Creative Cloud from a Software Design Perspective

The Creative Cloud has gotten mixed reviews from users. Many users don’t like the idea of ‘renting’ software and feel Adobe is forcing them to pay more or gouging them. While this may or may not be true, there are other reasons for Adobe wanting to make this switch.

Software is traditionally done in big releases. You work for a year or more and deliver the final product with much fanfare. This is a feast or famine type of thing… users get all or nothing and the company bets the farm that the release is all that and a bag of potato chips. This really isn’t great for either users or the company.

In part, it’s been done this way because software had to be delivered on discs. If you’re going to release boxed software, and you release it every two or three months it’s expensive to reprint everything. Also, legally, larger companies had to recognize revenues if they released an update with new features. Delivering via the cloud/subscription does away with all that.

For users, features that some of them could use right NOW aren’t available until the big release. By going to a cloud licensing model, Adobe is able to release small features as they’re ready even if bigger features are not. This is very cool for the users that benefit from those features. The big features will probably also be better because engineering isn’t trying to come up with the ‘tentpole’ for the upcoming relase. They can focus on getting it right instead of just getting it in the release. Too often you see features that just aren’t all there yet. Photoshop is particularly bad about this, releasing features that take a release or three to actually mature (timeline, 3D, etc).

From a software developer’s perspective, being able to release continuously (more or less) has a lot of benefits. You can release features and get user feedback faster, allowing you to make those features more useful. Changing user priorities can be identified and features that fill those priorities can be bumped up the development list. For example, if something that users really want is identified a couple months before a release (and won’t make it), it doesn’t have to wait 18 months. And, as mentioned, big features don’t have to be released before they’re ready just to fit the 18 month cycle.

Ultimately software developers want you to use the product and new features. If you ask developers why they do what they do, this is the top reason. Developing software that no one wants is not fun, regardless of how much you’re being paid. If the features aren’t all that, they want to know about it and improve them as quickly as possible.

The subscription model is a huge change in the way software is developed. It’s not necessarily all good, but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

2 thoughts on “Creative Cloud from a Software Design Perspective”

  1. The the benefits outweigh the negatives… for adobe, not the user.

    Only 10% of photoshop users do so professionally. The majority of users are happy with their older versions of the software. They skip several expensive updates because the program works fine and they didn’t need the additional “small features”.

    adobe, seeing that the majority of users not upgrading was hurting the bottom line and making their stock holders unhappy, came up with a “Forced Update Model”. Now, the user is a constant beta tester and pays for features they don’t need, rather than having the choice to upgrade or skip, based on the features in the new version.

    The other major problem for adobe was Piracy. They thought connecting your computer directly to them would stop this, but cc was cracked as soon as it became available. And with these high recurring costs, will only get worse.

    adobe likes to talk about one or two years of rent, but do the math for 5 to 10 years (with unknown price increases), and it’s a terrible value for the user.

    In 5 years you might want to switch to a new, more modern node based photo editing program, but you’ll still continue to pay adobe for the privilege of using all of the files you created in cc, indefinitely.

    In 10 years, you’re still paying and paying. Who will own adobe? Google (Just bought Nik), Microsoft (think Softimage)?, Apple (think Shake)? Will they simplify the programs for a larger audience (Final cut)? Discontinue some of the software? Remember, when they go away, you’ll have no ability to run the programs. Will you even have access to your files in 20 years?

    adobe cc software is a special case; when a software company stops supporting a product, you have a perpetual license copy of the software on your computer and can continue to work on your files. With CC, your software will no longer function and your files will no longer open.

    Give the user a choice; Forced Upgrade for those with money to burn, and a perpetual license copy for those wanting to choose when to upgrade.

  2. Only 10% of users do what? Use it professionally? Where are you getting your information? The vast majority of users upgrade within two releases, I’ve heard numbers of 70% or more from Adobe employees and anecdotal evidence backs that up.

    Some things to think about… two of the companies you mentioned (Nothing Real (Shake) and SoftImage) were struggling and had to be sold. Adobe is trying to avoid this fate. Users that only upgrade every 5 or 10 years are pretty low value users from Adobe’s perspective. While you never like to see users go elsewhere, if you’re trying to build a sustainable business you want to do what’s best for the aforementioned 70%+ of users that upgrade regularly. If the other users want to buy CS6 and keep using that for 20 years or switch to a competing photo editing program, Adobe is clearly ok with that. I’ll also point out that if you use a Mac there’s no way you’re using an application from 10 years ago. You’re forced to upgrade every 5 years or so because of changes Apple makes to the hardware and OS. Change happens.

    If you’re worried about file compatibility, go to Preferences, select File Handling and set Maximize PSD File Compatibility to ALWAYS. There are many applications that can read PSD files, including Photoshop Elements. Or you could save it as layered TIFF files.

    As for piracy, what makes you think that was one of Adobe’s concerns? I rather doubt it was, as the applications are stored locally meaning they would still be easy to crack.

    Adobe made the decision they did and they almost certainly aren’t going back. From all accounts that I’ve heard, publicly and privately, they’re happy with the move. I would say most of their customers are also happy with the move or at least ambivalent about it, but I think long term those users will appreciate the benefits. Regardless, the point of the post was more to bring up some considerations that most users probably don’t see, since most users don’t develop software. Perhaps giving some additional insight as to why Adobe made the decision they did and why they aren’t going back. Keep in mind I don’t work for Adobe, so all of this is speculation.

    I realize I’m coming off as something of an Adobe fanboy here, but that’s not really the case. I’m just looking at it from the point of view of a developer and if it was my product. From the viewpoint of a plugin developer, CC has not been the smoothest release. I’m a little ambivalent about it myself and understand the concerns. However, it’s here to stay.

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