Photoshop Creative Cloud – The road ahead


Adobe announced a new version of Photoshop with some cool new features and all anyone can talk about is the end of “boxed” software and the move to a subscription based model. The general consensus on this is that it sucks for hobbyists and those that didn’t upgrade to a new version every time in the past. That financially the monthly payment seemed to be a money grab from Adobe. I started to think about what a subscription model really means and why Adobe did it. (Other than trying to just get more money)

Let me be really clear here:

  • I do not work for Adobe.
  • I do not get my Adobe software for free.
  • I have no information from any sources other than what I read on public news outlets.
  • This is all speculation on my part.

The Adobe CC programs, that is the newly branded Creative Cloud versions like Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC will no longer get new versions updates. There will not be a Photoshop CC2 or Photoshop CC3, instead they will get small updates constantly. This means that when the engineers at Adobe come up with a slightly better blur tool, it just gets added. The want to tweak the brush engine, they just do it. Want to add a new tool to deal with the retina display on a device- done. It also means that you get new functionality all the time. Think about it for a minute, they no longer have to try to make a “new version” every year with enough updates in it to make people go out and by the new software. They can just keep adding to the application whenever they want. In theory this is AWESOME. You no longer have to wait until enough cool things are ready for an upgrade, they will just be pushed out to the software constantly. This allows Adobe to be on the cutting edge at all times.

This explains why there will be no standalone version. If you never really update the version, it is impossible to decide what copy should be selling in the stores and what upgrades are included and what need to be paid for. It’s a brilliant idea and can really benefit those using the software. No more waiting a year or 18 months for the next “big improvement” they are just there when ready. And think of it from a teacher’s point of view. There will only be two versions of Photoshop going forward. Those who opt out of the cloud and have Photoshop CS6 and those in the cloud with Photoshop CC. You can just say before each seminar or training video that this either works with CS6 or not.

To make this really work, Adobe needs to push out more than just a handful of small improvements every 6 – 8 months. There needs to be a constant stream of improvements to the software. These updates need to keep the users happy with their rental agreement forever. That time schedule could see an increase in bugs and other software issues. One of the reasons it takes 12 – 18 months to release a new version is the extensive beta testing on a wide variety of platforms to make sure the program actually works. That testing schedule will also have to be increased. But lets say that Adobe gets all that fixed and the CC applications start to get updates all the time and new features are rolled out on a regular basis, I still have the following concerns.

  • The need for new hardware. At some point this laptop will be outdated and underpowered. Right now it runs just fine, even though it is 2 years old. At some point, Photoshop and Lightroom will no longer run on this machine in the same way as they stopped running on my old MacPro desktop that used the pre Intel chipset. Wasn’t a problem back then, I just didn’t upgrade to the new version until I had scraped together enough money to upgrade my system.
  • No way to own a version. With the creative cloud, there is no way to opt out and just buy the software. Unless Adobe is going to come up with a way to allow people to leave and either keep or pay for the current version of Photoshop that they are using. This means that if you use the cloud for a couple of years (lets say 8 years) and then you retire. No longer earning money with photography, no longer running a business, and you want to just buy the software so that you can still edit images in the way you have for years, but this time it’s just of the grandkids or of your vacations. You will either have to keep paying or hope that Adobe still sells Photoshop CS6.
  • Future pricing. There has a lot been said about if the pricing structure by Adobe is fair or not fair or if it’s worth it or not. My concern is that they can raise the price at any point. (Well, at any year point) So you start off at $29.99 for the first year (have to commit to a year for that price) then you go to $49.99 for the second year (have to commit to a year plan to get that price) then when you are about to sign up for the third year, Adobe tells you the price is going up to $54.99. OK, it’s only $5 a month. Lets say that they raise the price $5 a year. 8 years from now, you will be paying $ 79.99 a month for the Creative cloud. Thats $948.00 a year. Im not saying they are going to raise the price $5 a year, I’m just saying that they could. And going back to my previous point, if you want out at that time……
  • What about Lightroom. I use Lightroom a lot. I know it is part of the Creative Cloud but is still available as a separate program. From what i have read, Lightroom is going to be updated differently going forward in the same way as Photoshop was updated differently since the inception of the Creative Cloud and the release of Photoshop CS6.
  • Publishing. As an author, I see a nightmare looming. Without clear updates and versions, knowing which book is up to date with your software will become way more difficult. Right now I have a bunch of books on my shelves on using Photoshop. Each one is easily identified by the version of Photoshop it is meant for, but if i am right and the Photoshop CC doesn’t get version updates then how are publishers going to name the books so that the target audience actually gets the right information?

Now, if I am wrong, and Adobe still plans on the traditional updates so in 1-2 years we see Photoshop CC2 and the then  Photoshop CC3, I see no reason why those can’t be for sale as standalone software for those that don’t want to rent. The issue that I  (and a lot of people) have right now is that we don’t know what Adobe is going to do… and that fear and uncertainty is really unpleasant.

What are your thoughts…


  1. Alan,

    Excellent points.

    I had wondered how the new CC structure would affect publishers and authors.

    These are most certainly unsettling events.

  2. You expressed exactly what I was attempting to do yesterday, but only better, thank you.

  3. My thought is that Adobe is looking for a way to get a continuous, guaranteed revenue stream and also stay current and relevant to popular culture. Also, this would shed light on other software that is not as well-known as Photoshop. Say you are in the Creative Cloud, stumble across Adobe Muse and use it for your website. You love the results so you tell your friends about it. You might not have even known that the product existed.

    So, pros for Adobe:
    -continuous, guaranteed monthly revenue (not just big spikes when a new version comes out)
    -the lower monthly price point will increase their market drastically – a lot of people don’t think long-term so they will just think . . . I can afford 30 bucks a month. Somehow, 30 buck a month seems more manageable then making yourself save for months to afford one software program. We are becoming a society that craves instant gratification and this seems to be tying into that. Why wait one year, saving 100 bucks a month when I can just fork out 30 bucks a month and get what I want now.
    -not seen as a dinosaur to the youth . . . they are on trend with including social media and constant sharing of one’s life
    -easy way to introduce new products to people who would otherwise never know they existed.
    -they can be a one stop shop for creativity, no need to look elsewhere
    -ease of use anywhere, anytime, on any mobile device.

    Although I think some people will want a stand-alone version, it seems that Adobe is moving away from that business model because that is what the market is indicating. Adobe is adapting. Yes, the above are pros for Adobe but they are also pros for the average consumer. Adobe is staying on-trend to keep up with the ever-changing way everyone uses the Internet, social media and constant contact. With smart phones, tablets and laptops, people need the option to use the software with ease wherever they go on whichever mobile device they choose to bring with them.

    The price is concerning, but if they make the price too high people will look elsewhere and that will force them to lower their price to be competitive.

  4. This is a move Adobe is making because they were unable to provide meaningful upgrades that compelled users to upgrade every to every new version. What is shocking to me is instead of creating a new source of revenue by adding a subscription model they are just taking a chance that a subscription only model will have a larger revenue than having a perpetual and subscription model. The mixed license model is what most software makers have or are moving to. Not going subscription only.
    What makes Adobe’s move shocking is that in 2012 their subscription licensing only accounted for 15% of their total revenue according to Adobe’s 10-K SEC filings.
    I think Adobe will only bring back perpetual licenses or lowers the price is if the subscription model fails to increase revenue. But we won’t know this until Jun or July of 2014 when the low introductory pricing ends and they find out how many customers stop paying when the price goes up to the normal month to month price.
    This could be a good time for a company with deep pockets like Google/Nik or a small company like OnOne with the backing of lets say Microsoft to develop a true alternative to Photoshop and pick up the customers that Adobe is willing to cut off.
    I will be using Photoshop CS6 for now and not moving to the subscription model. I am also looking into PhaseOne’s Capture One Pro 7 as an alternative to Lightroom just in case Adobe moves that to a subscription only products at too high a monthly price.

    • Yes, I too think that this is the heart of what is happening. Adobe is not satisfied with people upgrading only every 1.5 versions (guessed avarage) and will now implement this business model in hopes that it can force this additional revenue out of users who could do without the latest tools, but not without PS altogether.

  5. As a professional (OK, semi pro in my case), we take pride in our tools. Maybe we rent a 400mm f2.8 for a special assignment or some extra lighting equip for a job. But we OWN our camera, tripod, some lenses, computers etc. We “own” (lease for ever) our software. To me, renting software is like renting a house, you are paying the owners mortgage. I’d rather be putting the money INTO my own house. At some point it’s all mine. I am getting along very well with CS3 and LR 3 and my well used Nikon D3s. Would I like a D4 or CS6, sure and it looks like I’ll BUY CS6 just to be assured that I will have an up to date version. Someone made an analogy to a drug dealer. Cheap intro price then you have to go to him forever to satisfy your need. Consider me old school, but I like to know that I’m “paid up” and “own” my software.
    I can see Adobe’s advantage of revenue stream, but it’s not for me. Especially the whole suite. All I need is PS and LR and I’m good to go. I like the way LR is cross platform because I’m still using a PC at home and have a new MacBookPro (my first generation intel MBP is NOT serviceable)….planned obsolesce!! I had a savings plan in effect for equip/software upgrades, so that moved to the front of the payout line. Now to buy CS6 is next on the list. Maybe in 2 -3 years, I’ll RENT just PS if I deem the upgrades worth it. I just don’t like being dependent on someone else. If something should happen to MY revenue stream, like catastrophic illness (I already get cancer treatments), I know I can continue working.
    Thank you Alan for providing a forum. I’ll be first to sign up if you have the concert class in Vegas. PSW is another expense that I’ve been budgeting for. With airfare from Hawaii, hotel, and tuition, it’s a lot. Fortunately, I’ve won a ticket to PSW and MAY have enough U.A. mileage for airfare if U.A. doesn’t have a “gotcha” clause like every other time I’ve tried to use it. alohadios, Jock

  6. As another semi pro CC looks very different to me depending on my point of view.
    on one hand getting all the adobe applications for such a ‘small’ fee seems like too good a deal to be true.
    From my own perspective though the only Adobe product I use is Photoshop.
    In order to use this I can subscribe to a single app for $9:99. this seems like a good deal even if Adobe were to use their old trick of charging the same numbers 9:99 in GBP rather than USD.
    is usually means that we pay more than 50% more than US customers.
    However Adobe have decided to really push the boat out and charge a whopping £17:58……….let me put that in USD for you $27:25 at todays prices.
    That is a whopping 272.5% increase in cost which is waaaaaaaay more than I am willing to pay.

    I’d love to be able to justify paying that kind of money but it’s just not on.

    Sorry if I’ve hijacked your discussion but I’m seriously annoyed with Adobe at the moment.

  7. I want to own my software. Its nice to have the option to use the cloud but I want the option to either have my software or have it it in the could.

    I am really chaffed that I own cs6 but I have to pay a monthly fee for CC. God forbid I am layed off from work. Now I cant pay my monthy fee for photoshop.


  8. Yep Ive just been layed off work. Now I cant get more work because I cant afford to make the payment to Adobe for photoshop every month.

    I love this brilliant model they have come up with.

  9. This is an excellent point. We are going to give them access to our bank to pull money out every month? I have lots of ups and downs as a photog. Now I have to worry about making the $20 a month fee or risk losing access to a program I’ve been paying for already for many months previous?

    This is too much control they want, and too much money.
    In addition, they ruined the crop tool with CS6. No real classic mode either.

    I’ll use CS6 until it can’t be installed on a new OS, whenever that may be (actually am using CS4 right now because of the rotten new crop tool in 6). But there will come a time when CS6 won’t be supported. Hopefully by then there will be some kind of alternative, in the form of another competing program or maybe Adobe will have backed off the forced subscription model by then.

    Lack of competition is what caused this. We’ll see if the free market can respond in some way. Might just have to get used to using another program. There’s always a way. I for one will not be forced into this internet thing.

    They are putting us in a very tough spot.


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