscription model. Both terms are very similar. When you subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, you are acquiring a year’s worth of access to Adobe’s software and cloud services for a monthly fee. Unlike the perpetual-license, it is limited to a specific period of time (unless you choose to cancel). But when a new update is released, you only pay the monthly fee, not another $200+ USD. Just like the CS versions, the CC versions of Adobe’s line up will run directly off your computer. The software, just like it does today, will check in with Adobe’s mother-ship to ensure you’re running a valid license. This is nothing new.

 

In the End…

Despite the ranker from among the most noisy and self-righteous on the internet, the market (that’s you and me) will decide if Adobe’s new subscription model is a flop or not. Adobe’s staking its existence on it. Customers will either choose to adopt the Creative Cloud or move on using other software to meet their needs. Mark Garrett, Adobe’s CFO, claims that 500,000 customers currently subscribe to Creative Cloud. He expects 1.25 million by the end of 2013 and 4 million by 2015.

If you’re still unhappy over the new subscription license, instead of trying to drown Adobe in your tears, consider your options. If you feel you won’t need to update for another year or two, then don’t stress over it. During that time, you can investigate your alternatives. There are many. If you feel “stuck” or “helpless”, that’s because you choose to be that way. Now grow up! Adobe’s not forcing you to buy its software. Be grateful for all of the great advancements Adobe has brought to the market place. I see the Creative Cloud providing greater access to professional-level software to more people, at a much more affordable entry-level. If businesses adopt the Creative Cloud, software costs will become more predictable, financially giving companies more flexibility, and keeping them on the cutting edge, which will save their customers time and money. If the Creative Cloud is a success, that will mean Adobe will bring about even more advancements to make the lives of creatives even easier.

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