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    by Stu Maschwitz
Monday
May132013

Cutting Through the Cloud

Aharon Rabinowitz posted a wonderful breakdown of why you’re both right and wrong to be bent out of shape by Adobe’s announcement that most of their flagship software will go subscription-only.

Adobe is a company that makes tools we all love and rely on for our work in video post production. But with their latest announcement – that from here on in, all software will only be available through subscription – a lot of people are upset and feeling betrayed. I want to try to address it all in a balanced way. I’ll ask that you read all the way through because I am going to start with why, about certain things, you’re totally wrong. Then, I’ll move into why you’re also totally right – and have the right to feel angry and demand more.

Aharon’s words stick out like a sore thumb on the internet, because they’re rational, well-considered, researched, and nuanced. Creative Cloud is neither a money grubbing conspiracy designed to seize power, nor is it a deftly-handled modernization of a business model. The truth is somewhere in between, and Aharon has done us all a favor by taking the time to analyze the situation.

And the part about the ruler/stylus guy is priceless.

Adobe fans and haters alike, read it. Adobe employees, print it out and tape it to your wall.

Reader Comments (21)

I am still have trouble understanding "Why we absolutely need it". I can understand why Adobe wants it and I can see that it brings some advantages for users, but do the advantages balance out the disadvantages? The list at the end "Adobe, We Need to Talk" neatly sums up the more significant problems. These are big issues not just a few caveats. Most of the talk on the internet has been about immediate cost concerns or functional issues about how CC will work. These seem relatively superficial compared to the long term issues of monopoly and control.

I am interested to hear more from you Stu about why you think it is to users advantage to hand over so much control to Adobe. I am honestly puzzled by your position, maybe I am missing something. I am not anti-subscription, or even anti-CC I just feel that being locked into CC because there is effectively no alternative is a rather big negative, but you seem to be very much in favour.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterMartin Drew

Martin, I have no idea from where you're drawing those impressions of my "position." In fact, I don't have "a position." I'm still trying to figure out what I think about Creative Cloud, and Aharon's write-up is helping me do that. Please don't presume to know what I think, when even I don't.

It may trouble you to imagine this, but I don't think I'll ever be able to distill my impressions of a situation this complex into an easy to digest (or disagree with) "position."

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

I think your tweet in response to my post misrepresented my position. I never accused you of having "an unabashedly favorable reaction to Creative Cloud" I got the impression from your tweets and reweets that you were in favour though. I apologise if I got that wrong, the good ol' internet tends to make people assume tone that isn't intended.

Edit: I wrote this before I saw your response to my post here.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterMartin Drew

I'm kind of in the same boat. I like the idea of not having to pay $1k-$2k to upgrade my software every year (or couple of years), but, I hate the idea, that the license has to be renewed (annually if you want a discount). I'm currently using CS5.5 educator edition and wanted to move into a non-educator license. I'm still starting up a small business (2 employees) and as a start-up, the income is questionable and it makes me nervous to think that if something happens and I'm not in a position to re-up my software in a year, that my business dies because without the software, I cannot work.
I think that Adobe jumped the gun on moving over to the cloud model. They should have waited until there was more advocacy on that model before essentially forcing us to all switch over blindly. As Aharon said, there are a lot of unanswered questions and Adobe is horrible at communicating.
Just my $0.02 as a small business owner.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterRoss Hamil

For me, the lesson from this saga is that, if you want to make a change like this one, it's better to use price instead of prohibition. If Adobe had said "CS7 is so much better, and we have invested so much into it, that it will be 50% more expensive; on the plus side, CC remains at its old price" they would have achieved the same result in the end, without such a bad user reaction (it would have been bad, but not as bad).

Because in the end this is only a price increase (and not for all kinds of users). So the real question here is whether this new version is so much better that people should pay more for it. But it seems like most people haven't even thought about that.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

Ok read all that,
Not sure how monthly payments till the sun burns out are better than a one time cost for some people. say you wanted just photoshop and to keep it for 2 years before updating, that'll cost you double in the cloud. These will be the customers that will flock in their thousands to Pixelmator at $15 or Gimp for $0.

That said for students (just researched it as i currently own 2 later models) is a good deal, $14pm vs $600 or so for the edu version of master collection.

Must go, some urgent Ideating to.. idieate

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterJason Wingrove

I don't think Aharon is claiming that CC is a better deal for those accustomed to waiting a version or two to update. Right?

But I do think that the "flocking" to cheaper alternatives might be easy to overestimate. Gimp has been around for 17 years, Pixelmator for 6. If cheap or free beat hundreds or thousands of dollars every time, then we'd have long ago seen a mass migration to these alternatives.

Good deals aren't everything. Have any of your clients ever sought out a "good deal" on a director instead of going with you? It's happened to me, and I was ultimately happy to be rid of those clients.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

No i don't think he's claiming that but those customers need to be addressed.. if they care.

Maybe they are seeing an increased move to cheaper alternatives as no doubt over time those apps have got more competent and compatible, hence the need for adobe to increase revenue, control piracy and move away from cardboard & polycarbonate delivery. This move will only accelerate that and out more money in Pixelmators development budget.

and theres a 'better deal' director round every corner, often in fishnets.

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterJason Wingrove

Thanks for the link, Stu! I'm fascinated to know what you think on this, After Effects Oracle (heck, I visited The Orphanage when I was a student and you guys inspired me to keep pushing with AE!).

It's a great article... except that Aharon should mention that the main reason that few people upgrade often is that 5.5, 6.0 and CC are not that different.

Certainly, little that our studio wants has been added to After Effects. Which sucks because that app is really great... just getting a little rusty. And instead of doing something like fix the 2D Tracker, or make it multithread better (without the current hack of opening up lots of copies of After Effects, which doesn't improve interactive performance anyway), or get 32-bit mode working better, or support stereo, or folders... they give us a RotoBrush that fails 95% of the time, a raytracer that seems to be mostly nVidia code, and a GPU-accelerated Cartoon effect. Not, say, GPU-accelerated Curves or Levels or Box Blur or Radial Blur or Transfer Modes. But a GPU-accelerated Cartoon effect.

If there were serious improvements, people would upgrade. The Foundry don't seem to be having too much trouble getting folks to pay them money - and Nuke costs a LOT more! Maya 2013, Modo, etc all went through significant upgrades in the last year - and people put money down. I renewed my $1000-per-year Maya subscription in fact (though I should add that I get to use the software after the subscription ends!).

So yes... I would be far happier to pay a subscription if the company had a history of impressive upgrades.

I'm sure that Adobe will do several cool improvements to tempt us along but I'm really worried about the long term. Adobe's CEO has a pretty terrible attitude (google Adobe CEO Australia Pricing for his hilarious YouTube video). I really suspect he's going to either raise the price once we're locked in and using the CC versions for a few years... or just slow things to a trickle and divert the funds to other Adobe ventures.

Personally, I'm stopping buying After Effects plugins, and I plan to let my Creative Cloud subscription lapse unless they offer me a fantastic deal when the year is up.

The money I save will go towards OpenFX plugins for Nuke and Resolve. And keeping Avid current.

BTW, have you noticed that even Blender's compositor multithreads way better than After Effects does, uses OpenCL, supports linear 32bit float properly... and it has a much better lens blur! Heck, I'd much rather pay the Blender coders $50 a month to make their interface non-terrible than I would want to give the same money to Adobe. At least I know my kids will be able to open my project files.

We'd love to hear more on what you think, Stu!

May 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce Allen

Mr. Rabinowitz seems overly pre-occupied with the semantics of "ownership" versus having a perpetual license. A useless distinction...

I've been on CC for months at work and it initially had a lot of very disturbing "check ins" that really caused me to question the stability of travelling or being remote without internet and having the software open every time.

I don't understand the sudden spawn of so many Adobe apologists. There is far too much "get over it" talk. Why on earth are people advocating a company's decision to limit choice? I understand some people are fine with CC exclusivity, but just move on then. Why the need to talk down to all the vocal people more affected by the change?

It is like Adobe is going to let you lease a car, but only lease it. If you stop paying the monthly lease, you lose the car. If you try to buy the car, they refuse. You must simply continue to pay their monthly lease fee and you will always have a nice, new car, but that is the only option. You cannot purchase the car and own it outright for a few years before getting another 3-4 models later, no matter whether you need a brand new car or not.

Can you imagine Apple licensing OSX with a mandatory monthly fee instead of just letting you upgrade when you want to upgrade? Yeah, how many of us skipped Lion and went straight from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion?

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterRyan Farnes

Ryan, I believe Aharon wanted to clarify the ownership issues for those folks he saw as being overly preoccupied—but I see your point.

But for you to conclude that he is an "apologist," or suggesting that folks "get over it," makes me think you haven't read the whole post. Please see the clear distinction between him describing Adobe's reasons for CC, and advocating them. It'll make you 90% less internet.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

I know that change worries people, and this is a big change, so it will worry a lot people... but I'm not sure I fully understand what has so many people really spitting nails over most of the issues with CC subscription and not having complete access to their work in future.

I used to pay £1,200 ($1,800) for 2 or 3 adobe main video products in the production bundle, now I pay £325 ($495) for pretty much everything they make (more than 20 products). Surely thats a good thing.

I'm been a professional compositor for 16 years - but I trained as a designer and still needed to use things that weren't in my old bundle like InDesign at times, now I can. Thats surely good right?

I get to use Lightroom now. That was never in my bundle - surely thats a good thing right?

I run a small studio - we had 2 Adobe licences (4 seats total). We have macs for comping and PC's for the Maya renderfarm. It was very frustrating to not be able to move licences between platforms easily. I can now. Surely thats good right?

We have freelancers in. Now I can expand the number of CC licences we have for the duration of a project, and then cancel the surplus once a big job finishes. I'm not suck with thousands of pounds worth of software I'm not using, when I don't need it. Or stuck not being able to afford a few more temp licences if we have to scale up quickly with a few extra artists. Surely thats good right?

I don't understand the augment about subscription limiting choice / not being flexible. Subscription is ultimately flexible - pay when you need it, don't when you don't. Get upgrades without the speed bump of a lump sum every cycle.

Subscription software is future. Its had a few nasty teething issues with Adobe not being clear about exactly what they we're offering initially, and connection to the server for validations... but its still the future. You don't even own your connection to the internet after all, you only rent it.

Ryan - you're wrong about Apple not forcing OS subscription. There just doing this yearly, and not transparently - which is worse. They just do this pushing desktop upgrades via compatibility with iPhone / iPad. Its subtler, but you're still being pushed into buying that next OS.

Long-term 'pay once' access to your past digital work is an illusion - and always has been. I have a mothballed mac that I keep for access to our back catalogue of Shake projects, but once it dies, that access will be gone (or at least very hard to come by). I have hundreds of Quantel HAL (look it up anyone who wants to see how bad the world was before Adobe) disks with my work on that I can never hope to open. We never truly own our work when we save it in someone else's digital format, and we never have.

Personally, I'd rather pay a nice small monthly subscription to a mainstream company with lots of vocal users - a payment that keeps them nice and fiscally stable, and forces them to listen to their users. I'd rather do that then rely on Gimp, Pixelmator, Blender, Pinterest or anything else with a 'free' or $10 software business model to have my interests at heart down the line.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterGonzo

Great comment Gonzo.

What a good point, that so many (including myself) have missed, that the subscription model means you could let your license lapse for years, then sign back up for just a month or two when you need to access your legacy projects.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

@stu - I was probably attaching some of my angst at a lot of other noise online about this issue. I feel like I've seen a lot of chastising and I caught a whiff of it in his article. I see what you're saying about him explaining vs. advocating, although towards the end of the article, the distinction is harder for me to make in his conclusion.

He does address concerns at least and does a reasonable job of explaining the reasoning for the future viability of the products, which makes it easier to accept.

When it's all said and done, in the big picture, of course $50/month isn't that bad...and the discounts for CS3 or especially CS6 certainly take any bitter taste away for a while.

btw - what does "90% less internet" mean?

@Gonzo - my brother is still running Snow Leopard on purpose. Coming up on 4 years since release. Sure, he may have to upgrade at some point to continue to use certain things, but its his choice to hold out if he wants. I think a lot of CC fans are missing the point that many of us aren't against CC, we just want another option as well. You make some good points about the benefits of CC in your situation.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterRyan Farnes

btw - what does "90% less internet" mean?

Taking the time to thoroughly read someone's remarks, and responding to what they actually said, rather than the most polar, sweeping simplification that comes to mind, is a very rare thing on the internet. And we're usually lucky enough to not have too much internet around these here Prolost parts.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

I sincerely hope this is the start of a long a fruitful relationship between me and Adobe. The new "camera shake reduction" tool alone is easily worth the price of a year of CC if it works as advertised. I can go back through my thousands of photographs and actually resurrect those that were great shots but not quite in focus? I signed up the minute CC became available for that one. it will take me months to even scratch the surface of that hugely valuable tool.

If they can continue delivering along these lines, we will be in love forever and I will be happy to shell out my monthly stipend. But that's an IF. Microsoft Office and I were in love for a long time too, but then it lost its way.

May 14, 2013 | Registered Commenterbrian valente

@Ryan - I keep one of my macs on Snow Leopard too for the same reasons as your brother, but it doesn't change the fact that Apple can push most OSX users on up the path through their iOS devices :(

@Stu - I was a good point, but now I feel old and sad. I'm off to sulkily play on my SNES, or whatever us 30 something digital dinosaurs do.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterGonzo

@Stu

Understood. It's good to be humbled from time to time....take stock on my online babbling.

May 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterRyan Farnes

One question from Aharon's blog popped back into my head again this morning:

"Why is there a price difference outside US?
I haven’t seen this, but seriously? Didn’t we learn anything from that whole Australia thing?"

I thought I'd check via Adobe's CC website price list:

Basic Cloud membership in US = $49.99
Basic Cloud membership in UK = £46.88 (or $71.51)

The current exchange rate of the pound to the dollar is 1.52 (and has stayed pretty steady between 1.52 and 1.70 for the last 2 years.)

So why do I pay 43% more for a digital product than a US user?

Theres no additional distribution cost with a digital product - no trucks on the road or ships in ports. Theres no translation required, we speak the same language (least I think we do). Theres no additional retail cost - no extra charge for high real-estate cost here in the UK. Both are developed countries.... Um, I'm struggling now...

In fact I can't think of good reason why Adobe would charge me more, apart from that is a bad habit left over from physical product days, and they think they can. But we're doing subscription now - its a brave new world. So let me pay the dollar price like I do for most software I buy on the internet.

Wait, I've got it - I'm British.

I have that strange accent... I sound like Bond villain to a californian. Thats why I should pay more.

May 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterGonzo

@Gonzo. I agree with most of your points I am in a very similar position to you, a small studio with 4 seats... and British (don't you know). CC as it stands will benefit me greatly (even at UK prices), because we do a lot of different types of work and use most of the more popular Adobe applications. It will certainly work out cheaper for us at Adobes current pricing.

I agree with most of Aharons points. His argument about ownership is probably over-egged but fundamentally the point he is trying to make is valid.

In fact I also agree with Stu that the issues are complex and difficult to distill into a simple "position", by which I mean for or against, I am not for or against but I have real concerns, that's my simple position.

Here is where I disagree with you. In a straightforward sense subscription is very flexible, you can dip in and out as you choose (assuming Adobe sorts their subscription infrastucture) but choice relies on you having options to choose between. Adobe is in a very strong position in the creative space, many professionals will subscribe to CC because the introductory price is good and it is the only way of getting updates. Once Adobe have us in the CC ecosystem we will have little motivation to go outside it. Imagine this scenario: You subscribe to CC specifically to use Premier and After Effects, 6 months down the line you need to use a vector drawing application, hey you are already subscribed to CC, brilliant, Illustrator it is. Lets say you then get a print brochure produced by a third party. You ask the design company to let you have the InDesign file, you have InDesign in CC so it makes sense to have the file seeing as it is in a format that you can access. A few years down the line why is anyone going to develop a Photoshop competitor or an Illustrator competitor or an InDesign competitor, the whole creative world is subscribing to CC so any competitor has to be either pursuing a niche market that is too small for Adobe to be interested in, or they need to compete with the whole of CC. To try and compete with an individual application is effectively trying to compete with free! The points that Aharon makes about subscriptions helping Adobe become stronger and more efficient works against us now because it has stifled competition.

I accept that subscription is the future, I appreciate the positives, but like ubiquitous CCTV it is the all enveloping nature of Adobe offering that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Subscription isn't the issue here it is Adobes near monopoly.

May 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterMartin Drew

@Martin,

I can totally see that not everyone is going to be happy about CC being fully subscription based. It suits me currently - and you too by the sound of it. But, this won't be the case for everyone.

I also think that point that you make about Adobe having a potential cartel on the most used creative packages is also valid. They are PLC company with stockholders, and a PLC company's aims are to generally seize market share whenever possible. So the situation needs to be watched.

However, I just don't buy into the idea of CC being a closed ecosystem.

My main package is After Effects. I've commented here before that that I've loved AE since we first met 15 years ago - although time hasn't always been kind to her… I've also been critical on this blog before that AE has been a little off the pace for some high-end work for at least the last 7 years (compared to the other packages like Nuke). So, I'm really pleased that Adobe have stepped up a gear with their tech offerings in the last few releases of AE. Some of the advances have been great (though maybe a little to blackboxed) like the 3D tracker and stabilisation, other aspects like their first shot at 3D in CS6 - needed work.

For me though, After Effect's biggest draw is that it has such strong field of 3rd party plug-in developers - Red Giant, VCP, Peder Norrby, and AE scripts etc.

So it's hard to imagine CC in the future as a closed ecosystem, one that Adobe control with a iron fist, when a lot of the real innovation comes from the developers like these.

Adobe have come to dominate the compositing market (in users numbers) by keeping their price point low and allowing others to build affordable software that springboards off of AE.

Most people will never use more than 4 or 5 of the adobe CC packages, but a highly concentrated base of paying users brings other 3rd party developers flocking to a platform, and good things follow.

This is the true ecosystem that really matters to me, not CC's slightly unbalanced grouping of its app offering. In my mind, AE is often just a framework to launch 3rd party tools, and I think that Adobe are smart enough to see this, and keep that ecosystem growing too.

May 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterGonzo
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