Adobe’s Creative Cloud

It seems like Adobe’s “Creative Cloud” offering is an attractive solution for those who would like to avail themselves of some of the powerful tools Adobe offers. Except for the sharp pokes in the eye you may experience.  You can read below the explication of my cynicism, but before that, let me point out some things you may already know.

The Adobe Creative Cloud solution means you pay a monthly cost. For that monthly cost you get the privilege of using any software that Adobe decides to put into its “Creative Cloud”. As a photographer the two most obvious gotta have items are Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4.

If you already have a licensed product the currently offered Creative Cloud monthly rate is $29.99.  Multiply that by 12 ($360) and you can see that you’re going to spend about twice what it would cost you to make annual upgrades ($200 for Photoshop CS5 to CS6). The total seems like a negative until you realize it also means you can install and use all those  other Cloud applications like Premiere, Illustrator, After Effects, Dreamweaver.  Adobe also offers a “single product” Cloud License at $240/year. But that doesn’t make sense if you’re only interested in bumping up your Photoshop – unless it’s the Extended version which costs more to upgrade annually ($400).

The Creative Cloud monthly arrangement is good for Adobe, of course, because they produce a nice predictable revenue stream – which in turn is good for us because it keeps their people employed and working toward bigger and better things.

The Great Cloud

Effectively you can test drive ANYTHING Adobe has added to the cloud for a few months (not just 30 days). And if you like it, keep paying and keep using it. If you read the Adobe FAQ and BLOGs and web pages you will notice Adobe touts all kinds of benefits, but if you are Photoshop and Lightroom only kind of user most of the pluses do not amount to any significant dollar savings to you.  And let’s be honest, sometimes upgrades and fixes do more harm than good.

Why I Am Not (Yet) A Believer

I’ve been burned and inconvenienced several times in the past trying to upgrade, uninstall and reinstall Adobe products (Photoshop CS2, 3 and 5). While  the latest versions of software seem more reliable, a quick read of the Adobe Forums reveals that there are a number of show stopping issues with Creative Cloud that go beyond mere cynicism.

  1. Creative Cloud wants to periodically check to be sure you still have a valid license – and the internet is needed for that however:
    • Adobe has had bouts of “degraded performance” (which translated means you can’t do ‘nuthin). The most recent example was Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
    • If the license check happens to fall on the first day of your two-week hiatus from the internet your ability to use the software comes to a SCREECHING halt on the 7th day. God rested on the seventh day but Adobe software becomes catatonic. When the clock runs out the grace runs out too. You get DEAD lifeless software. Some users have reported how embarrassing it has been for them to fire up their software at a customer site only to be humiliated by a “license out of date” window.
      <EDITORIALIZING: What the heck is Adobe smoking? If they had sense – and I’m sure some of them do, they’d fall back to a 30 day trial or just outright allow 30 days of grace not a week>
  2. Apparently there have been significant interactions between fully licensed software and Cloud licensed software.  With a normal (perpetually) licensed PS5 and a Cloud Licensed PS6 whenever you use PS5, your PS6 license goes into trial mode.  There seems to be a fix for this, but the fix doesn’t seem to be working for everyone.
  3. Adobe doesn’t publish their bugs.  It’s only when you install X with Y that you’ll discover for yourself the daunting problem that these two things create unless you relentlessly scan the internet. Bugs happen. Adobe seems to hope you don’t find out about a bug until it happens to you personally.
  4. Adobe says in their FAQ that under Creative Cloud you have one year to upgrade to the latest release but does not make it clear what happens if you do not. I presume the old version just stops working, which might be unfortunate if a feature you rely on is removed in a later version. You may find yourself S.O.L. (sorry out of luck).
  5. Adobe is unclear about how much “patch and fix” control you can exert.  I’m one of those people who does not install the latest iPhone software until a month has passed. The headaches and hardships of the early adopters have saved me from wasting a lot of my own time.
  6. All this wonderful software has to be downloaded. And it’s huge. LOTS of bandwidth used.
  7. Using Beta versions before installing Cloud software has known problems.
  8. If, heaven forbid, Adobe does go belly up all that great software also goes up in smoke in 30 days or less.
  9. Adobe can raise the price when they wish and as much as they like.
  10. If you decide the Cloud is raining on your wallet and opt out, you either have to stop using those tools or fork over full license costs for what you continue to use. It’s not a rent to own deal, here.
  11. Cloud will aggressively enforce the “two install” maximum. If you install Cloud Applications on more than two machines Adobe wants you to pay multiple licenses.

Bottom line for me right now: I am afraid to load the free trial.  The last time I went with an Adobe free trial I spent several DAYS researching, uninstalling, and reinstalling due to the problems that resulted.

What do you think? Does the cloud make sense for you?  I doubt Adobe is going to read this blog, but if they did, do you have a (family friendly) comment/suggestion or complaint for them?

NOTE: The terms Adobe, Creative Cloud and others are trademarked names.

11 thoughts on “Adobe’s Creative Cloud

  1. Nataliya

    This research is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for sharing it with us! I was at Adobe “Create The Web” conference in San Francisco last week. They advertised Cloud like it was something amazing, looks like the marketing team doing a great job. They also announced new software tools available for web developers for FREE. Basically they completely sold it to me and I was seriously considering join the Cloud. Then I get your email this morning… THANK you for saving me from all of the above!

    1. Steven Christenson

      Nataliya: I’m not trying to say the Cloud is bad – quite the contrary. I’m saying that right now there are some serious issues that aren’t exposed to the light of day unless you scour the Adobe Forums (and even then you’ll not see everything). My biggest fear is it will stay like that for a while.

  2. Alan

    I don’t know why any photographer who already owns PS5 and Lightroom would do this. The upgrade fees are less than the 1 year cost.

    There is one great advantage with the cloud though, you can use both a Windows and a Mac version of the software. There are a couple of plug ins that I really like that are Windows only. Still not worth it though.

  3. Craig Colvin

    You seem to be extrapolating on some of your points to the worse case scenario. A lot of this “issues” apply to the full paid version of Adobe products as well. For example 3, 6, 9, 11 all apply to both Cloud and paid versions.

    I’m not sure you have #1 right, or it is an edge case. The software has to connect within a 30 day window. I’m not quite following where the 1 week comes from. I’ve gone on vacation without internet for 2.5 weeks with the Cloud and my software still worked.

    For #5 you have complete control. You determine whether you want to download updates or not, just like the paid version.

    There are issues of #7 applying to paid versions as well and is not Cloud specific. It’s always a good idea to uninstall betas before installing full releases.

    #8 is a valid but unlikely point. If they did go belly up your paid version would probably be useful for another year or 2 before somebody else came along with a better product.

    #9 my price is locked in for a year.

    #10 this was my biggest concern when I signed up, but for the cost of upgrading for the Paid versions I can get 2 years of Cloud (because of the first year discount). I was going to pay the money anyway for 1 years version, and I would upgrade next year, so even if it doesn’t work out in the next year, I can buy CS7 when it is available and still not be out any additional money.

    1. Steven Christenson

      Thanks for your responses, Craig.
      I’m going to nitpick with you.
      3 yep. Applies to all Adobe software. But now Adobe has created a scenario where you’re very likely to try a lot more than you ever would otherwise.

      6 and 9 only apply to Cloud!
      #6: You can buy DVDs in stores for the non-cloud versions so you don’t have to download.
      And #9 I don’t care if Adobe raises the price of software I have already fully licensed – I can still keep using what I already paid for as long as it still works. I’ve got an astrophotography buddy who is still perfectly happy with his CS2 version of Photoshop and all of his plugins still work. Not so with Cloud. Adobe has said you have 1 year to upgrade (or else!). And Adobe can raise the price of the cloud as they wish.

      The “one week” window comes from published reports of real users. But here is a scenario: Because you primarily work on your desktop machine you don’t use ANY Adobe Software on your laptop for 25 days. You grab your laptop and go off on a 3 week expedition without the internet. On the 26 through 31st days since the laptop last connected to the internet you may be fine. OR it could be that on the FIRST day you fire it up, it’s already 8 days past when it thought it needed to check and it’s DEAD. That is NOT a scenario you have to worry about with the fully licensed software.

      #5: I’m glad to hear they are offering more control, though I’m skeptical. Can I selectively install all updates, and patches? Does Adobe fully publish what the updates/patches/fixes are? And, can I undo them? Worse case for a box install is I use Adobe Cleaner and start over (and I’ve had to do that!)

      #8: My permanently licensed product will continue to work whether Adobe lives or dies and for as long as I have a computer to run it on. Saying someone may come along with a better product is irrelevant.

      #9: Are you sure it’s locked in for a year? If so, why does the Cloud insist on checking your license monthly and locking you out if it’s not able to get there?

      On #10 I’ll pick with you again. To drop the cloud and do an upgrade after the second-year only remotely makes financial sense if you already have a permanently licensed suite. If, for example, your first use of LightRoom was through the cloud when you stop paying for the cloud, you now must pay for a full price permanent license. Adobe has not said anything to indicate otherwise.

  4. Steven Christenson

    NOTE: Apparently if Creative Cloud is cancelled, or Adobe goes belly up, all applications in creative cloud will be available for a free perpetual license. Likewise if any application is removed from the cloud, this per the FAQ:

    In the event that Adobe decides to discontinue any of the products in Creative Cloud, we will make the most recent version of the product available for download free of charge to active Creative Cloud members for a period no less than 90 days. Such downloads will not require a subscription and will be licensed on an as-is, no warranty basis, and no support or updates of any kind will be provided.

  5. Steven Christenson

    Users have reported “cloud failures” and bricked apps. I’m copying here in the event that the original post is removed:

    17. John_R_SF, Nov 25, 2012 4:04 PM
    Creative Cloud’s licensing system *cannot* be trusted. Believe me, your apps could go dead at any time. I was using mine just fine yesterday, and this morning it said my subscription had “expired” even though I was just billed two days ago (and the charge went through, I checked with the bank). Tech support said to uninstall and reinstall. That did nothing but reset everything to a trial version, which won’t work because I already used the trial version on my machine in the past. I was told the issue would be escalated and that I’d hear from someone in 2-3 days. Basically, I have lost a full week of productive work, and spent more than 8 hours (including hold times) trying to get the product I paid for to actually continue working on my machine.

    As tempting as Creative Cloud sounds, if you are doing mission critical applications, steer clear of it. Fortunately, I had an old DVD of CS4 I was able to get up and running so I can at least do *some* work. I’m actually thinking of just sticking with this and cancelling Creative Cloud because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust it again, if Adobe can even get it working for me (which I strongly have my doubts–their support doesn’t seem to be the best and brightest).

    This paranoid fear of software piracy is making it so that legitimate users are being penalized, while the pirates are sitting there laughing at us. If I were unscrupulous, I’d use a cracked version and be working just fine right now. Instead, I’m trying to do the right thing, and being punished by Adobe’s horrible licensing implementation.

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