After witnessing the collective freakout of basically everyone I know in production yesterday over the announcement that Adobe’s going subscription-only, I’ve been thinking a lot about the news. There are plenty of legitimate concerns (can’t say I’m thrilled about it myself), but I don’t think there’s any need to abandon ship immediately. A few things I haven’t seen mentioned much in the uproar:
– Yes, Adobe is beholden to shareholders and as a public company has to maximize profit. But their revenue still comes from the people actually buying their product. If they make everyone furious enough to stop using their software, they don’t make money. If CC is a massive failure, it won’t be around forever — hell, a year ago they said they would keep selling new standalone CS releases!
– We’re used to thinking of software as a product, and now that big companies are moving away from that business model you see a lot of people using the phrase “software as service” to discuss subscription sales — as if After Effects is somehow akin to electricity or a broadband connection. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I’m beginning to think of subscription software not as a recurring purchase of something you need to run your business, but more like hiring a team of outside developers to do your R&D and, in Adobe’s case, plan your production pipeline. That’s the “service” part — not the software itself. And it’s not necessarily a bad model: it’s certainly not as if the company I work for has the means to do that type of development work on our own. And, after all, if I want to be able to do cooler things better and faster, I need the people who make the tools I use to make a living to be able to make a good living themselves. That said, if, a few years down the road, you get rid of your R&D department, you’d still have the results of their work, no? Maybe CC should be more like (shudder) a phone contract: after two years, whatever version you’re using is yours forever.
– There are some huge benefits for people who do short-term, project-based work: no more worrying about version compatibility between team members, ability to get the software you need for only the time you need it, no initial big investment in a tool you may or may not end up using frequently. An example: I own Production Premium, but once every three or four months or so I really need to use InDesign for about half an hour. I don’t use it nearly enough to justify purchasing it as a standalone tool, so I end up borrowing a laptop from a coworker who has it. It’s super annoying and interrupts everyone’s day, and even though it only happens a few times a year it’d be nice not to worry about it happening again. And interoperability between collaborators is going to be increasingly important. Adobe Anywhere is enterprise-only at the moment, but give it a year or two and being able to connect to the company server is going to be a basic requirement for almost any freelancer in this business.
Unless, of course, the “OMG GONNA USE BLENDER + GIMP NOW BYE” folks prevail… But let’s be honest: there just isn’t a good alternative for the PS-IL-AE-PR suite. That’s why people are feeling trapped. There’s just not really anywhere else to go, and that makes them (and me!) a bit uncomfortable. I’ll be sticking with CS6 for the time being, but I’m sure there will come a point when I cannot live without a feature that didn’t exist a few months previously, and I’ll sign up for CC. At least if my company explodes or I end up broke or something, I can cancel and I’ll still have software that I own to go back to. CS6 is Good Enough for everything I do now, so it ought to be Good Enough for the majority of my work going forward.
The most fascinating thing about all of this: in the uproar over the pricing scheme, I’ve heard absolutely zero discussion of the new software itself!