Adobe heads to the cloud

Goodbye software in a box, hello Creative Cloud. Adobe is abandoning selling software as one-off products in favour of a subscription-only model. What will it mean for you?

Goodbye software in a box, hello Creative Cloud. Adobe is abandoning selling software as one-off products in favour of a subscription-only model. What will it mean for you?

Adobe has announced at its Los Angeles AdobeMAX summit that it is shifting to an entirely subscription-based model. Users will no longer be able to buy software such as PhotoShop, InDesign, Illustrator and Dreamweaver on a one-off basis but will instead have to sign up to a Creative Cloud subscription. In the UK that will mean paying £46.88 a month for new users or £27.34 for existing customers (those who own CS3 or later) to access all the creative applications. A single application can be bought for £17.58 per month (full details including student pricing here).

As well as the software, the subscription will also give users access to file syncing and cloud-based storage as well as full use of the Behance portfolio site which Adobe acquired last year.

It’s quite a shift from the days of buying software in big boxes with CDs (or even floppies) inside but one that, in many ways, makes a great deal of sense. Upgrades and fixes can be distributed much more quickly and easily. In fact, the subscription model allows Adobe to change its development cycle completely – no longer will, say, the Photoshop team have to wait for the Illustrator team to finish their bits before an upgrade can be released all in one go. New features can, presumably, be released any time.

From Adobe’s point of view, a subscription model no doubt helps in combating piracy and will save considerably on costs (no more packaging for a start).



Many users, however, have already been voicing objections over what they perceive to be increased costs (how many actually felt the need to buy every upgrade in the past, for example?) and the fact that, in order to secure the best price, you must commit up front to a year’s subscription.

As for whether you need to be connected to use the apps (you don’t) or whether you can still access files if you stop subscribing (you can, but only if you save to the earlier version you own), Adobe has some answers here.

For small studios, one big advantage to the new model may be that paying a monthly subscription rather than a one-off big hit makes it easier to plan financially – something that many designers struggle with due to the ad hoc nature of much business.

But beyond arguments over pricing, upgrades and piracy (full Creative Cloud FAQ here), there is a bigger idea at play here. By combining its ‘software as a service’ model, additional tools such as TypeKit and syncing and adding Behance into the mix, Adobe is positioning itself as the essential partner for every aspect of creative life – a constant, daily presence in every stage from getting work to making work. And because it’s subscription-based, Adobe will know exactly who its audience is and what they are doing with its products. It wants to be the place where the creative community comes together as well as a service to that community. So you (and your collaborators) make and share your work with its tools, talk to your peers through its community network and show off the final product via Behance, its portfolio site. It’s involved every step of the way.

Exciting or scary?


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  • What will happen with countries where it’s impossible to actually buy a subscription to CC? Our studio is based in Serbia, and we’ve been able to try the cloud and IT WORKED AWESOME, then when the trial ran out, we intended to buy a subscription, and guess what. We couldn’t!

    If Adobe intends for this to work, they must really start thinking about a ton of their customers in countries like mine.

  • Nathan

    I hope they are the next Lehman Brothers.

  • + VAT (in the UK)

    Long live CS.

    — x

  • wm

    This means I just downloaded Capture 1.

    Bye Bye Adobe.

  • Wow, now my mom can start designing.
    What a shitty way to advocate for serious designers.

  • Last year I paid £619.20 to upgrade from CS4 to CS6, after four years, so that’s £154.80 per year. As an individual Adobe want £46.88 per month (£562.56 per year) for a subscription. A whopping 364% increase!

    I’ll probably run CS6 into the ground and hope that Adobe’s policy opens up the market for other software houses.

  • Helen

    I think perhaps I will stick to my non adobe software! Hurrah for Paint Shop Pro!

  • Genevieve Gauckler

    From now, I cannot update my CS4 version anymore, I feel trapped, I’ve been a very good client from the very beginning and I don’t like this way of selling stuff. I hope they’ll change their mind.

  • Mark

    I think Adobe are massively underestimating how much piracy benefits their business.

  • Rachel

    I’m already on the Cloud – when it came to upgrading my software I found it was the only cost-effective option. Plus it means you can always update to the latest versions and have ALL of the programs you want. I have gone from having Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator to all of them which is a bonus and lets me develop my digital skills. I don’t use the storage facility tho.

  • Remember CS 5.5? Just like those halfway updates, I hope Adobe will realise this is a mistake in a year or so and pretend it never happened.

    A subscription service has many benefits, but to force everyone into it seems a bit short sighted. Why not let consumers choose to either subscribe for constant updates or pay a one off for a version which doesn’t automatically update new features.

    No one advocates piracy of software, but eradicating it will force students into seeking alternatives, thus weakening Adobe’s position in the market when they graduate.

  • Mark Savage

    It’s downhill all the way for Adobe. Photoshop CS6 was a disaster in my opinion and the cloud subscription just compounds that.
    I went back to CS5 and I guess I’ll be using that forever.

  • Welllll obviously paying more money for somthing is not the most fun thing, so I can’t say I’m happy about that but, as sombody who has resisted making the leap to Mac up until now becuase the cost of having to buy brand new software, the potential to have a cloud/subcription based service that I can carry over onto a new platform is a tiny bit appealing – if that’s not a function then yes, it’s very very cheeky of them…

  • I for one am sick and tired of being herded and prodded and fleeced by the big software companies. As soon as someone does it better or cheaper they are attacked, swallowed up and squashed by them. They don’t want competition. They don’t want us to have ownership options. They sunset support. And they don’t play fair in the market. Hail Adobe!

  • I subscribed to the cloud version a while back as I took up the discounted offer that was applied because I owned a box version.

    I was not sure if I was making the right move at the time but I am very pleased that I did now as there is lots more apps with the cloud version and keeping everything updated is nice and easy.

    I think for many people the subscription would be more affordable as you do not have to find the large costs of the box versions which required the payment all in one go. I would have certainly found it easier to get started if I could have spread the payments into a monthly subscription rather than breaking the bank just after leaving uni to get hold of the CS box version.

    I can see why for some people though it does not work so well but I am very happy with the cloud service at the moment.

  • Linda Nicholls

    I want Macromedia back…

  • Therak

    I’ve been using Adobe products since Photoshop 4… and hate this idea. I’m a strong believer in individualism — not “collectivism”. I don’t need to be approved by the “group” for my creative needs… nor do I seek “group think”.

    Good-bye Adobe – Hello Corel Painter… along with using my current versions of Adobe software as long as possible (until other products become available to fulfill a need). Xara will become my new Illustrator and Painter my new Photoshop. offers student discounts for many of the products.

  • Richard Merritt

    Adobe is ignoring a whole swathe of the world in one stroke. We’re based in the CIS and the Cloud doesn’t currently work here. If we stick with CS6 forever, will we be exposed to viruses as support and security updates are phased out? Rather than reduce piracy in this region this policy will drive individuals towards older pirated software and reduce Adobe’s market share. Why not open CC here? They could well find more customers willing to pay to have the most up to date software on tap.

  • It wasn’t surprising that this would be a move by most software and service providers. Just don’t like the feeling of not physically owning a copy of something – the same feeling I got when iTunes and Spotify became more popular than popping to the record shop.

  • I think it’s great. You get a lot for your money each month with the Typekit integration and Behance’s ProSite (if you use it) yet I still hear a lot of people complaining. Seriously, if you can’t cover the license fee each month by using this software then maybe you should be doing something else.

  • When I set up my own digital media business I wanted all the Adobe Creative tools at my fingertips. Buying the full CS6 would have set me back £2,644 whereas the Creative Cloud subscription is £46.88 per month. I phoned Adobe sales and negotiated a much cheaper deal for the first year (it actually ended up being the same 40% off deal that they later offered during NAB). There are also tax benefits in the UK as ‘leased’ software is not seen as an asset and is therefore 100% tax deductible.

    I know that they want to hook users in for the long term, but then what company doesn’t? I love being on Creative Cloud because I know that my software will always be up to date with the latest version, and that I can easily direct any issues to Adobe. There are also some interesting developments in the pipeline for ‘CS7’ or CC as it will be known.

    The Cloud surely makes the applications much more accessible to everyone which in my opinion can only be a good thing. I do realise however that for people who use only one application, such as Photoshop, it is not necessarily cost effective. I use Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator, and am looking to use Premiere more, as well as some of the ancillary apps such as Media Encoder, so for me it represents good value.

    Apple have been shipping their hardware without discs in the box for a while now – OS upgrades via the web. I think that software bought in this way will gradually become commonplace. Remember as well, that when Adobe offered software in a box, you never actually ‘owned’ it as such – read the licence agreement.

    I find claims that piracy actually ‘helps’ companies like Adobe a little hard to swallow. Piracy actually costs software companies vast amounts in lost revenue, hence the massive fines if you are caught doing it. There also seems to be a wave of people who think that they somehow deserve the software for free – why? Adobe have a right to sell their products in the way that they see fit, and the consumers of course have a right to vote with their feet. I am voting with Adobe, but understand that not everyone will feel the same way.

  • Matt Hull

    I am just glad I upgraded to CS6 before the cloud became the only option. Personally I upgrade Creative suite probably every other year, or even longer when I feel that the software is still suitable for the job.

    I’m self employed, I would rather pay upfront and own the software rather than be forced to make monthly payment of a cost that doesn’t represent value for money . Offering more software and unlimited updates doesn’t feel like a benefit for software that the majority of which I won’t use.

    If the cost was lower, or there were a variety of package options I may consider it. But at the moment it seems I won’t have an option when CS6 becomes outdated.

  • I remember when Quark dominated this market and made a fatal error i.e taxing its loyal subjects too much and for too long. Then along came Adobe and won over the creative community, and it looks like they are going to do make the same mistake.

  • Fat Typo

    Your article lists plenty of benefits for Adobe, but not for CS users… listing features (ie what it does or how it works) is not the same as benefits!

    As for preventing Piracy, I’m not sure how Adobe plans this roll-out to work, but say I subscribe and presumably have a login and password to access the service, what’s to stop me sharing those details with others who haven’t paid for their own subscription? I’m not saying I’m into sub-ing others, but I can see the possibility of ‘piggy-backing’ on one account here.

    PS: You need some decent Proofreaders — the article is littered with typos and errors…
    “wil”, “how many actually people”, “one bid advantage”.

  • Steve

    Another example of the digital revolution. Slash overheads and distribution costs yet charge more for the product. If I was a stakeholder I’d be jumping for joy.

    I’ll be interested in how Adobe approach the student market, if they ignore it and overcharge students, it could lead to a competitor sneaking in and undercutting the future customer base for Adobe.

    I also think it makes perfect sense for someone who will use the software everyday – like someone previously mentioned – if you can’t cover the costs of software then maybe design isn’t the right business for you to be in, having said that though I’m not sure what the ‘casual’ user will do. I believe a lot of designers who have a day job often have ‘hooky’ software on their machine at home. The subscription is quite high for someone to have on their machine for infrequent use. Pay as you go?

  • Just don’t need you anymore Adobe. Oh you knew that —that’s where this scheme came from.

  • Adam

    I think Adobe will find they’ve shout themselves in the foot big time over this, as a lot of people will more away from their brand to other brands. Brands like Quark will be having big grins on the faces from yesterdays news!

  • james

    this really isn’t huge news. the people who pay for software will continue to do so, only they don’t have to pay for it all up front. the people who pirate the software will continue to do so. end of.

    nobody will batter an eyelid in a few months, it will be no different to paying for a monthly phone contract or spotify, will just become the norm.

  • Adam

    I do love how people think that, if your not willing to pay the monthly subscription, is because you have pirated software!!

    I use CS4 for my day job & CS2 at home doing work in my spare time. I paid for my CS outright & have been happy with it. Yes it’s old but I don’t see why you should always upgrade to the latest version all the time unless you will need to.

    Put it in another way, I want to own my own house instead of rent house from someone ekse because at the end of the day once I’ve paid for the house I want to own myself & not just throwing money away!

  • I think this service will force casual users into seeking alternative, open source software. A subscription service has many benefits, but to force everyone into it seems a bit short sighted.

    For a graphics professional, I imagine that Corel’s products like PaintShopPro and Painter, are the only ones that approach parity with Adobe’s. I have no idea If they would be adequate, they seem to have stagnated recently, but I get the impression that many of Adobe’s products have too (or possibly just reached maturity). Possibly this is why Adobe are moving to the subscription model. When there are no significant new features in your new product, there is no real reason to upgrade.

    I hope Adobe will realise this is a mistake.

  • I will continue to use CS6 which has been tweeked to perfection for my use. I will not be strong armed into eternal rental. If they gave me the option to buy Id be back in a flash.

  • Does that mean i have to be logged on constantly to use the software..what if i am in a jungle doing a photo shoot and cant get wifi for a few weeks..will the software stop working on my laptop?

  • james


    some basic research will tell you no.

  • C

    If you are running the software on you computer it is not cloud based…. the pricing is extortionate …and this video really sums up a lot of the problems

  • @james on the contrary, I have CS6 at work and at home, and every once in a while it asks me to confirm that I’m subscribed. Once, I had no wi-fi at home (it was being installed), and I couldn’t use Photoshop for the rest of the day, as I couldn’t log in to my account online. My colleague and I were up against a pretty tight deadline too. Pretty pants if you ask me.