This week's column by Ctein
This is the first part of a two column series on Photoshop CC. In this column I will talk about what Adobe got wrong (oh, so badly wrong!) Pertinently, I'll also correct some broad misconceptions that people have about Photoshop CC. Feel free to rant, fume, and bloviate to your hearts content in comments; that's what this week's column is for.
Next week, I'll talk about why I decided (to my surprise) that this is a really good thing for Photoshop users and Adobe, both. No, don't anticipate me; you will not be able to guess where I'm going with this. I think I've got an interesting take on the whole thing; if we can get our rants out of our system this week, we'll have an illuminating discussion next week. (So call me a cockeyed optimist.)
I'm limiting my scope to Photoshop. I don't use Lightroom, and I rarely, if ever, use any of the other Creative Suite components (in other words, I am typical of 90% of photographers using Photoshop). If you're a Lightroom or major Creative Suite user, you likely have concerns and issues that I'm not competent to discuss. That doesn't mean I think your gripes aren't legitimate, just that I am restricting my scope.
Diving into the lava pit, without further ado...
Adobe did not spring this on us in the worst possible way, but it's way high up on the incompetence scale. Some of their strategy and marketing people need to be fired. I'm not kidding. Most of the whirlwind they are reaping is entirely of their own making and was entirely unnecessary.
To start with, there's the style. You don't surprise customers with a change like this with one month's notice. Yes, Adobe's been talking about this fundamental strategic change for several years, now, but only with vague timetables that put it years in the future. The result was entirely predictable, forcing people to make long-term strategy decisions, with just a month to figure this all out before the hammer falls? How much would you think this might piss people off?
Enough that you see a marked uptick in people using the phrase "Adobe tax." Yes, it's a brain-dead, bumper-sticker-slogan bit of rhetoric (you call your monthly phone or garbage collection bills "phone tax" or "garbage tax"? Really??), but it's a fair indicator that people are really upset. A change.org petition? OMG. Sure, it has no force whatsoever and a pretty small number of signatories compared to Adobe's installed base, but when was the last time you saw anyone attempt to start a social movement over a change in product licensing terms?!
PR-wise, Adobe couldn't have made it much worse if they'd offered to kill a puppy with every purchase of Photoshop CC.
Oh, wait. They did manage to make it much worse. There was the content. The murky, unclear, incomplete, convoluted content. That's where most of the misconceptions come from. In the days following the announcement, a large number of people were unclear about just what this physically entailed, because Adobe had decided to wrap the whole thing up in the high concept of the Creative Cloud. Was the new Photoshop application going to be client-resident or server-resident? Where did your files live? Were updates going to be push-obligatory or optional? Would you even be able to buy CS after CC comes out?
I had a friend who is exceptionally knowledgeable about streaming and server-based technologies and services (because it's her job to be) ask me three days after the announcement if the new Photoshop was going to be client or server based, because the short-form press releases hadn't made that clear even to her. (If it were server-based, she was most curious how they'd solved some bandwidth/latency problems.) I had to ask Adobe's PR agency several questions myself, because I couldn't figure them out even after delving deeply into the Adobe website. In a couple of cases they couldn't give me an answer because Adobe hadn't told them yet.
Here in a nutshell is what's really going on (I'm glossing over some technical details). Photoshop CC is not any different from Photoshop CS. It resides on your computer. The files you work on reside on your computer. It does not require a constant connection to the Internet to work. It does require a periodic connection to keep working...but so do CS versions of Photoshop! You didn't know that? True. I've had CS occasionally reset itself and need to login to revalidate my copy and pull it out of 30-day-trial mode. In some cases it's even needed me to reenter the serial number.
The only difference for the user is that Photoshop CC revalidates itself on a regular basis (30–99 days, depending on the license), while Photoshop CS only does it when some internal bit of logic deems it necessary. That's it.
That discredits the argument that this change is somehow about dealing with piracy (next week I'll tell you what it is about; be patient). It'll be no more difficult to pirate Photoshop CC than CS. Well, okay, they may have rolled out some new anti-piracy tweaks to the activation/validation system in the new version, because they're always working on that, but it's nothing inherent in the CC model; those would have been in CS 6.5.
The reason all this misinformation is out there is because Adobe couldn't figure out that they needed to explain this cleanly and simply, and not inextricably and confusingly wrap up the presentation in some fancy Cloud conceptual package that was irrelevant to most Photoshop users.
Then there's the confusion on pricing. A lot, maybe even a majority, of existing users think their Photoshop costs are going to go up, because they'll be paying out $20 a month. Except, they won't. For existing users, the price is $10 a month. It's only $20 a month for brand-new users (or current users of really old versions). Yes, it's a one-year "introductory" price. But, I've got good reason to think it'll become permanent and, anyway, that's what it is now. Ten dollars. Not $20.
Except...was this clearly and prominently displayed on the Adobe website? No! You found this out only if you drilled down through the purchase options. It's not that Adobe is trying to rip us off; the information does come up clearly once you get a layer or two in and before you'd be making a purchase. It's maladroit presentation.
Dear Adobe, since it seems you do not know how to suck eggs, let me explain this to you. Here is the way you present something like that, especially since your primary audience is a pre-existing installed user base: The very first page that discusses pricing should say "Price for the next year: $9.95 for users of Photoshop CS[x] and later." And the price for new users? That goes in smaller type or maybe even footnoted. Oh, and not so by the way, this information should be very near the top of the presentation because, y'know, it's the very first question people are going to ask, and making them dig for the information is not good salesmanship, it's just plain poking at the bear. Except, it seems you don't know that, so I'm telling you.
All of this, plus these postings:
...make it clear that someone(s) at Adobe whose job was to think these things through did not do so. Not even a little bit. We're not talking about rocket-science corporate communications issues; these are all such basic and predictable concerns and questions that Adobe should have had all the answers ready and promulgated clearly and prominently the moment they made their announcement.
Adobe truly earned all the vitriol that's been directed at them.
That's it for this week. As I said, next week I'll tell you why I've decided I actually like this idea, despite Adobe's best efforts to make me hate it. For now, have fun with the torches and pitchforks and tar and feathers. Just remember, kids, to have a responsible adult around. I mean, it's all fun and games until someone trips and pokes an eye out out with one of those pitchforks....
©2013 by Ctein, all rights reserved
Regular columnist Ctein explicates the pros and cons every week on TOP.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
George Feucht (partial comment): "OWNING something (that doesn't require costly upkeep) is much better in the long run than RENTING it."
Eric: "A monthly subscription for $10? Check out the European prices...."
Mark Cotter: "I jumped to CC about six months ago. I figured that I use Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom and Premiere (occasionally) enough to justify the cost. And I decided that I preferred the idea of always having the current version rather than upgrading every couple of years when I couldn't work effectively with the files others had sent me. OK, not quite the person you were aiming your column at but I do agree with you—and I expect to agree with you next week. Oh, and I work in education so get a hefty discount. Win-win for me!"
Mark Roberts: "What's infuriating—and infuriating is the word for it—about this 'Creative Cloud' is that one will no longer be able to just buy Photoshop and be done with it. (Yes, I'm aware that technically one 'licenses,' rather than purchases, Photoshop.) The amount of the payment is less annoying that the fact that it is recurrent; it'll keep coming back on a regular basis. 'Nickel and Dimed,' 'Death of a Thousand Cuts,' whatever you want to call it. I already have too many of them in my life. I suspect many others do, too."
David (partial comment): "I don't rent anything except floor sanders, jackhammers and some extra lighting equipment when I need it."