Along with many of the current users of Adobe’s range of products I find that I am becoming increasingly involved with the great Adobe Creative Cloud debate. We appear to have few, if any, viable alternatives to Adobe products at present. Don’t misunderstand me; I believe that there is still nothing on the market that comes close to the quality of Adobe applications, taken as a whole. Individually one or two applications may be bettered in some areas, but that’s only to be expected. As a group of linked products they are unbeatable. And therein lies the problem.

Individually, some might argue that perhaps Aperture is better than Lightroom, but I'm not sure what there is, if anything, out there that does what Photoshop and Bridge are capable of, for example. Similarly InDesign has usurped the Quark Xpress stranglehold of a few years ago to become the market leader, only for Adobe to transform themselves into the maligned Quark. Freehand was brilliant - until Adobe bought Macromedia and scrapped the opposition to Illustrator. Adobe has become the bully on the block and needs to be reminded that without us, the users, they would have nothing.

However, when I purchase software I expect to have the right to ‘own’ it (within the terms of the current generation of licences) and continue to use it regardless of my internet connection, whether I have a year off work, whether I spend a year in the remote jungles of Brazil, whether I change my computer or whether I just can’t be bothered to check. I want to have the choice of when, or indeed if I update my software. If money is tight for a time I don’t want to find that my software becomes unusable, thus perhaps not allowing me to do work that would enable my revenue stream to improve.

On the opposite side of the coin, what happens to our ‘Cloud’ software if Adobe goes bust after granting us all a ‘limited lease licence’? You think that it couldn’t happen? Look at the rapid demise of Kodak, the supposed bastion of 20th century photography. Adobe already charge a great deal for their software, but this may well prove to be the tipping point for another company to finally offer a sensibly priced range of alternative applications and break the stranglehold that Adobe has over the industry.

I suspect that if a stand is not taken, this new model of leasing software will be commonplace in a few years and we will wonder what all the fuss was about. I am astounded that Adobe state that buying the 'normal' package is considered 'value for money' at around £600 per annum. I guess that if you buy the whole Creative Suite - from scratch - then it's not so terrible for the first three years of use, but it does overlook, quite conveniently, the fact that a huge number of users only need to make a significant upgrade every 18 months to two years and even then it may well only be to a few of the applications within the Creative Suite. This then makes it an incredibly expensive Cloud.

I use two licenced copies of Photoshop on a daily basis (I note that Lightroom appears not to be incorporated in the Creative Cloud - or Fog as I call it, by default although it can be licenced with Photoshop as a package), so at first glance the price of around £20 a month seems to be not so terrible, being around the same as a mobile phone contract, but it’s still £240 a year, every year, upgrades or not. This also ignores the fact that I already own InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat Professional in earlier versions that do exactly what I want without upgrading and that I have fully paid for. It also ignores the fact that other software manufacturers may also feel the urge to jump on the Cloud bandwagon, meaning that there will be a great number of ‘only £20 a month’ licence fees that need paying every month. I want to pay a one-off fee and own my software and then have the choice of whether to pay for further upgrades on an ad hoc basis or not.

There is also nothing to stop Adobe raising the prices when they feel like it, changing the terms of the licensing when they feel like it or even discontinuing the application when they feel like it. This is terrible for any business, but more so for the millions of one-man business owners who have trustingly put all their eggs in one Adobe basket over the years.

The only plus side of the deal that I can establish is that the software is always up to date - providing you have an internet connection and continue to pay, and pay and pay. For a large number of users I suspect that it doesn’t really matter much if the software is up-to-date or lagging behind the updates, so I bet this gets right up Adobe’s nose.

With the normal model of software, once purchased you can continue to use it so long as your computer supports it or you don't break it. Imagine having to buy a new car every time the road maps needed updating. I don't see why both models of purchasing shouldn’t run side by side as Apple, for example, appear to sell well engineered software for a lot less and much more easily, so why can't Adobe follow the similar route? I imagine that Apple decided that good but relatively cheap software with regular free upgrades was a much more successful route to ensuring that everyone had legally licensed software as well as ensuring a regular revenue stream, rather than Adobe's route which has been increasingly to ‘encourage’ users to try to bypass the licensing because costs are so high. Of course I acknowledge that Apple is primarily a hardware provider, rather than a software provider, so the business model is not quite the same.

The trouble with Adobe's greedy plan is that there is no real alternative at the moment and they know it. I recently tried to do everything that I do on a daily basis with Bridge, Photoshop and Lightroom by using only Aperture and that's no longer supported by Apple. It's nearly impossible to do the job with the same degree of precision, speed and quality, despite it being a great application. Unless a stand is taken early, I fear that I’ll have no choice but to go with the flow, however much I hate being coerced down that path.

Put simply, I don’t want to be put in front of an Adobe firing squad and told, “Pay up or else!”

Governments always refuse to pay up in hostage situations, so they are fond of telling us; so should we.


Get Off My (Adobe Creative) Cloud! Part 1