So the other shoe has dropped. Adobe have just announced that they won't be selling boxed copies of their creative suite products any more. That includes Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, InDesign and so on. This is because they want you to use their new purchasing model, the Creative Cloud, which was launched less than a year ago. With Creative Cloud you can buy either the entire Creative Suite for £47/month or a single application for £17.49/month. Some reports are saying that Adobe have reduced the price for a single app from $20/month to $10/month but I'm not seeing any UK prices yet. Presumably they'll also drop UK prices by 50% as well making it somewhere around £9/month.
Based on the currently advertised £17.49 price you'd pay £630 over the next 3 years, which is about how often most people seem to upgrade. Under the old model you'd pay about £200 for an upgrade if you already owned a full copy of Photoshop. If Adobe do halve the single app price that'll be £315 over 3 years - still way more than the old upgrade price. And if you want more than one application from the creative suite there's no option for you besides buying everything.
[Update: the 50% off thing looks like being a limited time for existing owners that lasts just for the first year]
So what are the pros and cons of this change? Well first of all, once you get on board with the new scheme you'll have to keep paying every month forever because when you stop paying the software stops working. Not so good for those people who only use Photoshop occasionally. But on the upside you get all upgrades as soon as they're released. And as we know every version of Photoshop has included *must have* improvements that we could never live without. Right? In fact, doesn't a subscription model like this remove any incentive for Adobe to develop Photoshop at all? Right now they have to come up with new headline features to tempt people to upgrade every 3 years. But once they're collecting your cash every month - why bother?
I'm a Photoshop trainer so I talk to a lot of Photoshop users. I'd guess that about 50% of the people I talk to are using a pirated copy. Why is that? Because they feel that have to have it but they can't afford it. I answer endless questions from people about ways to get a discount like using the student version. It's clear to me that Photoshop is already way over priced. Quite out of reach of most amateur photographers. And it's also clear that with the rise of Lightroom and other, quicker processing tools Photoshop is being used less and less. So when does the price and the usefulness equation stop people wanting Photoshop at all? I'm guessing right about now - the same moment that Adobe forces everyone onto a software rental model. Adobe is killing its own sacred cow.
The most damaging thing for Adobe, I think, is discussions like this one that remind people they don't actually need Photoshop. There are lots of other, cheaper tools on the market these days that can replace Photoshop for the few remaining things we do with it. Corel's Paintshop Pro is a pretty good facsimile of Photoshop and it's got 16-bit colour support, which is the feature Photoshop Elements lacks that prevents me using it. OnOne Software's Perfect Photo Suite offers a lot of creative options including layers and it integrates with Lightroom beautifully. And there are a ton of other very affordable products coming onto the market that do one or two things really well, like SnapHeal which replicates Photoshop's spot healing and content aware features plus more.
If you're looking at this situation and wondering what to do now I would recommend waiting. It's not clear what the future holds for Lightroom. Lightroom 5 beta just became available but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to buy it without a Creative Cloud subscription. I'll try and find out. As for Photoshop - I'm really not sure I'll bother teaching it any more. I don't want to rent it. Not at these prices. And I'm not at all convinced there'll be much demand for Photoshop courses in the future.
[Update: Although Lightroom 5 has been included in the creative suite in the past it will continue to be available separately as a one-time purchase outside the creative cloud]