No more Creative Suite: what does it mean?

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May 10, 2013
No more Creative Suite: what does it mean?.

Creative CloudAdobe has just announced that Creative Suite will cease to exist after CS6 (in name at least), and be replaced exclusively by Creative Cloud. On its most basic level, that means there won't be perpetual licenses for future Adobe products (though, for now, you'll still be able to buy CS6 in that format) and instead all of their Creative Cloud software will be available by subscription only.

For creatives, this is a huge shift. Adobe has been the leader in graphics and web software for years (especially after their purchase of Macromedia), and designers and agencies are used to the perpetual license model. I've already been hearing complaints from some colleagues unhappy with the switch, though many of their complaints don't really have much merit if you really break them down.

$50 a month?!?!

The price is probably the most common complaint I've been hearing. But if we break it down into long-term costs for the subscription compared to the cost of the perpetual licenses, the subscription actually comes out on top.

A new (not upgraded) license for Creative Suite 6 Master Collection is US$2,600. An upgrade license will cost you anywhere from $550 (if you already had the CS5.5 Master Collection) to over $1,000 (if you had any of the other CS5 or 5.5 products). Adobe has historically offered major upgrades every 18 months or so, which means the monthly breakdown is between $30 and $58 per month. And if you have to buy the entire Creative Suite new, then you're looking at a cost of over $144/month for 18 months.

Adobe is offering CC subscriptions for new users for $50/month, and for "upgrade" users for just $30/month for the first year (and CS6 users will get an even steeper discount for the first year). The other big advantage is that you won't have to fork over a large payment up front. This makes it much more affordable for new designers or small agencies, and will obviously reduce start-up costs for new freelancers or agencies. This could encourage a lot of great designers to strike out on their own.

I don't want my work in the cloud!

The good news is that you don't have to host any of your work in the cloud, and the software itself runs right on your computer, not online.

Granted, the cloud offers a lot of great features you might want to take advantage of, but there's nothing that says you have to. You can keep using your CC products just like you've been using CS products for years.

And if your internet connection is down (either on purpose or because of connectivity problems), you don't need to worry about your software not working. It only needs to connect to validate your license every 30 days, and with the annual plan it will still work for over 3 months (99 days) without validating. Of course, without internet access you won't be able to access online CC features, but the software on your computer will still work fine.

But how do I pirate something in the cloud?

Okay, I haven't heard this one expressed directly, but I've heard grumblings where the subtext is basically the same thing.

My answer for this is that you really shouldn't be pirating the software in the first place.

Without getting into the entire moral and ethical debate surrounding software piracy and when it is or isn't acceptable, let's look at one small aspect of it: the biggest reason given for piracy is often that the product isn't affordable. I can see where that was the case with CS, as it's a very expensive professional program. Obviously your hobbyist or entry-level designer might not want or be able to spend thousands of dollars on software.

But Creative Cloud removes that expensive start-up cost. Most professional designers using Creative Suite products are making well over $50/month with the software. And there are free and low cost alternatives that will meet the needs of most hobbyists if they don't want to spend that kind of money on a monthly basis.

I understand the frustration that many people who design as a hobby or just like to "play around" in Photoshop or another Adobe program, but at the same time, it's certainly not Adobe's job to make it possible to use their products without properly licensing them.

Adobe maintains that the added difficulty in pirating their products had nothing to do with their decision to transition to an entirely subscription-based product line, but I'm sure they're finding it to be a nice little added bonus.

I only use Photoshop/Illustrator/etc! I don't want to pay for everything!

There's good news here: you don't have to. There are plenty of people out there who only use Photoshop, or Illustrator, or any of the other Creative Cloud/Creative Suite products. And for those people, you can subscribe to just one program at a discounted rate of US$19.99/month.

This is a great option for those people who only use one product (like photographers who only use Photoshop or visual effects designers who only use After Effects).

More about the new subscription model

Students and teachers will still be able to get Creative Cloud at a deeply discounted rate of US$19.99/month ($29.99/month after June 25). The big bonus here is that they'll get access to all of Adobe's programs, rather than just the one or two they might need for their classes.

This opens up a lot of creative possibilities, as students and teachers will be able to more easily branch out into other media. We're likely to see more designers familiar with motion graphics, more video editors proficient in audio editing, more photographers proficient in design, etc. And of course we're more likely to see interesting projects coming out that combine disciplines.

In addition to the basic Creative Suite programs we've all become accustomed to, Creative Cloud offers some additional tools you might not have used before.

There's the Digital Publishing Suite, which lets you create content and publish apps. There's ProSite for managing and building your own professional portfolio site. Business Catalyst offers tools for website hosting and management. And Story CC Plus is available for collaborative screenwriting and production tasks (like scheduling and reporting). These are apps that a lot of designers and other creatives may not have tried before, but without any added cost, there's no excuse not to now.

One of Adobe's main reasons for switching to the cloud model is the ability to constantly update products and add features without a major product upgrade. These constant updates are good news for the creative community.

The verdict?

While transitioning to the cloud is going to be an unwelcome change for some designers and other creatives, overall, I think it's good news for the industry and for creative pros. You'll have access to more programs and more features for less money. And you'll get updates on a more consistent basis, without added cost.

While I'm sure we'll continue to hear complaints from some sectors of the design community, overall I think most creatives will embrace CC once they give it a chance.

Are you already a Creative Cloud subscriber? Are you happy about the change or do you have reservations? Let us know in the comments!

Cameron Chapman

Cameron Chapman is a freelance writer and designer from New England. You can visit her site or follow her on Twitter.

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