Let me start off this post by saying that I do not work for Adobe. I have never been an Adobe Employee, and probably never will be one after this article goes out. I don't owe Adobe anything… other than my career, as their software has allowed me to support myself and ultimately start a family. For me, that buys Adobe is a certain benefit of the doubt, until proven that they don't deserve it.
Adobe is a company that makes tools we all love and rely on for our work in video post production. But with their latest announcement – that from here on in, all software will only be available through subscription – a lot of people are upset and feeling betrayed. I want to try to address it all in a balanced way. I'll ask that you read all the way through because I am going to start with why, about certain things, you're totally wrong. Then, I'll move into why you're also totally right – and have the right to feel angry and demand more.
I want to own my software!
Before we start – lets get something out of the way. YOU DO NOT, NOR EVER HAVE, OWNED YOUR ADOBE SOFTWARE. You have licensed it. You must follow certain guidelines in using it (such as not copying your software and giving it to a friend) or you invalidate that license. That doesn't mean it's even close to the same thing as the kind of licensing model Creative Cloud uses, but it please stop talking about ownership. It's an illusion.
I recognize there is a difference between Creative Suite and Creative Cloud, in terms of how you pay and use it, but lets just stop calling it “ownership” and address the real issue:
The non-cloud versions of the Creative Suites allow you to continue to create an access your work in perpetuity without ever having to pay again. But If you have no choice but to use the creative cloud, should you stop paying, you lose both the ability to create and to open previously created work.
As I understand it, this is true and it totally sucks. Just so you know – I'm on your side. I am not happy about this. But as you'll see, there's more to it than that.
Why you are totally wrong about Creative Cloud being about Corporate Greed. And why you are totally wrong about it being a bad idea with little or no merit.
Let's look at the result of that older Creative Suite (non-subscription) kind of system and how it's effected things.
Many people have stated that one of the reasons they hate the Cloud business model is that they are being forced to upgrade – when they usually only upgrade every 2-3 versions of the Creative Suite. And it's understandable that people would do this to save money. Some can't afford it and some just don't want to pay for what they feel has little added value. But of course, if you are saving money, that means Adobe is not making money.
So basically, a very large portion of the customer base does not adopt new versions.
This concept of non-frequent adoption rates works in a large consumer space where there are tons of customers and you don't need most of them to upgrade to make the product viable. Apple doesn't need everyone to upgrade to the latest iPhone. There are enough people out there buying them that they are still making tons of money.
But this doesn't work in a smaller professional space where there are a very limited number of customers. Non-adoption kill products – or it kills any real development on that product. There are not that many video professionals in the grand scheme of things.
So if the development of Adobe video software is going to stay viable, it becomes one of two options:
1. Get the professional space to pay more and/or become more vested in that product – like using a subscription model that may or may not cost a little more.
2. Make the software more appealing and usable to more people to broaden the amount of users – in other words, make it usable by non-professionals so that the product can sell to a wider audience.
Apple's Approach: FCPX
For years, everyone complained that they wanted to just buy FinalCut Pro – not the whole FinalCut Studio. It was bloated with software they did not need, and that they did not wish to pay for.
But the problem was that if Apple was going to make FCP stand-alone, then they were going to make a third or less of the amount of money with every unit sold. In the end, Apple did just that, making the product stand-alone, thus making it cheaper to acquire FinalCut Pro. But the cost of making it cheaper was that they also had to make it more consumer friendly so that it could widen the amount of people using it (i.e., So that they could sell more units to cover the cost of lowering the price.)
For a lot of people, that didn't work out too well. I happen to like Final Cut Pro X, but many professionals don't feel it's a professional editing tool anymore. Many of you jumped over to Adobe, who continued to address your professional needs.
Adobe's Approach: Creative Cloud
In this situation, Adobe is taking a different approach. Yes – they are forcing professional users like yourself to adopt new versions, thereby forcing you to invest, whole hog, in the development of the software you need.
You see, Adobe is a publicly traded company, and because of this, they can't admit weakness. When publicly traded companies admit weakness, their stock values go down. And if you've ever worked with a big corporation, you know it's all about spin. You must talk about the positives, unless you absolutely must address the negatives. It's corporate culture.
This requirement to talk about only the positives means Adobe can only sell you on all of the great benefits of the Creative Cloud on how awesome will be for you. (And it really does offer a lot – and when I was running my own shop this would have been my preferred way to license software.)
But because it would be a sign of weakness – Adobe cannot sell Creative Cloud on what happens if you, the customers, don't buy in – which is that the software you love and rely on to make a living could stop being developed – or worse End of Life'd. Saying this kind of thing would make them look weak.
Think about how that Flash on Mobile situation played itself out. Despite what we all knew, Adobe could not admit Flash Mobile was going to die – until it finally, suddenly did.
So – keeping that in mind… One of the things Adobe can't say (because its so negative, and points out disappearing customers) is that they are very willing to let enthusiasts, and the low end slow to buy user of their products die off, to ensure the future viability of their product.
And frankly, if it means that the video line of tools – a product that comparatively produces virtually no money for Adobe – continues to be developed – it's may be a fair price to pay. I would hope for a better solution, but at the end of the day, you have to recognize that this is professional software that people use to make a living – not toys. It sucks because I started out as an enthusiast and I want there to be more enthusiasts. Adobe should want this too – as enthusiasts often turn into customers. But, that said, if you want to stay in the game, you have to accept that the playing field has to change – at least slightly.
But that doesn't mean that that Adobe doesn't have a lot of crap to work out.
Why you are right to be angry and why Adobe needs to fix this:
Adobe totally sucks at communication – there, I said it – and that means that we have no idea what to expect. There's often conflicting info as one group says one thing and another says something entirely different. And when they do talk, as a company, I often don't understand most of what they have to say. They use big, corporate words that I am pretty sure are meaningless.
That video with the Stylus and the Napoleon Ruler was awesome – right up until the presenter said he likes to use it when he “ideates.”
Jeez! What does that even mean?! I have always felt that Adobe suffers from some form of corporate Tourette's syndrome. They literally cannot talk to their customers without vomiting up confusing language. “Ideate” is not a word artists would ever use to describe the creative process (even my spell checker is dubious on the word). That's a word corporate entities use – and it has nothing to do with what I do or who I am.
Individually, the people that I know at Adobe are truly wonderful. They care about an open dialogue with us. I've known many of them for years – Even from before they worked at Adobe.
However, those individuals are not in control of the overall message – they work for a big corporation that doesn't think too carefully about backing up their business plans (even ones that are truly awesome for us) with communication to make their customers feel safe – and that is critical to our relationship with them.
Almost everything we're seeing about pricing of Creative Cloud and how it lays out over several years is conflicting – and is coming from external sources – not adobe. And that's inexcusable. FIX THIS ADOBE! TALK TO US! WE WANT TO TRUST YOU, BUT YOU ARE MAKING IT REALLY HARD.
Subscription is good for business
One very important reason Adobe needs to move to subscription – and you will never hear this from them: They area a publicly traded company, and software companies that run on a subscription model are usually valued at 9-10x their revenue, where as regular software companies with traditional models (Like Microsoft and Adobe) are only valued at 4-6X. Adobe's stock has been stagnant. By adding more value to the company's stock, it ensures longevity for the company – meaning they will be here a long time producing tools we need.
You know what? I am all for this. Shocker!!! I want Adobe to have a great future (and you should too). I depend on them. But…
Adobe, I support your growth and long-term health so long as you don't ignore the needs of the users in the process. Recognize that from the reaction you're getting, you're just not there yet. There are the usual complainers out there, but legitimate, long-time customers are also unhappy. You need to address at least some of what I am about to tell you before the masses will be able to step into the future with you.
Adobe, We Need to Talk
Since Adobe hasn't started a dialogue that gives us much to work with, maybe we have to start it ourselves – with well laid out rational thought. In the hopes that Adobe will read this, I've started asking users why they fear CreativeCloud. And here are the answers I got back (with my own thoughts added in):
What if there is an issue with getting your license to work/connect and it won't start up?
I've had issues like this with software that was not cloud connected at all. This is just something software companies have to support better. Adobe – you need something 24/7 for issues like this. But just FYI – normally, as I understand it, you must connect once in 30 days – not with every use of the software.
I won't be able to open my work if I quit the cloud.
Serious problem. I got nothing. Adobe, talk me through this. It's terrifying. (Important to note – you can rejoin Creative Cloud at any time, so as long as you can pay, you will be able to access your work. Still this is not great.)
Will the price go up once we're all in?
With no pressure, will adobe get lazy and let the software languish?
It may take time, but hopefully there are some competitors out there that will see an opportunity to create some decent competition. Also, since Adobe has always put money back into the development of their software, I have no reason YET to believe that they won't continue to do this. I have faith. There it is. It may be misplaced, but I don't think so.
I won't own it. I want to own my software!
We discussed this. You already don't own it. You want to own the creative experience, and to have the freedom to open your projects forever. Yup. It's an issue. Adobe has to prove that either the value of Creative Cloud is worth this trouble, or provide a better solution.
I'll have to pay for software I don't need.
For many of us – this is true. It sucks. It's my personal feeling that if Adobe is locking us into paying for our software perpetually, and they are guaranteed money to support those products that we use, they should not need us to buy everything. There should be a video bundle…etc. We should only be required to perpetually support the products we will perpetually use.
It costs too much.
If you're a hobbyist and you just don't want to pay a lot, I've got nothing. You're wrong. The software has real value. I pay my bills using this software. But, if you fit into the category of a person only requiring certain kinds of software to do their job (example video production), as above, I've given my 2 cents. It's a fair complaint – and probably the biggest one Adobe needs to address.
Are there local installers? It could take a long time to download the same installer for several machines.
Adobe? What have you got? Not everyone has FIOS 150/50. Give us local installers.
I hate monthly fees.
Me too, and yet, so much of my life works that way. Cable, internet, phone. Get over it. If you're a responsible business person, you can budget and put money away, instead of spending the same money all at once.
Support is based on when you installed. Since Creative Cloud is perpetual, what is the support plan?
This is my own concern. Under the current licensing setup, you get 90 days of installation support. So what counts as installation? Adobe is selling the idea of frequent updates. Updates can cause problems. Shouldn't that restart the cycle in case there is something wrong? My costs are perpetual. Shouldn't support just be perpetual?
Why is there a price difference outside US?
I haven't seen this, but seriously? Didn't we learn anything from that whole Australia thing? No good reason for this, that I can think of. Get it together Adobe. If this is not true, get the info out there. And if it is, please explain it.
Creative Cloud is not available in all countries.
This makes no sense to me – but I don't understand what a big company has to deal with then selling to multiple countries. Apple can't sell things in certain countries either. Not my area of expertise.
Sorry if I have missed some other concerns. It's all a lot to take in.
Anyway, lets stop complaining about “Ownership,” and focus on the issues that will actually make the creative cloud experience better and worthwhile for all of us. It's here, and, in my opinion, absolutely necessary to guarantee the future of the tools we need every day. I don't have answers, but until now, I've felt that many of us are asking the wrong questions and making assumptions without understanding the bigger picture.
Now let's bring these thoughts to Adobe, a company I truly believe in, but which sometimes needs a good swift kick in the ass to help them figure out what we ACTUALLY need.
Thanks for reading through this. Hopefully it's helped you think about this a little more – or, more likely, helped you decide I am a ginormous jackass. Either way, thanks.