Creative Cloud Is Not Suite

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.



  1. In the fine print, Adobe says reduced pricing on Creative Cloud for existing CS3+ customers is only for the first year.

  2. I did the math for my own Photoshop history. (I’ve never bought the entire CS suite, just the non-Extended Photoshop.)

    Over the past six years, Photoshop upgrades have been released at anything from every 18 months to every 23 months. Starting in April 2007 I’ve upgraded Photoshop four times at the least expensive price I could find, typically paying Adobe’s upgrade price with a Photoshop users’ group discount. I paid from $180 to (most recently) $223.

    Thus over the past 73 months I paid a total of $815 to use Photoshop.

    That means that, on average for the past six years, I’ve paid an average of just over $11 a month to use Photoshop.*

    The least I can pay under the new pricing is $20 a month, BUT…I can get the first 12 months at $10 per month. That means my first 18 months (the normal upgrade schedule) will cost me a total of $240, or an average of $13.33 a month.

    Thus I could upgrade to the new Photoshop CC and pay only a little more than what I had averaged, at least through that first 18 months.

    After the first 18 months, however, the $20/month fee would be almost double the $11 per month it has cost me until now.

    *For the most recent upgrade, it was actually less, because I bought CS6 23 months after CS5, making my recent average less than $10/month.

  3. I agree that for people who only use one or two apps in the Creative Suite, CC pricing is pretty steep. But for those of us who use so many different Adobe apps that the only way to get them all previously was through the $2500 Master Collection, even at the full price of $600/year, CC is a good deal. On top of that, CC offers so much more than the Master Collection did that I’m happily paying the $50/month, not to mention that it has also allowed me to cut off my TypeKit annual payment. I haven’t even tapped half the resources that are now available to me, but I love that they’re there. It’s like having a digital candy shop to run around in all night, every night.

    Finally, the thing I’ll say for those who only use Photoshop is that it really doesn’t change that significantly (version to version) for what most people use it for, so you could easily go on using CS5 for any number of years without a problem — no need to switch over to CC anytime soon. (InDesign is another situation, though; it behooves print designers to be on the latest or at least next-latest version.)

  4. >> you could easily go on using CS5 for any number of years without a problem

    Except that Adobe releases a new version of Adobe Camera Raw soon after every new major SLR is released, and once they stop supporting CS5 or CS6 with new ACR releases, we’re screwed. Buy a newly released camera and your Photoshop will be worthless.

  5. There’s always Aperture, which is good and inexpensive, though I prefer Lightroom (yet another savings of CC, since it hadn’t been part of the Creative Suite before).

  6. Let’s hope more applications like Sketch pop up. Applications created by a small team of passionate developers who really care about delivering applications their users want, need and can afford.

    I’d be using Sketch at work, but our clients and developers often need PSDs and the like. Fingers crossed there’ll be an easy way to deliver stuff soon.

  7. I am working to make the switch to Sketch and Pixelmator. Where that falls apart is if I do any print work, but I figure I can always use an old copy of Adobe software for the admittedly rare times that happens these days. I have been able to save Illustrator layouts as SVG and open with in Sketch without issues thus far. Sketch is still a little rough around the edges, but I see so much potential for it to be successful.

    Plus, the combined total (when I bought) for both Sketch and Pixelmator was $40. With free updates. Honestly, I’d pay more to support the little guys if they asked me to.

  8. In the UK, it’s Б46.88 per month (if you sign up for 12 months), which is currently US$72.51, according to Google.

    Even taking account of 20% VAT (sales tax), it’s still Б39.07 or US$60.43 per month. Phew!

    I live in fear of the day I can no longer use CS3Ё next OS X update, perhaps.

  9. I’m kind of skeptical. The advantage of always having the latest version versus the soft bondage of paying Adobe every month! I’m happily still using CS4 over here I bought on student price as a grad student. To me this looks like a not awesome way to tie people down to paying Adobe on the regs. I’d bet this only counts as a deal if you’re regularly buying the updated versions.

  10. Thanks for posting about this. I’m in the same boat. I purchased the full suite in 2011 and would prefer to maintain it for another year or two before upgrading. It does depend on your situation, but I agree that it feels more like manipulation. Especially as more and more digital design can be done without any of their products at all (right now I’m using a mix of Axure, OmniGraffle, Coda and CodeKit), I don’t feel like we should be forced to pay a monthly fee for this big bundle. It starts to remind me of cable TV. But that’s another subject.

  11. +1 to the “feels like it won’t suit me but I don’t have a choice” camp. I remember having to the conversion from Quark to InDesign and the pitch then was that Quark had the monopoly and were riding it but knight-on-a-white-horse Adobe was going to change all that. They did. And now they are perpetuating the same dictatorial control that Quark did. Also being down here on the southern tip of Africa with crappy bandwidth i’m wondering how that’s going to hurt us too.

  12. I pay more than $20 in banking fees on my business account. My subscription to to CC is slightly higher. Put into perspective, which is more crucial to my business? CC is a cost of business. Factor it into your overhead, and compared to most of my business expenses, relatively low.

  13. I didn’t realize that typekit was included. That is a nice addition and helps soften the cost as well.

    My concern is sure, they’re giving you a deal the first year if you’ve owned CS3, but then it presumably goes up to over $50 after that. Then, they’ve got you and can conceivably raise the monthly cost anytime they want, because where else would you go? (Indeed, exactly like Cable TV, as a previous comment pointed out.)

    Am I wrong? (please tell me I’m wrong.)

  14. It should be noted that, contrary to what was suggested in the article, you can’t pick and choose which months you use, and therefore pay for, the software. You are paying a monthly fee over a 12-month commitment period.

  15. “Photoshopping” as a verb is dead. Casual users aren’t going to subscribe. (They probably didn’t pay for downloaded software either, but they did use it and contributed to the general awareness and perception of market leadership associated with the product).

  16. And, correct me if I’m wrong, the moment you stop paying your subscription to CC, the software stops working, right? Therefore once you start paying for it, you’re (almost) committed to perpetuity. If you’re like me, who works in an in-house group, great for the business. But if I want to have a copy at home for once in a while freelance projects, it doesn’t work well.

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