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Posted on May 12th, 2011 by Tom Arah

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 isn’t a rip-off: the UK price is

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My review of the new Creative Suite 5.5 (CS5.5) has just been posted and there’s plenty to talk about in terms of new functionality and what this means in relation to the future of cross-platform design.

However, it’s not so much the extraordinary and mouth-watering creativity of CS5.5 that is likely to strike users as the extraordinary and eye-watering cost.

The Difference Between Price and Value

If you’re downloading software online and subscribing to it online what difference does it make what country you’re doing it from?

Straight up, it’s important to stress that a high price does not necessarily mean poor value. It’s also worth stressing that the full CS5.5 Master Collection is a formidable achievement, offering state-of-the-art creative power stretching from photo-editing and vector illustration through desktop publishing and website creation, to video production and rich internet application development.

Compared to professional 3D applications such as Maya (SRP $3,495), for example, that makes the US cost of $2,599 for the full Master Collection an absolute bargain. The same is true of the $549 upgrade price when you bear in mind that it includes no fewer than 11 updated component applications.

It might be good value but it’s still a seriously intimidating headline figure. Of course most users don’t need the full range of power and Adobe provides the targeted Suite Editions to help keep things more affordable. However while the cheapest Design Standard suite for graphic designers comes in at around half the price of the full Master Collection, $1,399 is still a lot of money. There’s no doubt that the huge upfront cost is putting off new users from joining up to Adobe’s CS-based design platform.

The Difference Between Buying and Renting

Adobe has recognised as much and, with CS5.5, it has introduced a completely new subscription pricing model that effectively lets users rent Adobe’s main CS5.5 suite editions and apps rather than buy them. Prices vary widely but, to give an idea of rates, if you’re willing to commit to an annual subscription (complete with automatic upgrades), the monthly cost for the full Master Collection is $129.

Subscribing won’t be of much interest to current users as there’s no discounted rate if you already own CS5. Moreover, the fact that after two years you’ll have spent more on renting than buying means that, if cash flow isn’t an issue, then the traditional retail route is almost certainly your best option. Especially so if you investigate Adobe’s various upgrade and cross-grade possibilities.

However the subscription pricing will certainly prove attractive to new users who simply can’t afford the upfront cost and also to users of older releases of the software who are generally happy with what they can do, but might occasionally want to try out a new program or the latest functionality.

The Difference between the US and the UK

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. I gave the US$ pricing deliberately. At today’s exchange rate, US $2,599 should convert to around £1,575 for the full Master Collection, the $549 upgrade to £333, and the annual monthly subscription rate of $129 to £78. In each case I’d argue that that’s really good value.

Instead the equivalent UK pricing to buy the CS5.5 Master Collection is £2,268, it’s £476 for the upgrade and £116 for the annual monthly cost. And that’s before you add in 20% VAT!

Yes, you can still make a good case for value for the CS5.5 suites in terms of what you can achieve with them, especially with CS5.5’s new ability to deliver rich design and functionality to mobile devices including the potentially lucrative iPhone and iPad markets.

However it’s impossible not to feel exploited and angry when US designers are getting the same products for so much less. The CS5 suites aren’t a rip-off, but the UK pricing certainly is.

I really don’t understand this. The new CS5.5 subscription model shows that Adobe is aware of the importance of affordability. This isn’t done out of the goodness of its heart – Adobe knows that the best way to optimise profits is to maximize its userbase. However for some reason this doesn’t seem to apply in the UK.

The new subscription model brings home the unfairness of Adobe’s international pricing even more directly. The beauty of internet-based delivery is that it provides a truly global audience, as Adobe knows better than anyone. But if you’re downloading software online and subscribing to it online what difference does it make what country you’re doing it from? Why should the UK-based CS5.5 user be charged 50% more (before VAT) for a month’s use of exactly the same software? I really think we can live with US spellings if that’s what it takes to get a fair price.

This isn’t just a question of best business practice. Adobe’s whole cross-platform design vision is built on the principle of a universal and level playing field. The same can’t be said of its pricing policy and it needs to be changed.

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Posted in: Online business, Rant, Real World Computing, Software


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29 Responses to “ Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 isn’t a rip-off: the UK price is ”

  1. MJ Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I occasionally look at buying for my business, but this disparity puts me off. I can make do without. But I know someone who is going to the US in a few months, and he can save me £140 over Amazon’s price by buying it there. I’ll probably do that – I’m not aware of any UK specific support so don’t need such.

  2. Nick Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Yes… Windows 7 localised to the UK ‘favorites’. An office program that refuses to use the correct dictionary, despite when set as the default. Mis-spellings throughout both programs. They don’t even bother to use English. They just clank out american and hike the price.

  3. JohnAHind Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    You are a journalist – ask them to justify the UK price differential and keep at them until they give you a proper response!

    As for value (for US customers), the problem is that price is still pretty much fixed while the benefit varies widely for different users. If you are highly specialised and you use this software all day every day earning money, then the value probably looks good. Problem is if you are more of a generalist and would only use it intermittently for parts of projects then the price is prohibitive. When the price of software is modest, we do not notice this but when the numbers get this big, it becomes an important driver of decisions.

    If they allowed it to be rented by the hour rather than the month we might be talking! Also, would it kill them to give you a full retail licence once your rental fees totalled the retail price?

  4. Noghar Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Adobe without doubt are among the worst offenders in Rip-off Britain – and you made exactly the same point two years ago, the last time they had a major release. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad PC Pro is shouting about this from the rooftops; it’s just that it’s clearly made naff-all difference, since Adobe are shamelessly still at it.

    IMHO their prices are bloated to match their software – but then I only use Reader, not the high-level tools. (except I don’t, I use Foxit.)

  5. Rob Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    You are a journalist – ask them to justify the UK price differential and keep at them until they give you a proper response!

    [quoting for emphasis]

  6. AmyBG Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 3:59 am

    That pricing is ridiculous! If it’s any consolation the Master Collection price here in Australia is $4344, despite the AU dollar being stronger than the US dollar. It would be cheaper to get it at the UK price. I don’t understand why Adobe has to do this kind of thing, it just makes their software less accessible outside of the US.

  7. John Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 9:13 am

    If you have kids at school you can buy copies that are much cheaper.
    Same goes for Windows and Office as well.

  8. Tim Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 9:19 am

    While talking about rip off prices, Dell laptops with full resolution screens are almost twice the price over here. This is partly because we can’t get a proper screen and a cheap processor, but even allowing for that we are still being ripped off.

  9. David Wright Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    The UK price is cheap, compared to Europe…

  10. Nigel_N Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    While you are on the price, how about a look at the versions? There is a Middle East version of InDesign that allows right to left text flow, but I can find no evidence of UK users being allowed to write in Hebrew.

  11. Matthew Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Just checked BA, you could fly to JFK return for £400 if you leave today (ish) which would save you (give or take) £200… no region coding on software! this pricing is one of the reasons why piracy exists!

  12. TiredGeek Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Hmmmm, I wonder why a quick search on bit torrent sites brings up so many Adobe hits?
    IF I was in the market for this, I’d book a weekend in New York and buy it over there. Essentially a free mini break :)

  13. TiredGeek Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    DOH, beaten to it by Mathew!

  14. JohnAHind Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    What stops one simply downloading from the US site pictured? If you cannot pay by a non-US credit card, travelling to the US is not going to help (and your hotel broadband would probably scupper you anyway).

    If it is on IP address, there are easier ways round that than air travel (particularly if you have to use BA).

  15. Alvin Says:
    May 15th, 2011 at 1:32 am

    To everyone talking about buying software from the US.. you may need to check the small print!

    I don’t know what the set up is with Adobe but I do know that some license agreements state that applications can only be used in the territory stipulated in the End User Licensing Agreement (ie the geographical country/region that the software was purchased in.) That way the software companies prevent corporate organisations sourcing software licenses for their entire organisation from the ‘cheapest to purchase’ parts of the world.

  16. jontym123 Says:
    May 15th, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Have a look at the comments here:-

    Two points. Firstly, high and unfair pricing policy inevitably leads to increased piracy.

    Secondly, when challenging suppliers guilty of thes pricing policies make sure that you compare prices net of all taxes as the companies involved in these pricing discrepancy “scams” always revert to arguments about differing tax regimes in different countries – an argument that really doesn’t stand up under any circumstances.

  17. Alan Ralph Says:
    May 15th, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I checked on Adobe UK’s website yesterday, and they want over £900 to let me upgrade from CS3 Web Premium to CS5.5! Oddly, they’ve yet to fill in pricing for the annual and monthly subscriptions – I’m wondering if Adobe have perhaps realised that they need to make it a LOT cheaper?

  18. John Haynes Says:
    May 16th, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I have long since thought Adobe was daft on their pricing, it is a really big incentive for the piracy they suffer also, I think their “renting” option is total rubbish. Don’t get me wrong, I think a subscription basis is a good idea for people “in a business” but only if done properly.

    I bought into Autodesk’s Max 3D animation program when it first came out and did every upgrade then, they introduced a subscription basis. For an annual fee, less than an upgrade price, you got every upgrade as it came out and when you stopped, you kept the last version you got under the deal. This makes far more sense than the Adobe model.

  19. KevPartner Says:
    May 16th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Absolutely bloody infuriating. I like Adobe software but the upgrade is so expensive, I’m likely to only upgrade components I use a lot. I’m quite happy with Illustrator CS5, Photoshop CS5 and Fireworks CS5, for example, but I want the extra features of Flash Builder 4.5.

    Adobe are stupid. Much of their strategy is based on mobile and yet they’re pricing themselves out of the market. Flash Builder, for example, competes against the completely free tools used to create native code for Android.

    I’ve been using Adobe/Macromedia tools for over 10 years. I have a lot of expertise in ActionScript programming but even I am considering jumping ship and developing in Java. Not just because Adobe’s pricing is high but because it is unfair. The same product for 50% more than the yanks – what possible justification is there for that?

  20. jontym123 Says:
    May 16th, 2011 at 6:10 pm


    “The same product for 50% more than the yanks – what possible justification is there for that?”

    Two reasons:-

    Reason 1. Adobe (and others) official line – different markets have different tax regimes (even if you compare prices net of tax) and different costs of doing business.

    Reason 2. Rip-off Britain.

  21. Britpop Singh Says:
    May 17th, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Maybe PC Pro should adopt a policy of not reviewing products which have a UK price that’s more than 10% above the US price.

    Trouble is, that would hurt business (Adobe presumably advertises). And Adobe, like everyone else, is simply out to make as much money as it can. You can’t blame them.

  22. Nick Tubby Says:
    May 18th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Hi, Alvin’s absolutely right. If you purchase Adobe licences in the US and try and use them in the UK, you will not be entitled to support or upgrades

  23. mario Says:
    July 15th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    If you by an upgrade in the US will it work with your UK license?

  24. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Absolutely infuriating indeed. How to lose friends and infuriate people. Inevitably, this leads to people resorting to friends buying for them from the USA etc… Now I’m in the UK. But I used to be in NZ / Aus where the price diff is even worse. A few years ago I purchased an Adobe suite online from a retailer in the States at about half of the local NZ cost. Get it together Adobe! We’re purchasing the software rather than pirating it, so don’t make enemies of us!

  25. Charlie Says:
    July 26th, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Software piracy is a problem especially when Adobe commits piracy with its UK pricing. I used to buy their products when it was possible to download with US$ pricing, but the greedy corporate executives at Adobe closed that route. Hence they lost my custom.

  26. sarah Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    cannot you not download with us pricing now? what if i buy with my usa credit card upgrade from student edition to commercial edition and download in the uk. is this possible. gosh i hate adobe they make it a game to get their software.

  27. michael xavier massey Says:
    January 23rd, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    hello all. i just found out the price difference while looking to purchase the master collection. now the only thing i wouldn’t use is the erm.. well i’d use all of it. i spotted that the us ver. of cs5.5 mc is a lot less than the british ver. and after talking with one of adobes friendly staff over chat about the difference, he told me it is to do with trading with different countries, he also asured me that a vers. purchased in the us would not be able to activate in the uk. now i don’t know about you, but i think using a vpn should fool the adobe server into thinking its activating in the usa. has anyone purchased a us version and can you confirm if it activates in the uk. just that the uk price is a little pricey for my pocket at the moment.

  28. Jake Says:
    September 21st, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I have spoken to Adobe and they have said that you will be able to activate it BUT you will not be eligible for UK updates or technical assistance.

    You can however use US technical assistance and buy updates from so no great loss…

  29. Brian M Says:
    December 28th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Have used CS web premium suite for years upgrading every couple of years. Have now had enough of their unreliable software (products crash a lot), inflated prices and price discrimination against the UK. So basically Adobe you have lost another customer.

    This is not just Adobe but a lot of US companies consider UK fair game for inflated prices.


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