is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Late in December of 2010, I paid US$750 (including taxes and shipping) for an upgrade copy of Adobe Creative Suite 5. I’m still using that software on my Mac at home, and find that it covers most all of my needs. If you amortize that cost out over the roughly thirty months that I’ve owned CS5, it comes to about US$25 per month.
When I first did this math, I expected that figure to be significantly lower than the cost for Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, which offers the same applications as the Creative Suite but via monthly subscription. Existing CS customers can subscribe to Creative Cloud for US$30 a month. Over the course of thirty months, that comes to about US$150 more than what I paid in December 2010. That’s not nothing, but it’s a fair price to pay considering that CC always provides the latest versions of Adobe’s software.
Of course, thirty months is an arbitrary number. I could probably use CS5 for another twelve months, at least, before I would really need to upgrade it. In so doing I’d effectively drive the price down to around US$18 a month, saving me US$510 over the cost of subscribing to Creative Cloud during that extended period of time.
However, as Adobe announced yesterday, going forward the only way to get access to the new versions of Adobe’s key software will be through a Creative Cloud subscription. If you want to use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. now you must pay a monthly subscription fee. Which is to say, you can no longer buy a single, standalone version and let it amortize out over as long as you like.
Whether this is a good thing or not depends on each customer’s needs, of course. Some people will appreciate the ability to pay only for the months that they need. For businesses and startups, in particular, the ability to put a legal copy of Adobe’s apps in an employee’s hands for US$50 a month (the cost for new customers) instead of several hundred dollars is sure to be a boon.
But for folks like myself, who find that only every second or third of Adobe’s major releases truly warrants the financial and technological hassle of an upgrade, losing that option is not so appealing. It feels less like innovation and more like manipulation.+