Backlash begins against Adobe's subscription-only Creative Cloud plan

Computerworld US | 10 May 13

A petition on demanding that Adobe back away from its subscription-only model for its creativity software, including PhotoShop, has collected over 4,400 signatures by late Thursday.

And those thousands of customers were unhappy at Adobe for pushing them toward subscriptions. Very unhappy.

"Paying Adobe rent for the rest of my life is absurd," said Nick Scott, who left a comment on the petition's page. "I'll definitely be looking elsewhere next time I need to upgrade."

Derek Schoffstall of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the US, a photographer and college student, kicked off the petition Monday after Adobe announced it was halting development on the Creative Suite (CS) applications sold as "perpetual" licenses – traditional licenses that are paid for once, then used as long as the user wants – and would only upgrade its well-known Photoshop, Illustrator and other creativity software when it was licensed via subscription.

Rent, not own

CS6, the current version of the boxed software, will be maintained with bug fixes and will continue to be sold at retail and by Adobe directly. But there will be no CS7 or feature additions to those versions.

Schoffstall's petition asked Adobe to reconsider its subscription-only plans, restart development on CS6, and continue to offer perpetual licenses alongside subscriptions.

"It seems that you have decided to forsake everyone but big business. Well, you've made a mistake," the petition read. "We are in a corner because although we may have the option to use CS6 now, in the future, we will be forced to subscribe to your CC subscription in order to stay relevant with updated software."

In the preface to the petition, Schoffstall argued that consumers and independent freelancers would end up paying more in subscription fees than they had buying a one-time-charge license. "In the short term, the subscription model looks to be okay, but over time the only entity that is benefiting from this is Adobe," he said. "The (no longer) current model -- paying a one time fee for infinite access – is a much better business model and is better for the consumer."

Software-by-subscription can cost more than a perpetual license that's used for a relatively long time. The perpetual license of CS6 Design and Web Premium Student and Teacher Edition, for example, lists for $599. At the standard $30 per month for Creative Cloud, a student would end up paying more for a subscription after 20 months, or about two years in college.

In other words, if a student buys the perpetual license and uses it for more than 20 months, he or she comes out ahead of a friend who went the subscription route.

When it's better to own

The tipping point for what Adobe calls an "individual" subscription to Creative Cloud is different: The $50 monthly subscription fee adds up to more than a perpetual license for C6 Design Standard, which lists for $1,299, after 26 months.

It takes longer for Creative Cloud to exceed the price of CS6 Design and Web Premium, Adobe's most expensive and most full-featured bundle. At the same $50 monthly fee, an individual could pay Adobe for 38 months – three years and two months – before spending more than the $1,899 list price for the perpetual license.

Those who left comments on Schoffstall's petition often called out the cost as a reason for their dissatisfaction. "Due to the nature of the 'upgrade at gun point' nature of the change, and the forced 'renting' of software at prices that could be jacked up at anytime, I will not continue with the Adobe brand," said Lee Whitman. "It's suicide for a small business."

"This is disaster for independent freelancers who are already suffering in this economy," wrote Gay Tammy.

The Microsoft model

Those comments were reminiscent of ones aimed at Microsoft earlier this year when it debuted its own software-by-subscription model, Office 365, for consumers and small businesses.

But Microsoft, as it made plain on Tuesday when it took a swipe at Adobe's decision, has retained perpetual licenses for Office 2013, which runs on Windows, and Office for Mac 2011.

"Unlike Adobe, we think people's shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time," said Clint Patterson, director of communications for Office, in a blog post. "We are committed to offering choice -- premier software sold as a package and powerful services sold as a subscription."

Microsoft declined to say when it would move to an all-subscription model for Office, even though Patterson said it was inevitable. Some experts believe it will happen within the next five years.

In a talk with Wall Street analysts on Monday, Adobe executives defended the shift. Not surprisingly, one of the most important reasons they gave was the regular revenue generated by subscriptions, eliminating the peaks when major upgrades release, and the valleys in between upgrades.

"The move to subscriptions just drives a bigger and bigger and bigger recurring revenue stream," said Mark Garrett, Adobe's CFO, during the presentation to analysts.

Garrett also claimed that 500,000 customers currently subscribe to Creative Cloud, and has set targets of 1.25 million by the end of 2013 and 4 million by 2015.


Colin said: Adobe is clearly trying to minimize loss through piracy and in doing so has made us all feel like criminals. It's the same as walking in to a store with an item purchased at another retail store. The security takes your purchase and places it in a hole in the wall and will give you a ticket to claim it back when your are done shopping. Why? Because security thinks we all have a 100% chance of being dirty shop lifting criminals. So thank you Adobe for your wonderful character assassination. It truly wants me to run around in a field of sunflowers, swinging my arms in the air and thanking Adobe for saving my career by charging me obscene amounts of money AND then has the cheek to say i never really will own any of the software from now on! Adobe, enjoying the view from their mighty thrones that are perfectly comped with dream like clouds and statues of Venus, perched in alignment on skeletal remains of designers gone bankrupt, will now be safe from harm. Now i ask MYSELF, why are they immune to investigation for grossly abusing their monopoly on some rather lovely design software? Do politicians think there campaigns are designed and built with finger paint and Microsoft office? We are ignored my friends. Ignored. Now can someone PLEASE write some victorious code to grab the crown from these greedy bastards so we FINALLY have a choice!

Magneto said: Wake up, Adobe. Your angering all your loyal customers. I've been with you since Photoshop *1*, and if you do this, I'm gone. You cant upset all the people all the time.

artdirectordan said: Time for the next entrepreneur to put Adobe out of business. I will NEVER rent software from these greedy bastards.

polkm123 said: so how did you fork out $2000 for the full suite before CC

Mark Persaud said: I am from Guyana and I tried to create an account with Adobe CC and to my knowledge mycountry is not listed on the Payment System, LOL!! now what am I suppose to do? I guess this is one of the problems Adobe didn't look into.I also feel what you guys are saying I too am not happy about this whole CC stuff. But been using Adobe products for over 13 years now and to be honest they are the best in the digital age. However for me to fork out $50 dollars a month is quite rough on my part also $50 US is equivalent to $10,000 Guy dollars. I barely get enough work as a freelancer artist. Also advertising is not that big in our country. Guess will have to find a way to deal with this.

Marc Herrera said: 1984 was about 30 years ago. 4000 to 500,000 I'll wait to see the results.

Marc Herrera said: Handing down a large chunk of change for Adobe CS6 master collection has always stopped me from buying my own MacPro tower let alone a windows machine. But $49 a month for the whole suite is better then using a credit card or saving for something I need now. This is my lively hood and I need tools for my craft. If any student is serious about their future career $29 a month is a drop in the bucket. Just cut back a little on the beer or growing an extra arm from eating non-organic gmo is small price to pay.

Amoeba said: I work with students and creative freelancers from Europe to Russia and Ukraine. NOT everybody has access to credit, or credit cards. We are not all privileged North American citizens of corporate monthly payments. If this rent our code idea was done to try and grab money back from piracy, then I'm afraid that's a huge fail as at least 80 percent of students I come into contact with will just pirate it online, as they don't have credit cards or rich parents. The renting model will also alienate freelancers and those just starting, frankly it's code class war. The haves and the have nots. It's shocking according to adobe that if u don't have credit you can't be creative!!!!!!!!!!!!! Really.....well someone do a an info graphic on the search for adobe cc+crack+mac+pc when it's released and nail it to adobes front door.Good to see other rivals to adobe now appearing for after effects, photoshop and NLE like premier. Some of these are even realtime and far better than adobes handcuffs. I'm afraid after 20 odd years of adobe its time for a change. And the choices are growing. Adobe just bit off the future hands that might of fed them.

beverins said: I will never rent software, plain and simple.