May 06, 2013

Adobe Gives the Little Guys the Finger

You may have heard by now that Adobe, long-time manufacturer of Photoshop and related software products, has finally brought out the big hammer, and smashed it down firmly on the heads of individuals and small businesses.

What? You haven't heard this?

Perhaps you heard that Adobe is switching to an "Internet always required, subscription only" model for their "Creative Suite" products. If you've seen those articles today, you probably saw business writers waxing poetic over what a wonderful move this is by (and for) Adobe. These same authors are generally implying that it's a great deal for users, too.

And it is -- if you're willing to let Adobe weld a ring and chain to your nose (and wallet).

The clue to this seeming paradox is revealed if you look at the reader comments on most of these articles, which (at least so far) seem to be overwhelmingly negative.

How could this be? After all, these have always been premium software products, why should anyone get bent out of shape by their move to a subscription model and requiring the Net for use?

The devil, as always, is in the details.

There are some applications that naturally benefit greatly from a move to "the cloud" in various contexts, especially when staying up to the minute with security fixes is involved.

Email and document collaboration are two obvious examples, with Microsoft trying to play catch-up with Google in this context.

And even then, pricing matters -- a lot.

Basic Google services are free. The business version of Google Apps is $5/user/month (a bit less on an annual basis).

But Adobe is aiming for much bigger bucks -- their pricing schedule shows monthly fees up to an order of magnitude higher than that $5, or even much more.

Now, obviously Photoshop has a very different feature set than Google Docs.

And Adobe's prices have always been of the premium variety, even as increasingly powerful Open Source tools (like GIMP, for example) have become very widely available.

For larger businesses for whom cost isn't much of an object, it's (as the old saying goes) six of one or half a dozen of the other whether they're on a subscription model with Adobe or not. They're likely pretty much locked-in anyway for logistical and workflow reasons if nothing else.

But if you're like an awful lot of people and smaller businesses I know, you've justified the premium price of Adobe Creative software products on the basis that you simply didn't need to upgrade them all that often for the features you need.

Perhaps you skipped every other upgrade cycle, or upgraded even less frequently, and have been quite happy anyway.

Well, Adobe isn't happy with you. They want you to be upgraded at all times at those premium prices, no ifs, ands, or buts. And not only are you forced to pay premium prices, if you ever stop paying, you're left with ... nothing. You don't even have an older version that suited you just fine to run any more. Poof!

Adobe claims their pricing offers an "inexpensive" way into their Creative world (hey, even pay without an annual commitment if you're willing to hand over a lot more cash -- not a small increment, mind you).

But this is the oldest game in the book, evolved to a fine art by generations of used car salesmen. Hook in the suckers by concentrating only on the monthly fee, and by all means don't let them think about how those will be adding up over the months and years.

Again, we're not talking $5 a month here. We're talking much higher amounts.

It seems obvious that part of Adobe's plan (in addition to the added anti-piracy, forced connectivity aspects) is to cull the herd of those "unproductive ingrates" -- the customers who simply refused to upgrade every cycle to get the latest fancy doodads that they didn't require or use. And in the process, Adobe wants to sucker in folks who don't bother calculating the cumulative costs on those monthly charges, even though most of these users would likely do just fine with some of the great Open Source alternatives (if they even know about them, which they probably don't).

I've actually been a long-time supporter of Adobe products like Photoshop and Premiere. But yes -- I'll admit it -- I'm one of those "bottom-feeders" by Adobe's definition, who somehow has managed to be satisfied with older versions of their products without frequently funneling more cash in Adobe's direction.

I'm also a big supporter of cloud-based services -- they can bring great benefits in an array of contexts -- where they're appropriate, make sense, and above all are appropriately priced.

But as we see with Adobe, it's also possible to use this model and an aggressive pricing structure to fleece the sheep, and frankly, I believe that is what Adobe is doing here as far as individuals and many small businesses are concerned.

Of course, this is only my opinion. Perhaps you disagree with me totally regarding Adobe's new philosophy.

In that case, you might wish to wander over to the many articles about Adobe's changes that are filling up with negative comments from upset Adobe users.

I'm sure that Adobe would appreciate your posted thoughts in support of their brave new world.


Posted by Lauren at May 6, 2013 08:56 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein