Adobe Bends Some for Photographers

(news & commentary)

Since the introduction of Creative Cloud and Adobe's move to software rental, the photographic community has been upset. 

Yesterday at Photoshop World Adobe announced a peace offering: Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, and 20GB of online storage for US$9.99 month to any owner of Photoshop CS3 or later. This new offering and price is available only through December 31, 2013, and is not an introductory offer (e.g. not a one-year price that increases to something else down the line). You'll be making an annual commitment billed monthly if you opt for this.

The two differences between this offer and the original US$9.99 Photoshop CC offer that expired July 31st are these: (1) the new offer includes Lightroom; and (2) the price doesn't expire at the end of one year. That's why I wrote "bends some" in the headline. It's not a huge difference from what they've offered in the past, but for many it will be enough to sway them towards CC, which is what Adobe wants.

The details are still a little unclear, as Adobe isn't exactly saying that this is a lifetime price. What they're saying is that this is the "standard price" for this level of membership in Creative Cloud, and this membership is only available until the end of the year. At the same time, they also say that it isn't a first-year only price. My take is that Adobe is leaving themselves some room to potentially increase the price at some point in the future, but has no plans to do so at this time. Given the one-year commitment aspect of the offer and the claim it isn't a first-year price, Adobe would have a lot of explaining to do if they increased the price for your second year. I'd guess that explaining would be to a judge in a court case ;~).

Note that to qualify you have to own a version of Photoshop (CS3 or later). While the offer includes Lightroom, Lightroom-only users can't opt for it. Note too that if you let this special Photoshop Cloud membership expire for any reason, you're no longer eligible for the special price should you later decide to rejoin. That's a pretty big penalty should it happen to you, and I can guarantee you I can't put such a plan on my Bank of America credit card: for a regular payment that happens every month, BofA just triggered a fraud alert on me while I was out of Internet and phone access. Knowing how badly Adobe has been handling exceptions in the past, I can only guess how hard it would be to keep the US$9.99 plan after something like that happens to you. What a combo: BofA and Adobe customer service. 

At US$120/year for unlimited Photoshop CC and Lightroom updates, the new offer starts to fall into a reasonable level of pricing for most photographers. Most of us were updating every two or three years for more than this cost, so those folk will likely see it as a bargain. Given that I still haven't updated to Lightroom 5, it's even more enticing to me at the moment, and I may give in and move to this CC offer just to stay current. It's certainly now more in my realm of expected ongoing software costs. On the other hand, it's still really a permanent commitment, as there is no stand-alone option to fall back on if you eventually decide to let your subscription go. Changes you make that use CC features are rasterized in Photoshop CS6, meaning you've lost editability. 

As usual, Adobe's marketing of this new offer leaves something to be desired. I've already fielded questions about two things that aren't clear in Adobe's presentation. First, why is the offer specific about Lightroom 5? Does this mean that when Lightroom 6 comes out it isn't included? (Answer: Adobe refers to upgrades and updates in their language, so if Lightroom 6 isn't included—it would be an upgrade—then they have some 'splaining to do.) Second, is Bridge CC included? Well, it's included with the deal if you buy the current higher-priced Photoshop CC option, and there are Q&As on Adobe's site you can find that say that it is part of Photoshop CC. You'd think that the marketing arm of Adobe would have said "Photoshop CC, Bridge CC, and Lightroom" are included in the package, but then again Adobe can't market their way out of a thin paper bag in a rainstorm. 

And don't get me started on Adobe's timing. The original Photoshop CC offer came during the Cloudy month of May. Next came a for-purchase Lightroom 5 upgrade in June. Now comes a combined Photoshop/Lightroom offer in September. Adobe collected a lot of extra money from quite a few people. Had we all known that this new offer was going to come about, some people would have not bought Photoshop CS6, waited to get their Lightroom upgrade, and basically not given Adobe extra cash to line their coffers. The cynic wonders whether this timing was intentional, trying to collect a few extra dollars here and there. But the truly cynical knows that Adobe just doesn't know what they're doing and are fumbling their way forward. 

Also don't try asking questions of Adobe's customer support people in the on-line chat you'll be offered on their site. All they can do is execute scripts they've been given that clearly miss common and simple questions. I'll say it again: this whole move to CC would have been a lot less contentious if Adobe had (a) really listened to their customer base; (b) been clearer in their marketing; and (c) had anything approaching good customer service. If you sell software as a service (e.g. Creative Cloud), you'd better be damned good at service. 

Finally, note that the offer isn't quite available yet. Adobe says it will become available when Lightroom 5.2 ships later this month.

Adobe's Photoshop Cloud Offer blog post 

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