Last week Adobe announced a big change in their product offerings through a complete shift to their cloud-based platform. This shift has re-worked the established expectation in paying a lot of money once for each update to a more modern subscription architecture.
The response already has been almost unanimously negative, given that Adobe’s force-of-change is based on an ostensibly un-popular option that was introduced last year.
Adobe argues that, though this change might appear as more of a company v. user business move, CC is something that will heavily benefit the many professional and casual Adobe users alike - including heavy savings in price.
Many have done the math, calculating how much less or more the Creative Suite costs them depending on what applications they use and how often they upgrade. Put simply, if you were to upgrade yearly anyways and use more than one app, you’d spend approximately $300 per app or less — cheaper than buying the software outright. The more apps you use, the better deal Creative Suite becomes.
Before the major shift to mobile in the last five or so years, Adobe’s model thus-far was very much the norm for purchasing software. Like a video game, every iteration is a wholly separate product from the last, and thus the user pays to buy the new software. It took a while for users to abandon this sort of thinking and adopt the “app” model as ushered in by iOS and later Android, OS X, and eventually Windows. Just now professionals are beginning to accept the small-package app as offered by an app store as something to take seriously.
Adobe’s software, however, has always remained a fragment from that past of heavy-duty iterations and heavy-duty prices. And that’s what they’ve set out to change. These products will now feel (somewhat) more like the light-weight apps we now use, but won’t abandon the large price necessary for such hefty applications.
That makes sense, but it’s the subscription model that’s made this news a stinker. Right now, the product subscriptions that I pay for are Dollar Shave Club and the Magazine. That’s it. The Magazine’s model is based on the print-based establishment that historically works; and DSC is an exploration of what we could use subscriptions for alternatively.
Subscription services are compelling when there’s not only a final price savings involved, but when it takes care of something that we’d otherwise have to think about regularly. Classically, the magazine subscription model allowed the establishment of a regular readership, and set income for the publisher. And it’s given readers the service of receiving their regular reading automatically. The Dollar Shave Club, on the other hand, works on the old milk service model of paying for something you’d need to buy at a store regularly otherwise, and thus offering savings by cutting out the added costs of retail.
Software is a slightly different product-type when compared to these two examples. It is technically something that requires upkeep or maintenance, but that shouldn’t be on the consumer to think about. It’s solely the developer’s job to provide that regularity. The only thing we should need to worry about is whether we want to purchase that software immediately, and thus allow the developer to stay on the upkeep.
Unlike magazines and razor blades, software is a one time purchase for the user and a long-term project for the creator.
But imagine someone ten or so years in the future who has just begun using Adobe CC products. If what was then reality was the $50-a-month model, paying $1600 up front might sound insane to them. That’s why I think that, because Adobe’s software has been and always will be something wholly different from common applications, this new model might be sustainable.
What Adobe seems to be doing is conforming the Creative Suite into the way software is going into the future, but still establishing a differentiator from the less feature-rich apps that it will compete with. When you think of it that way, this is smart. But now it’s a matter of toughening out this first critical wave and breaking the industry’s habits.