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Last week Adobe announced that it would be moving its entire ‘creative suite’ over to a cloud-based subscription service. Such a service would follow the models of Netflix and Spotify, encouraging users to pay a monthly subscription (£33) to download and use the company’s software.
This represents the latest move in a much larger effort to shift all technology into the online realm. From streaming music to cloud-based communications, it appears that actually owning what you pay for is sooo 2011.
And it’s not just software which is being affected. We’re also witnessing a similar shift in the world of online gaming. Take the 2012 clickathon ‘Diablo 3’; after waiting eleven years for its release, it turned out that the (single player!) game demanded an internet connection to even consider switching on. (Despite taking up 16 GB of space on my hard drive …seriously, what even is that?).
In many ways, this shift is largely designed to undermine online piracy. If your software needs renewing at the end of every month, then there’s very little point in downloading it illegally.
The only problem with such a system is that it puts the manufacturer’s profit margins before the enjoyment of individual consumers.
Take Diablo 3. I foolishly thought that by purchasing a game, it somehow granted me the right to play it when and where I wanted. Instead, due to the game’s ‘life support’ style relationship with the internet, half the time it won’t even switch on. It doesn’t matter whether you’re stepping onto a plane, traveling on the underground, or crossing the Yorkshire border, you may as well have bought 16 gig’s worth of .tmp files. (And don’t get me started on Error 37!)
My point is that Diablo 3 was a disappointment, and that’s exactly what Adobe has become. When I was 15 years old I got my first copy of Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Not Adobe Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks, this was back when they were owned by Macromedia (Remember Macromedia? No? Me neither).
I had that suite from the age of 15, right though until I started university. With it, I taught myself graphics design, website development and a little bit of animation. I seem to remember it costing around about £250. Under Adobe’s new pricing structure, if I was 15 now, that £250 wouldn’t even buy me eight months of usage. It took me that long to work out what Contribute was even for! (If I’m honest I’m still not entirely sure.)
My point is that under the new regime, I wouldn’t have been able to develop any of the skills I have today. With such a ridiculous pricing structure, Adobe is making design and creativity exclusive pastimes of the affluent. Forget hobbyists, freelancers and small business entrepreneurs – let alone students.
It’s a shame really because I had a lot of respect for the Adobe brand. Sure they had a bit of Stockholm syndrome when it came to letting themselves be kicked around by Apple. But I believed in their core values. I believed that they were genuine supporters of innovation and creativity. Now though, that’s all just starting to look like marketing hype.
As you can tell, I’m a little bit pissed. And I’m not alone. The blogosphere is heaving with disappointed creative professionals (a terrifying image), and Adobe needs to be careful that their loyal fan base doesn’t turn to alternative software.
Take Corel Paintshop (yes, it’s actually called Paintshop). Sure it’s considered Photoshop’s mentally challenged younger brother, and yes it’s from Canada, but at £50 for a lifelong licence, I don’t think people will really care. Personally I’ve alternated between Corel and Adobe for years, and in all honestly, between Paintshop and Corel Painter, the vast majority of Photoshop’s functionality can be replicated for a tenth of the price. So maybe we should consider a change?
Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably just hand over the £33 a month like everyone else. Then, in a few years’ time, Adobe will come out with some shiny new bit of kit and I’ll fall in love with them all over again. …The bastards!