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Posted on May 10th, 2013 by Ewen Rankin

Why I won’t subscribe to Creative Cloud

Photoshop CS 6

This week, Adobe formally announced that it would cease development of Creative Suite and focus all its efforts on delivering its collection of apps via Creative Cloud.

The outpouring of rage has been considerable. Twitter has been ablaze, with the majority calling for human sacrifices in the Adobe boardroom. Others who are already using Creative Cloud have been wondering what the fuss is about, claiming it’s a great service.

I’m not using Creative Cloud yet, but I’ll eventually be forced to if I want to update Photoshop and the other apps I use as a professional photographer. So what’s the problem?

The idea of having to maintain a subscription just to keep those apps working means I’m beginning to look elsewhere

It’s one of simply not feeling like a valued customer any more. I’ve bought every other version of Photoshop since version 7 in 2002. I had CS2, then CS4 and then relented and bought CS5 as soon as it came out. Mostly for its features, which looked – and were – amazing, but which, ultimately, I’ve seldom used, if at all. With hindsight, the vast majority of what I do now could have been done with version 7.

What really rankles isn’t the money I’ve spent or the lack of advancement, however, but the fact that I’ve been forced into other, less-efficient workflows by software upgrades or apparent killing of functionality without good reason.

My biggest gripe this year was the blocking of CameraRaw 7.3 from use on CS5. CS5 is less that 18 months old and, for me, the upgrade to CameraRaw was an essential feature. On buying a Canon 6D, I found that the output raw file wasn’t compatible with the old CameraRaw software. The block on CameraRaw 7.3 meant that I was now forced to either join the Creative Cloud, buy CS6 or start using the free DNG Converter.

I did the latter, which has added yet another stage to my workflow. This may sound like a petty gripe, but I can take and process up to 2,000 images per week and that extra step takes time, not to mention the fact that most photographers have a healthy dose of OCD, which means that we destroy nothing and keep everything (I have film in my attic from 20 years ago, and even though some of it is fogged, I still can’t bring myself to throw it away). So, I now have to keep the original raw files and converter DNGs, and it’s all just become too much.

Now, I find Adobe’s trying to railroad me into paying a monthly subscription. Even worse, the Creative Cloud is more expensive in this part of the world than others. Our American cousins pay $29.99 (£18.50) for the Creative Cloud subscription; in the UK, we pay £27.99 for exactly the same thing.

I’ve never been deluded that I “owned” Photoshop; it has always been licensed to me. But the idea of having to maintain a subscription just to keep those apps working means I’m beginning to look elsewhere.

There’s so much great software out there with incredibly powerful raw processors. When you wake up and see the great work being done by Acorn 4, GIMP, Pixelmator and many others, you won’t hesitate to step away. I’m already well down the exit path.

Ewen Rankin is a professional photographer and runs the British Tech Network

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37 Responses to “ Why I won’t subscribe to Creative Cloud ”

  1. wittgenfrog Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I’ll admit to be highly ‘conflicted’ over this, as with Office by subscription.

    Firstly the disparity in costs is indeed shameful, and we need the OFT or someone to come in and sort out these US profiteers… (fat chance!).

    However the principle of subscription over purchase, (especially if it were at £9pcm less!)doesn’t totally freak me out.

    We’re habituated to the notion that we have perpetual use of the contents of the Software DVD, but not to perpetual Internet access, no matter how much we’ve paid over the years.
    Why the difference?
    A (Digital) life without internet connectivity is unthinkable, nearly impossible, but one without Photoshop merely annoying. As you say, there are alternatives.

    So we calmly accept that we shell-out a regular, and unavoidable subscription to our ISP (or Water Company, or Electricity, or…) but can’t stomach doing the same for software.
    Its illogical Captain….

  2. Surefire Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    @ Wittgenfrog
    “but can’t stomach doing the same for software.
    Its illogical Captain….”
    No it isn’t. Water, gas, and electricity companies have to keep spending money to provide you with the service so, naturally, you have to keep paying.
    Once you have bought software there is no general requirement for the producer to expend any more money or effort for you to continue using it. Therefore you do not keep paying.
    Perfectly logical.

  3. wittgenfrog Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Certainly sounds plausible, but Shirley software companies invest the odd penny or two in development?

    Of course we could have ’stopped’ at (say) Windows 95, and all the Applications we bought to go with it. I’m sure a plethora of PcPro readers will say that’s just what they’ve done….
    Of course in that mythic ‘real world’ which we now inhabit we rarely keep tech goods for more than a few years. This doesn’t always necessitate, but usually presages upgrading our applications too: to get better features and performance or ease of use. I’m sanguine about paying Adobe or MS £500+ over 4 years to always have up-to-date packages, rather than pay £500 every four years to buy the boxes….

    Of course the potential ‘Big Brother’ elements, as elucidated throughout this month’s PCPro by various contributors ARE important.
    In my view these moves are symptomatic of, not causal to the way our Society and Freedoms are headed….

  4. Tony Coleby Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I’m sure this is frustration creep on your part and now is the time to vent.

    I totally agree with your sentiments but in the end £27.99 a month for the next most valuable tool after your camera and your brain is fairly reasonable considering what a busy photographer can earn.

  5. Andrew Robinson Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    On the subject of upgrades, part of the problem with the cloud only model is that it takes away any incentive for Adobe to keep improving their software. They had to make CS6 a significant improvement, or people would skip it. Their solution to this is not to make CS7 really good, but to lock people into a model where they have to pay whatever they tell you them pay with no guarantee that there will be any improvements at all. I’ve been a Photoshop user since version 2.0 (no, not CS2, version 2, before there was CMYK support!), I bought the CS6 Master Suite, and I have a pot of money set aside to upgrade it to CS7… but Adobe won’t get a single penny out of me unless they abandon CC-only. I just don’t trust them enough to let them hold all my work to ransom under an agreement where they don’t have to deliver any updates and can raise prices to whatever they choose, whenever they choose.

    There’s a petition against the CC only model here, and it’s just about to hit 5,000 signatures:

  6. WG Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Always a Paintshop Pro Man Myself.
    It was good enough to be featured in Computer Arts Years Ago.

    Tried various versions of Photoshop but will not for renting it by the month. Even output in Music biz is now mostly CD’s which are so small I think a good mobile could probably do the job.

    Most of so called new features only prompted by Marketing Moths.

  7. ahammon Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    As a graphic designer, I just don’t like the idea that I could lose access to the tools of my trade (and ability to open old projects) if I miss a payment(s), for any reason (recession, illness etc).
    And if I didn’t have the money to restart subscribing, then how am I going to make that money without my tools?

  8. ahammon Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Just another point:
    I work(ed) for a couple of local charities who have licenses for CS3 & CS4 and would not be able to pay a subscription due to limitations on how their (irregular) funding is paid and has to be spent (in under a year).
    So at a stroke they have forced out a couple of customers who rely on their products.

  9. Alperian Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I am very slow. I just realised that Adobe got rid of Flash not because Jobs said so, but after all of the gun-smoke clears it gives Adobe the next 10 years of development cycles for the lame substitute ‘Edge’ which of course everyone ‘MUST HAVE’. Never let a good crisis go to waste. Regular updates of the Edge products alone will make it a necessity for web Developers.

    Regarding this subscription thing. CSXxxx’s are Adobe’s products to do with what they wish. There are no suite regulators (OfApp??) to keep them in line. Only their shareholders. I won’t be taking it up for over a year though at least if I can help it.

    The UK pricing annoys me though. It is quite fair if you are in the US.

  10. Paul Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    @Tony £27.99 is their sweenter initial price.

    I bet if the subscription model takes off you’ll see that price rise to closer to £50 a month within a few years.

    It doesn’t sound much but if you have 5 other software packages – such as MS Office etc – on subscription it could easily be £3000 a year.

    @Andrew Robinson

    I totally agree. When Adobe come out with a new version I always look at the “whats new” and see if its really worth paying for. And I’m bettering plenty of people think like that.

    With the subscription model they have got you tied in whether they improve it or not.

    I wouldn’t mind so much a system where you paid a subscription but if you stopped paying you had the rights to use the software with upgrades up to that point – but didn’t get new upgrades. Much better than if you stop paying the software you have already paid for stops working!

  11. Doug Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    In Australia Adobe were summoned to a parliamentary enquiry. This caused a sudden price drop to parity with US prices just before they were due to appear.

    Maybe the UK government should start standing up for its citizens as well!

  12. Paul Brasington Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    @Surefire – dead right – software is a product, not a service. Most in-life updates are about removing bugs that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Adobe is promising incremental additions and improvements, but the point is you no longer have a choice about whether you need them. At the bottom of this is the fact that these products (and the same is true of Office) are now so mature that it’s hard to add compelling new features – Plus the fact that they won’t wear out, and suddenly Adobe faces the reality that fewer and fewer people will cough up every year or two when what they have is already meeting their needs. The not-so-clever solution? Redescribe the product as a service (even though it’s not) and hope people will swallow that. CS apps may all be class leading and I guess Adobe’s counting on that, but they’re forgetting the tipping point when “good enough” becomes compelling and they may just have brought that about (there are alternatives, certainly to photoshop, and they’re getting better)

  13. Steve Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I’ve been with Adobe for many many years but I will now look for alternative software in the future

    They have lost me as a customer :(

  14. Alperian Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    @all Give it two-three years and you will all be on it sadly.

  15. Surefire Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    @ Wittgenfrog
    “Of course we could have ’stopped’ at (say) Windows 95, and all the Applications we bought to go with it. I’m sure a plethora of PcPro readers will say that’s just what they’ve done….
    Of course in that mythic ‘real world’ which we now inhabit we rarely keep tech goods for more than a few years”
    The point is that software should be no different to any other product.
    If I buy a car in year X it should be for ME to decide when I want to upgrade it, not BMW.
    If adobe want to finance product research and development then they should do that just like everyone else by developing products that make their customers WANT to buy them, not by forcing them to buy versions that they don’t want.

  16. Surefire Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    There are perfectly good alternatives that this scumbag trick will make a LOT more attractive to a LOT of people.

  17. Dean C Says:
    May 10th, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Ewen , CS5 is now almost 3 years old ! not less than 18 months as you stated …..

  18. Bern Says:
    May 11th, 2013 at 12:41 am

    It’s a shame companies generate bad will by setting up expectations they then fail to meet – Ryanair was the most extreme example of this when they advertised £1 flights and let customers’ annoyance build up over the (inevitable) add ons. In Adobe’s case they’re setting up for a similar fall with people who miss the small print on the upgrade price – it’s only for the first year of subscription, then it goes up to £48 a month.

    Also, they can expect extra frustration from Europeans because Adobe is offering us the worst deals in the world. I’ve looked at all the markets and written up the prices at

  19. John F. Jackson Says:
    May 11th, 2013 at 11:07 am

    There’s a cracking quote over in a MAC forum which sounds like a silly throw away at first … until you realise it is – sadly – true.

    “If you don’t want to pay a king’s ransom for periodic bursts of image editing, purchase Pixelmator and buy a MacBook Pro with the savings.”

    When the cheaper option is to buy an MBP – then you know pricing is out of control!!

    I hope the vast majority make a determined effort to avoid ADOBE and MSFT subscriptions, so that the price comes way down.

    I also hope that there are few clever designers and entrepreneurs out there who seize this opportunity to storm the incumbent’s markets.

  20. Simon Mitchell Says:
    May 12th, 2013 at 2:32 am

    I’ll probably end up subscribing, but to InDesign only.

    InDesign hasn’t had any really useful updates for years (auto numbering endnotes, footnotes within tables, different types of footnote numbering on the same page).

    What we get is lots of fancy stuff that doesn’t actually get used on a day to day basis.

  21. Kevin West Says:
    May 12th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    There is no way I will use the Adobe Creative Cloud.
    why should I there are plenty of other software packages I can use to do the same job, and some are free.
    I want reliability, and with our current internet speed i can see issues with data transfer.
    Why don’t the software developers who use the cloud admit the truth.
    It a way of making maximum profit out of an over priced product.
    Its a new way to combat piracy, even though some smart person will find a way to exploit the security.
    I can see there will be a large dip in Adobe’s profits, not straight away, but when the cloud grinds to a halt.
    Its about time these companies got their heads out of the cloud, and reduced the cost of the software they provide.
    The cost is the biggest cause of piracy.

  22. Tim Shaw Says:
    May 12th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I am not 100% how the cloud works in a practical sense. If I am working on a 128mb file for example, do I have to wait for it to upload before I can work on it?
    Open the wrong file and wait again. Merge two files of that size together and wait some more !!!

    How will people, not in the city centres, but slightly more rural towns etc. manage with 1-4mb download speeds and even lower upload speeds.

    The UK is a long way off giving everyone a fast and reliable broadband speed. My wife shop can only get broadband of .13 download !!! Sure there must be many Adobe users, years away from getting broadband at a useable speed.

  23. Ewen Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 4:54 am

    @Dean. Yes I know. I did mean to say ‘18 months old for me’ and I was talking about 7 months ago

  24. JohnAHind Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Having recently looked at a number of subscription model software services I feel they are all missing a huge trick. What is needed is a “virtual consumable” model were the access to the software is free, but you have to buy a “consumable” which is a proxy for the amount of use the software gets – it might be “paper” or “ink” for example or perhaps more abstract like “cells” in a spreadsheet. The point is that there is no scary recurring charge that continues whether you use the service or not. You buy a package of “consumables” and when they are used up, you buy some more. There may be quantity discounts so it gets cheaper if you buy in bulk.
    For the seller, this has the advantage that their product is economical at all levels of usage and they do not have to segment the market using crude functional restrictions.
    For the buyer, it gives flexibility and peace of mind – you do not have to balance functionality with cost, worry about how many seats you need or keeping track of licences or recurring payments.
    If software producers went this way, they could transition to a model that was demonstrably better for everyone.

  25. David Wright Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 11:29 am

    @Kevin West – I think you misunderstand the Creative Cloud. You download the products and install them locally, just like CS6. The difference is, that they need to ocassionally phone home to check they are still licensed. Apart from that check, you don’t *need* an Internet connection.

    As somebody who has looked at CS, but dismissed it, because I don’t have a over 3K to splurge on the suite, the rental model makes a cheap way to start using the suite. Instead of saving up 50 quid a month for 4 or 5 years, then buying Master Suite, or taking out a loan and paying interest on the purchase price, I can start paying now and use it as long as I want, without paying interest.

    If I decide I don’t need it after 6 months or a year, I can cancel my payments, until I need it again – for example, I used it in 2008-9 in a job, then moved to another job, where I haven’t needed it up until last month, now I need to access several parts of the suite again. If that happens again, i can cancel the subscription and save money.

    The rental method isn’t ideal for everybody, but for people who need it for specific projects, but not long term, or always need the latest version, it can be good value for money.

    For those that have already invested thousands and don’t feel the need to upgrade, it is an afront.

    I think offering the choice is the best way, but don’t discount the rental model, just because it doesn’t seem to suit your way of working.

  26. Pete Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    My biggest gripe is the massive price-gouging on non-US customers. The UK and the EU prices are obscene in comparison – this is what stopped me from signing up to Creative Cloud before (or buying other Adobe products), simply on principle.

    Another very big concern, is the incentive for Adobe to continue to develop their tools after this. With the traditional model they need to come up with something bigger, brighter, better every time if they’re going to persuade people to upgrade. Now they have a guaranteed income stream, and no matter how long they take to produce the next version, and no matter how good or bad it is, their customers will be forced to keep paying. Great for Adobe, terrible for the consumer.

  27. Surefire Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    @David Wright
    I agree. Like MS and their daft button interface in W8, there would be no problem if these arrogant idiots actually listened to what their customers say they want and gave them the OPTION, instead of ramming what they have decided everyone needs down their throats.

  28. Steve Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    So…if I were to subscribe for say a year and then for some reason (hard times etc) could not afford it one month, then I will have nothing to fall back on.

    I think the whole thing is shameful let alone the crazy UK price

    I agree, reduced the cost of the software they provide, the cost is the biggest cause of piracy

  29. Bookmac Says:
    May 14th, 2013 at 11:40 am

    You won’t, millions will, Adobe will not care, you move on to a new product suite for daily use, the world keeps spinning…

  30. Tony Coleby Says:
    May 15th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    @Paul fair point, this wouldn’t be a complete surprise. There alternatives to Office there but Gimp as the best alternative to Photoshop just cannot be taken seriously in a commercial environment.

    @WG: I was 6 months into career as a pro photographer before I finally ditched Paint Shop Pro, it’s a great piece of software that you only realise the shortcomings of when you have to do anything other than basic editing on small files with!

  31. Art Jacks Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 7:36 am

    I upgraded my camera in December, upgraded to CS6 on launch so from a personal point of view I am set for the next 4 years, my issue with Adobe is the lack of choice they intend offering in the future, I am not in business but I would have thought in this financial climate they would be looking to gather income from everywhere they can rather than driving existing loyal customers to seek alternatives.

  32. John Haynes Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I used to have a subscription for Autodesk 3ds Max, when I no longer had a commercial use for it, I stopped it and am entitled to continue using “the last upgrade” I received. With Adobe it is a case of “Stop paying and Stop ALL product Access”. This is wrong. The other problem I have is frankly I just don’t trust Adobe, the “Special Introductory Offers” are just that, they will ramp the price as soon as they can. As long as Lightroom remains standalone, I’m happy but there are alternatives to that too. PS is a brilliant product and currently there is nothing to really touch it but remember, back in the 1990s when I first started using it, it wasn’t that sophisticated and there are alternatives even if they are a bit rough around the edges for now. Adobe really needs some competition to help straighten itself out and ensure long term survival else they may fall victim to the Lotus 123 mistake and wake up to their crown being stolen from them.

  33. Victoria Bampton Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 9:20 am

    > Our American cousins pay $29.99 (£18.50) for the Creative Cloud subscription; in the UK, we pay £27.99 for exactly the same thing.

    To be fair, the US prices are quoted excluding sales taxes, and UK prices are including VAT.

    $29.99 is £19.72 according to right now and the UK list price is £27.34, not £27.99

    If you take 23% Irish VAT off the UK price, to give a direct comparison, it’s £19.72 US vs £22.23 UK. There’s still a difference, of course, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it first sounds.

  34. Roger Moss Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 9:55 am

    It’s an important principle at stake here – who’s serving whom. And I want tools which work for me when I want them, not dependent upon a working web connection.
    Consumer-power could swing this.If people don’t cave in to Adobe’s arm-wrenching the company will be forced to play fair – it’s how the market works, but it takes nerve.

  35. Creative Cod Says:
    May 16th, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    My advice buy up what you need application wise from the current CS6 offering and simply stop upgrading until the inevitable U-Turn.

    In a recession I actually find this quite liberating, as the money I would have put by to pay for CS8 can now be spent more wisely elsewhere.

    If Corel have any sense at all this is a golden opportunity for them to put some serious work into catching up with Adobe, perhaps with the Draw Suite or by bringing Gimp into the fold and pouring in man hours to make it production ready.

  36. Bill Maslen Says:
    June 4th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    A point that hasn’t really been made yet is that Adobe have what could be described as a quasi-monopoly on graphical software. Others have already remarked that once you’ve been hooked into subscribing, you’ll find the prices start creeping up (and they’re not low to start with). Are Adobe’s products really so far in advance of everybody else’s? Certainly Microsoft’s products are not (especially if you ignore the many infuriating articles about “free” Office alternatives and start investigating the paid-for ones). I honestly don’t think much of Adobe’s products, although I don’t have to use them on a daily basis. I have played with products that appear to have much the same functionality – and have much more user-friendly interfaces (Xara springs to mind, for example). Adobe benefits from inertia – as does Microsoft. After all, if you spend years familiarising yourself with a complex software tool, you’re going to be pretty reluctant to abandon it. And yet I suspect there are tools out there with a much shallower learning curve, and with much the same range of functions. I’ve just watched a mate of mine – a film director – make the transition to HitFilm from his Adobe editing suite. And there’s an encouraging message for small software developers: people will (eventually) change if your product is good enough!

  37. commonbeing Says:
    September 9th, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    yes the price hike for UK customers is a dirty trick which not only Adobe are guilty of, the UK is a soft target for many companies who hate the British and is verging on a type of racism.
    It probably boils down to USA companies feeling quite insecure of their place in the economic world and willing to use every dirty trick in the book to hold onto power, for example NSA is spying on foreign companies for economic edge, but it’s only a matter of time before new software rivals emerge for Asia offering serious competition and upturn US software companies, unless of course the US doesn’t starts a war first, this whole climate change/global warming crap was just a sneaky economic tool to slow the economies of emerging countries, forcing them to sign carbon agreements or face the consequences of trade embargoes and alike, they even give Gore a Nobel price to add weight the the lie, which was started by you guessed it the USA.

    Another downside to creative cloud is that you will not be able to transfer your licenses like your old hard copy versions, if you decide to up sticks and leave Adobe’s little band wagon.


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