Objectively Analyzing the Adobe Creative Cloud: Should You Want It?

Objectively Analyzing the Adobe Creative Cloud: Should You Want It?

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.

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 7.54.23 AM


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.

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What I liked:
Easy of use
Plethora of programs
Cloud Storage
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.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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Previous comments

Yeah exactly the same math I did....we are about to pay 3 times as much for products to companies like Adobe. It is basically like increasing the prices of all products 3 fold.
ANd naturally our revenue don't go up 3 times accordingly....

Adobe should save a lot of money cutting the cost of production, storage, retail and distribution. And they come ut with these ridiculous prices? But there are some tricks to not letting them get away with your money


Additionally, perhaps the most overlooked flaw is that Adobe reserves the right to RAISE the cloud prices every year at their discretion. Oh of course you will be notified prior to the price hikes but if you are using the cloud for a year and then they raise the price, you are completely at their mercy. If you purchased the product, you can at least know your projected costs for software acquisition.

I think the cloud model makes more sense for individuals and much less sense for businesses that rely on these products.

Wow, thanks for this Adobe commercial, this article somewhat undermines my trust in what this site has published so far. The video from Adobe's CEO was a of highlight for me as it had shown what a shady company Adobe has become.

Cloud? An absolute no-go for me.

1. As a long time owner of several perpetual license suites I feel really screwed by Adobe, their upgrade policies and the level their "service" department has shown recently (guys in India that aren't even able to understand written english??). I paid a significant sum in advance and now I get real bad service!

2. In my environment the machines are configured once and then moved into a safe zone, with no connection to the internet. This is due to our security certification, if you work for industrial clients, this is not unusual. There is not, and never will be, any piece of software that requires to be connected to an extranet. Lucky me, we still have a bunch of working CS4/5/6 suites. Quite likely this will be the last Adobe products I'll use for a longer time. Adobe will have a long way to go to convince me to upgrade, I really don't like to be treated like this.

Right on Brother I agree Adobe would have to do some apologizing to get a dime form me from here on out. The idea for Adobe is to return us to the dark ages where people busrted ass farming on the land of the landlord and never got a chance to own,

My only problem is the Cloud sort of screws over students. They don't offer individual applications with the student discount, so you have to pay for the whole suite. I've done the math and if you don't want the whole CS, then it's costing you more, as a student, to use the cloud.

Why wouldn't you do all of it for the 20 or 30 a month? You don't have to install it all. You can still pick and choose which software you want to use.

Software piracy is not stealing, it is a copyright violation. Stealing is the unlawful transfer of property form one person to another. Software is not property as it does not satisfy the tangible or movable aspects of property in any way.

Intellectual "property" is a relatively new social construct that seeks to bring similar titles of ownership to ideas and expressions through a social contract.

I know this seems pedantic but as a society we need to differentiate. If I pirate Photoshop I have not illegally transferred $1168 worth of value from Adobe to myself, if I was never going to buy the product because I couldn't afford it then Adobe has not lost a sale and has not lost any property as the reproduction cost of the software is $0.

If I stole a car worth $1168 from my neighbor I would now have a car worth $1168 and he would have lost $1168 worth of property.

The reason why this is important is that if we treat them both the same, a software pirate will end up in the slammer alongside a car thief with the same sentence when really no one was harmed by his actions.

I am not saying that piracy is ethical in all circumstances, nor do I condone it cart blanche  but we need to understand what it is and not act like it is something it is not.

if you take it, then you took it. No amount of rationalizing will make it right. If I make $1168 worth of something and you take it without paying then it is taking it. copyright infringement, yes,....but ya took it. The difference is the penalty in jail would be a lot shorter, (yes it is possible to be thrown in jail, but like most of the US nations millions of laws they are not enforced) The monetary penalties are astronomic though (150,000 per offense per item taken)

You can ignore the facts all you want, copyright infringement is not theft. And the very fact that one could be issued with a $150k civil penalty for it vs a similar value actual property theft illustrates the problem moreso.

if you want to make an ehtics case then Adobe needs to honror its orginaal agreements with users and Alow upgrades

It's my understanding that if you own the disc, you can only skip one version update instead of the 2-3 that has been the norm?
I do wish that you could pay for the subscription by the year(maybe an even better price?) I travel a lot and am not always able to connect to the web. It sux when everything quits because you are out of range. This is a problem with all cloud services. Companies have started to believe the hype that we are all connected 24/7. Even my Kindle stopped working cause it hadn't been "updated" for a period of time. And I "owned" the books.

As mentioned somewhere above there is a difference between leasing and buying the goods. When you lease you can never be sure that you won't be kicked out in some way. I don't know many people who upgrade every time. Usually it is one or two versions above.

Anyway, unless Adobe radically changes the pricing, the difference becomes visible in something like 8 years. That doesn't apply to students though. If you are eligible for student pricing, screw cloud and get Masters Collection. In the end you won't pay more than 1500€ for full Retail version.I wrote an in-depth analysis on my blog http://blog.porcelainkid.com If you care to learn more factual information, feel free to visit.

I can understand all the pro's and con's for professional consumers and for Adobe. I haven't made up my mind about what I am going to do with regard to my system, but I have felt the need to go legit on using Adobe Software (haven't been able to afford it yet).
What i've seen in the comments above are a lot of users of the software stating that Adobe is ripping them off with the CC model, while no one really responds to what Jaron Schneider wrote in the beginning of his article:"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."What if Adobe visits chapter 11 because of a failing business model that can't support its demand from its customers. No photoshop?! Damn, NO ONE wants that. Sure another company will take over producing similar software, but you think they will produce hard copy's?We want the best (or for those of the non-immediate upgraders, the second best) and are not willing to pay for it and then use it for everything that makes our wallet grow in our own businesses. 

I think although the CC might not be the best model yet from Adobe, you can't go shouting out that they are only setting out to suck their customers wallets dry. Give them the benefit of the doubt as Adobe clearly can't make everyone happy, but are figuring ways out to do so anyway.

I just found out that Adobe will not alow me to upgrade my CS4 suite that I have 2500 tied into and is only two versions back, my thoughts are that anything good does not need. To forced upon the costomer. In the past you could upgrade anytime. Adobe has become a bully it has grown to behemoth status and as more get on the cloud it will raise its price 70 80 or more per month. My upgrade would have been 400 bucks but the cloud would cost me 600 a year and after a year I don't own anything so then your stuck paying another overpriced monthly fee. I also ask how much of that software on the list do you know how to use? Not much I bet. 

What a worm.

Hi - I am just reviewing this with my son who is a photography student to see what is best. I know he will have access to discounted prices as a student. My question is can you unsubscribed after say 2 months and store your saved work on your computer and then re-subscribe 2 months later and use the software for say another month and then unsubscribe again etc. Can you have this flexibility because if you only use the software during say 6 months of the year your total annual cost would be $300? Does anyone know the answer to this.

Yup! The files are not affected by the subscription. 

I think you can't break up the year's contract like that. When you sign up, you are committed for a year.

Ever heard the story of the frog in the pot?

RIGHT NOW, Adobe is trying to win over the skeptics...so they're going all-out on the "carrot" side of the equation with unbeatable pricing, excellent support, and speedy updates.

Mark my words, CS7 or CS8 will be the last full suite available on plastic discs. Then, Adobe software will be available exclusively through Creative Cloud.

Once that happens, support will start to dwindle. Updates will be less frequent, and less QA will happen. The ability to save project files to your own machine will be removed, or will be made unnecessarily challenging (e.g. "log into the website, then install the Project Download Manager ActiveX control, then log back into the site, then download your project files...one at a time..."). Then, the subscription price will creep up...first $60/month, then $75, then $99, then $99-but-photoshop-extended-is-another-$5-per-month, then $99-but-mpeg-4-encoding-is-another-$5-per-export, and so on...and people will continue to pay the money because Adobe has all the user's project files safely stored on Adobe servers, so people choose between ever-increasing subscription fees, or lose all of their data...and Adobe knows it.

If Adobe really wanted to combat piracy, the best way they could have done it is to continue monetizing their old versions that looked something like this:
Photoshop CS6: $599
Photoshop CS5.5: $449
Photoshop CS5
(no support/no upgrade)
: $299
Photoshop CS4 (no support/no upgrade): $149
Photoshop CS3 (no support/no upgrade): $99

...or some variant of that. "Creative Cloud" is just Adobe's new DRM, attempting to take a page from Valve's book and turn "DRM that users are willing to put up with because it's the only example of DRM that can actually add value to the customer's purchase", redact the "add value" part, and then continually charge for it.

In a sense, I do actually feel bad for Adobe - they've typically been among the most pirated software studios in existence today, depending on how you crunch the numbers I'd even venture to say that they've gotten it worse than Microsoft. I'm all for a mutually beneficial solution, but Creative Cloud isn't it, and it won't get that way in the future.

I'll hang onto my plastic discs of CS6. Let me know when you need to borrow them.

I attended one those Abode "Create Now Tour!" sales pitches last night. Although the audience seemed impressed with the new software features (all of which were for CC subscribers only), most of the comments during Q&A came from people who were either confused about or unpleased with the idea of leasing software.

As you may have read somewhere, Adobe is doing away with boxed software by May 1. I asked if there would be a way to download one or two apps from the Adobe site once the discs are phased out. The answer: You can, but you would have to lease them. They are completely getting rid of the option to buy the software outright. So, it sounds as though you won't have to get everything Adobe makes with your CC subscription, but who knows if the subscription price will be significantly less if you want, say, only Lightroom and Photoshop. (There is no info about this on the Adobe site. However, the educational CC price deal is good until 4/7, which makes me believe that something might be happening on that date.) BTW, the presenter also said that the next major update to the CS suite will occur "during the first half of this year". April 7?

It's not an overstatement to say that I'm feeling distraught about not being able to buy the tools of my freelance trade outright. I'm presently using CS 5 and I'm wondering if I should buy CS 6 just so I can delay the financial sting of a CC subscription a tiny bit longer. CS 6.5 or 7, or whatever they want to call it, will be out very soon, but no matter. The new app features I saw last night have no practical application in my line of business and I distrust the reliability of storing my files on Adobe's Cloud.

Soo the cloud is only good with 2 computers??? or I can use it anywhere I can log on?? I am not asking if I can spread the hard parts of the software, just wondering how many computers I can authorize and if there are any lower level,...access my files,... anywhere, types of apps. for me it would be an Imac, a PC, a Macbook, an Ipad, and a PC laptop

the real question is....when will Adobe products work natively with Linux?


Hi, i tried to read more comments i can, but as far as my country India is concern, we have a low speed and quality of internet. you can imagine the use of cloud services with low speeds or no internet. what is the use of it ? Price too is very high as compared to other countries. Our currency rate is low and a common man cannot sustain in this manner. moreover one will work on software or worry continuously about the updates? why so many updates?. if one has to give a file for production and the production house is using lower version, what will be its use? Adobe should bring into consideration other developing countries too. We are a big market, but who cares, No language facilites, nothing...hope u are listening

I have been a Creative Cloud subscriber for one year now and I am very mixed emotioned about Adobe doing away with the option of buying their products on disk. I feel that it could hurt small companies or make employers choose to require employees to be responsible for paying for and maintaining their own independent Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions. A small company with 15 employees would have to shell out $750 a month or more to have 15 employees in the cloud. I don't see that happening in a small company. I have no issue with having my own Creative Cloud subscription because I do fine artwork at home as well, but my colleges may object to forking over $50 a month. I feel this could create some conflicts in the future and even stifle small businesses even further. Then, I may be wrong. Only time will tell.

WOW! Adobe has finally done it.

They learned how to really screw over their customers.
These idiots think everyone has an extra $50 in their
pockets every month. The good thing about the old
CS packages is that I could at least still use them even
if a new version came out. This way, they are like crack
dealers. No $$$ no Photoshop sucker.

Again, thank you Adobe for the screw!

Next time lube up.

The idea that we must pay a monthly fee to use software per month is absurd. I receive the education discount enabling me to own software that should be over $2000, for a lot less. I can use this software for many years until I'm finally forced to upgrade, as it eventually simply makes sense. Some months I'll use it maybe a handful of times, and other months, almost every day, depending on the projects I'm handling. For me to pay $50 to use something a few times is such a complete waste of money. Also, in doing the math, I'm paying wayyyyy too much on a per month basis in comparison to how much I pay for boxed software, when factoring in how many years I get out of it.

I would be thrilled to see a company rise up that creates a competitive product to Adobe's and sells it as a box package. I'm sure they would have many new clients. I hope this cloud crap destroys companies that see $$$ and not client satisfaction first and foremost.

I upgraded from the 1st version of CS to the CS6 Master Collection and it will be WAY cheaper than CC in the long run because I don’t upgrade often. So, your logic is that of an Adobe shill. I don’t know anyone that upgrades every year. Even companies. So, when you say the disc costs $2200 a year, you are wrong. It is $2200 for the life of ownership. That could be 2 years or it could be 6 years or ten years. It is $367 per year if you keep the disc for 6 years.

I'm still rocking with my copy of Photoshop CS5. Still very happy with it. I'll probably upgrade to Photoshop CS6 in the future and will run it till it can't run on my computer anymore.


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