When Adobe launched the Creative Cloud more than a year ago, it was not met with much fanfare from actual users of the software. Those around me heard about it, shrugged and moved on. I’m pretty sure many of us didn’t really fully understand what it exactly was. Fast-forward to today, and Creative Cloud has turned into something that is obviously Adobe's future, begging the question, "Is it good for Adobe, good for consumers or both?"
The idea of what the Creative Cloud is doing isn’t new, rather it’s a concept that the Apple App Store proved years ago: it is ok, nay, better to have access to something immediately with no need for a physical copy of anything. It’s instant access to what you want right away, and in a society that seems to respond only to instant gratification, it’s hungrily accepted.
Like I said, when Creative Cloud launched it slipped under the radar for most, and it was easy for us to let that happen because the method with which we were used to ingesting Adobe software was still the norm: giant packs of DVDs. And man, those discs are expensive. Like I recently brought up regarding a story in Australia, the Creative Suite on disc is cost prohibitive for nearly every normal person. It’s really, really hard to justify that kind of cost when the temptation to steal the software is fed by the ease of thieving. I’m pretty sure that this is a monkey on the back of Adobe that they have been trying to shake since they started as a company. How much money do you think Adobe has lost over the years to theft? It has to be millions. Hundreds of millions. It’s also probably why the software is so expensive, as the skills of the people it takes to build the software are expensive and they still need to be a profitable company. These things were working both for and against Adobe. On one hand, they had the best software that everyone wanted, creating a huge demand for their product. On the other hand, an enormous chunk of that demanding audience simply acquired that software without paying because it was easy. It’s a tough place to be.
So Adobe fought back with the Creative Cloud, and it’s pretty obvious that eventually Adobe plans to phase out the discs entirely. Updates come more quickly to the Creative Cloud, and the support for Creative Cloud members far surpasses that received by standard disc users. The way the business is leaning just oozes desire to move entirely into a cloud. You may not be a fan of it, but you can’t blame Adobe because it makes business sense for them to do this. And you know what? So far it’s better for me as a consumer.
Right now if I wanted to buy the Creative Suite Standard, it would cost me about $1130 for just Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. If I wanted to spring for the Design and Web suite, that comes in at an even steeper cost: $1,500 (and this is Amazon pricing- it's even more from Adobe.com). So for an investment of $2200, I get Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Speedgrade, Acrobat and Audition. That is in the United States, where the pricing is most competitive. You try and do the math anywhere else, and you’ll likely find that the expense is nearly insurmountable for any single user.
But Creative Cloud has changed all that. Now you can get every program Adobe makes for $50 a month. That’s $600 a year. To get that same deal in disc form is $2200. That is nearly four years of Creative Cloud for the same price as a one time disc purchase. What happens to the disc version when a new version is released? Nothing. It stays static. What happens to the Creative Cloud when a new version is released? It is instantly updated to that new version. No extra cost, quick download, instant gratification. Instantly you’re working with the most up to date software and it didn’t cost you a cent. Don’t want to upgrade right away? You don’t have to. You can keep chugging along with your older versions if you like. Upgrading to the newest software via disc currently costs $375 if you prove you have purchased from Adobe in the past.
Bear in mind, you get EVERY app Adobe makes, including Lightroom. There isn't a comprehensive disc package that I could find that really does this same thing. There are programs that you can only get through Creative Cloud, like Muse.
By cutting out the costs of shipping and creating physical copies of software, Adobe had done something that benefits them and us: they have made their software accessible to just about anyone who would need it. Even when I was in high school teaching myself how to use the software, I could afford $50 a month. Now with a steady income, $50 a month is a pittance for the value I get out of it.
If you don't want all of Adobe's apps together, you can get them ala carte for around $20 a month per app, which isn't a bad deal either.
“But Jaron, I don’t want to be connected to the internet all the time!” You don’t have to be. Once you download and register, you can be disconnected from the internet and still use the software. Whenever you are connected, the CC will just verify your account status in the background.
In addition to the software, you also get access to 20 GB of cloud storage, accessible through your account with the Creative Cloud. The benefit if using Adobe’s cloud is that it recognizes Adobe software and can give you previews of the documents. It works just like Dropbox, only ten times the size and you can actually see what that PSD or INDD document looks like before downloading and opening it.
I have the Creative Cloud installed on two computers, both Macintosh. But if I had a PC and a Mac, I could still have it installed on both computers with one license. You don’t have to worry about using different operating systems anymore. It all just works.
From now until likely forever, Adobe is prioritizing updates for the Creative Cloud. Last year when Adobe updated Photoshop with a slough of sweet upgrades, CC members got those upgrades immediately. Those with a disc were given a vague timeline of when they could expect that same update. Now this wasn’t done out of spite for disc users, but it was simply a product of prioritization. The two different methods of software delivery use two different sets of code. Adobe prioritized the Creative Cloud over the disc version and wanted to get that out as soon as possible. It just goes to prove Adobe’s desire to make discs obsolete.
So back to the comment about pirating, as you're probably wondering how this prevents pirating. Directly, it doesn't really. But because the pricing is so much less prohibitive, there will be a lot more people willing to give the Creative Cloud a shot than were willing to buy the Creative Suite.
Using the software and interfacing with the Creative Cloud is pretty straightforward. From a usability standpoint, nothing has changed. The software is still as great as ever, it's just available to me no matter where I am. Even if I have installed the software on two computers and I need to put it on another, you can deactivate all current subscriptions on all computers and install on a new one. It's not a permanent solution, but if you're in a bind it's incredibly useful. This is one huge advantage over services like iTunes. If you authorize a computer on iTunes, you can only de-authorize it from that computer. So if you can't remember what computer you authorized, you're kind of screwed. With the Creative Cloud, you can de-authorize all computers from any computer as long as you can log in. This probably isn't a practice Adobe really cares for, but it's a function that I really liked.
One other benefit of the Creative Cloud is access to a massive training library with a huge number of videos. If you're stuck, there is a tutorial here for you.
What I liked:
Easy of use
Plethora of programs
Speed of updates
Price point of service
Massive tutorial library
What could use improvement:
Requiring a year commitment to get the best price
Sure, the idea of paying a monthly fee bothers a lot of people. Hopefully the math I went through above makes this a little easier since stubbornly digging in your feet and opting for the disc version isn’t the most fiscally responsible decision. Maybe you feel like you actually own the software this way, and I understand that. Maybe you don’t trust Adobe for various reasons including the shady, dodgy way that the CEO avoids talking about real issues. I get that too. But despite all the flaws and downsides to using the Creative Cloud, it works. It is truly an excellent product delivery system. Having access to any program in the Adobe library instantly is just a good feeling. There was a time that Lee and Pat needed Premiere right away, as they were traveling and were having issues with their computers. They needed to reinstall Premiere and couldn’t until they found a store that happened to carry the disc. With the Creative Cloud, reinstalling takes a couple minutes. Zero stress. Zero hassle. Could have spent a lot more time editing and a lot less time trying to find a physical copy of the disc. In the end, that's what it's about right? If the software and delivery of that software makes your life easier, it's a good thing right? That's what you should focus on when contemplating the Creative Cloud, because it does make your life easier. I'm comfortable saying that the Creative Cloud is better for Adobe and better for the consumers. It's a great service, and one I'll continue to use.