Adobe goes all in on the cloud, ditches Creative Suite

Creative Suite? Sayonara. The Creative Cloud is the way of the future.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor
Illustration courtesy Adobe

The latest version of Adobe's Creative Suite—the exceedingly popular design, web and multimedia software suite that includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver and Acrobat—will be its last, the company announced at its MAX conference in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, the company will double down on its Creative Cloud software-as-a-service offering, introduced last year.

(Author's note: There seems to be some confusion about the use of the term "cloud" here, so allow me to be more specific. Adobe's Creative Cloud applications live on the desktop—not in a browser, and not in the cloud. The "cloud" bit comes in the syncing, sharing, editing and storage of files across multiple devices. It's a distribution-focused baby step compared to the web applications you're used to.)

Creative Suite 6 -- the current version of the desktop-based offering -- will still be available for purchase, but it is the final version and will not be updated beyond routine maintenance.

Goodbye, CS. Hello, CC.

This is a big step for Adobe and its customers. For one, the company is finally ditching the boxed software concept, even though it has offered downloadable versions for some time. Secondly, the move triggers a major revenue shift, from the one-and-done model of old to the subcription-based one so in vogue in recent years. Finally, the decision indicates that connectivity is ubiquitous enough—at least for the group that spends $1,300 or more on professional software—that it can be fully and deeply integrated into the default experience.

Customers' early reactions have been mixed. "I really can't see this working out too well," one self-proclaimed "art nerd" wrote on Twitter. "A brave move," another person tweeted. Adobe is "moving to a new model called BS," a third wrote. And most damningly, professional photographer David Hobby wrote that the decision "feels like the biggest money grab in the history of software."

He has a point. Individual licenses for the software suite, which comes in various configurations suited to different creative roles, range from $20 to $70 per month in a one-year contract. That's as low as $240 and upwards of $840 per year—far less than the $1,299 to $2,599 you might spend on the desktop suite.

The catch: just how many professionals (or companies) actually upgrade their software each year? (Adobe has traditionally introduced a new full version of the Creative Suite every two years.) If individual users or companies were slow to upgrade (and many are, including this author), this move is ultimately a price hike. On the other hand, for occasional users and power users, the extremes of the usage spectrum, it becomes a deal: you always get the newest and best stuff for less than you used to pay, or you get access to Adobe's software for far less than it used to cost.

For Adobe, the benefits are clear. A subscription model ensures regular, stable revenue streams. Focus on a cloud offering allows it to update its entire customer base immediately. Dropping the desktop offering allows it to focus on the cloud and deeper integration of its products. And the new pricing and distribution scheme could result in reduced piracy.

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