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Adobe® released Creative Suite® 6 this month. The flagship programs in this sprawling collection include Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, but there are many other popular programs such as Acrobat Pro, Dreamweaver, Flash, and more. Actually, there are a total of 23 programs currently available in the “Creative Cloud” option – even more software than is included in Adobe’s CS6 “Master Collection.” But more about the Creative Cloud in a minute.

“Wow!” Factor Included
As with any major upgrade, there are a boatload of innovations and enhancements to each of the programs that make up the various Creative Suite collections. Phil and Sandy attended the launch webinar and “Wow!” was heard by nearby staff several times as we were surprised by new features and a new engine that was able to accomplish amazing things in a matter of seconds. To learn more about each specific product, go to the Product Catalog page of Adobe’s website.

The Adobe Creative Cloud – A Whole New Way of Working
The big news about this release is the introduction of the Adobe Creative Cloud. The Creative Cloud ushers in a whole new way to license and use software. Instead of buying a software license that gives you the right to use it pretty much forever, users of the Creative Cloud will subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Suite by the month or by the year. You get a price break by subscribing for the entire year, but Adobe gives you the flexibility to choose which plan best meets your needs. Don’t need the whole Creative Suite? You can also subscribe to individual programs through the Cloud, but the cost difference may not be worth it. More info on costs below.

The Cloud gives you access to both Mac and PC versions of all of Adobe’s software, and you can install each program on both a primary and backup computer so long as the software only being used on one system at a time. Being able to install a program on two systems is pretty standard in the industry. What’s not standard about Adobe’s deal is that you can now install the Mac version on one system and the Windows version on another, which will count as your “backup computer.” No need to buy two whole copies of the software for the two different platforms.

Don’t be confused — the Creative Cloud is not web-based software. Yes, you download your software and install it while online instead of from a physical disc, but after installation the software resides on your computer and once it’s been downloaded you don’t need an Internet connection in order to use it. You’ll only need to be online once a month for Adobe to verify your continuation in the plan. And even if you subscribe to the Creative Suite, you don’t have to download all of the programs that come with it. Just choose what you want or need.

When you subscribe to the Creative Cloud, you get access to more programs and special features not available to those who choose the traditional route of upgrading their software. Your Creative Cloud subscription gives you access to:

  • Programs that are not available otherwise, such as Adobe Muse (for simple website design) and Edge Preview (for creating interactive web content).
  • All of the programs that are available in the CS Master Collection – such as Premier Pro (video editing) and Audition (audio editing).
  • Incremental upgrades of features as they become available – that is, features that won’t be available to traditional users until the next upgrade is released. For Cloud subscribers, new software features will be available for download as soon as they’ve been tested and approved. (Does this raise compatibility issues? Potentially. There is no requirement to downloading new features, however, so you can maintain compatibility with traditional users by not upgrading until new versions are released.)
  • 20GB of cloud storage that will allow you to store and share files with others.

For a quick overview, click here, then scroll down and click on the blue words “Buying Guide.” The long chart gives a quick comparison of what’s in each Suite and in the Creative Cloud option.

For the More Traditional Among Us
Adobe isn’t forcing all users into the Cloud. You can still choose to upgrade your software just as you always have. Your license will allow you to use the software and receive bug patch or security patch updates as they’re released. Adobe plans to release incremental upgrades on odd-numbered years and major upgrades on even-numbered years. With a traditional license, you will wait until these upgrades are released, then purchase the upgrade before having access to the newest features and enhancements (as opposed to the Cloud where you pay monthly/annually and receive the new features and enhancements as soon as they are available).

Semantics is important here:

  • “Updates” refer to bug and security patches – these will be made available to both Cloud subscribers and traditional users at the same time.
  • “Upgrades” refer new features and enhancements to existing features – these will be made available to Cloud subscribers as soon as they are approved and tested; they will be made available to traditional users as upgrades that must be purchased.

By the way, the traditional option is frequently called the “boxed” option or “boxed set” option. Don’t be taken in by the terminology. Just as the Cloud version isn’t web software, the “boxed” version isn’t providing you with a box any more. Even if you purchase the traditional way, you will now have to download the software to install it instead of receiving it on CDs or DVDs.

Pricing Info
So what will this cost you? As a general statement, we can say that if you already own a CS product, the price of maintaining a continuous membership in the Creative Cloud is slightly higher than regularly upgrading your software, but you get many more added features for that price. If you only upgrade your software every other time Adobe releases an upgrade, the Cloud becomes a much more expensive alternative. There are too many product offerings for us to give you pricing here, but we will provide some samples.

Cloud Pricing – Remember, Cloud pricing allows you to subscribe either month-to-month or on an annual basis. So if you’ve got a special project coming up but only have a short-term need for access to certain software, you can save money by subscribing monthly and skipping months when you don’t need it. Want to try before you buy? Take the 30-day free trial out for a spin. Want to save money on software that you use on a regular basis? Subscribe for a whole year. So long as your subscription is current, you have access to the software. When your free trial ends or your subscription is not renewed, you no longer have access to the software. If you have saved your files to your computer, you will still have full access to them, but not to the software that you need to open or edit them.

  • $74.99/month – To subscribe to the Creative Cloud on a month-by-month basis
  • $49.99 /month – To subscribe to the Creative Cloud on the annual plan
  • $29.99/month introductory special for current Creative Suite users (CS3 and above only) if purchasing on the annual plan. (This promotion expires August 31, 2012.)

Creative Cloud subscriptions are also available for individual software packages (as opposed to subscribing to the whole Cloud and the Creative Suite). Here’s sample pricing:

 InDesign CS6 $19.99/month $29.99/month
 Creative Cloud $49.99/month* $74.99/month

*$29.99/month for current customers

With Creative Cloud membership providing access to all 23 software programs currently available and more on the drawing board, the math is easy – the cost for one major program (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.) is almost as much as the introductory offer for the whole Creative Suite. But if one program is all you need, why pay more?

Pricing for Traditional Plan:

  • $275 – To upgrade Creative Suite Design Standard from CS5.5 to CS6
  • $549 – To upgrade Creative Suite Design Standard from CS5 to CS6
  • $699 – To upgrade Creative Suite Design Standard from CS4 or CS3 to CS6 (for the laggards among us). FYI, Adobe’s upgrade policy is that if you skip two or more upgrades, you have to buy again from scratch and pay the full new-user purchase price. (They’re extending a special break to CS3 users this time only. You’ve been warned!)

Downsides to the Cloud
It looks like the Creative Cloud will save long-term users some money. (That’s our take on it; not everyone agrees with that assessment. It depends on which software packages you use, how frequently you upgrade and how suspicious you are.) What are some of the downsides to opting for the Creative Cloud instead of upgrading traditionally?

  • Purchasing a Creative Cloud membership is a bit like renting a home. If you don’t pay your rent, you get locked out of your house by your landlord; i.e., you no longer have access to what was once yours. In this case, you will still have your files, but not the software that you need to open and edit them. So if you’re at all squeamish about that, you might want to stay on the traditional path.
  • Fear of the unknown. There are two issues being raised in forums that we would classify as “fear of the unknown” concerns:
  • Security of the Cloud and the possibility of losing access to your software at that moment when you need it most. Yes, this is possible. Is it likely? Your guess is as good as ours, but we put the probability at fairly low assuming you’ve paid your membership monthly, not changed credit cards, etc. (And barring solar flares, electro-magnetic pulses, and the like.) We also have the expectation that Adobe will fix any issues of this sort very quickly. But then maybe we’re the trusting sort.
  • Some users are scared off by the insecurity of subscription pricing – Adobe could raise the Cloud pricing at any time. If you’ve purchased an annual plan, you have some security, but there’s no guarantee that the price next year won’t jump significantly. Of course there’s no guarantee on that with the traditional plan either, but forums are rife with comments from users who have that fear for Cloud subscriptions, but don’t take into account that Adobe would also raise prices for traditional upgraders as well. (Sounds like the fear of the unknown to me.)

Adobe has said that they will be offering a track to return to the traditional route for those who have purchased through the Cloud option and decide they prefer the traditional option. They have as yet to define that route.

Our Conclusions
Wow! We think the Cloud offers tremendous value…but we haven’t jumped yet. Let’s let the early adopters shake the rain out of the Cloud before we jump in, always keeping that August 31st promo date in mind. We’ll probably transfer at least one of our Creative Suite licenses to the Cloud in July. Our office has a number of licenses and we may keep at least one as a traditional license for the time being. But who knows, after jumping into the Creative Cloud, we might find it to be heavenly and jump with all of our other licenses as well.

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