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The Adobe Shake-Down

The latest from Adobe, according to

Starting with Photoshop CS6, which is anticipated to ship in 2012, Adobe will be enforcing a new upgrade policy. The existing practice is to allow customers to purchase the newest version at the upgrade price if they own an existing version up to three major releases back.

To upgrade to Photoshop CS6 or any other Creative Suite 6 application at the upgrade price, however, you will need to own a license to the previous major release (in this case, CS5, CS5.1 and CS5.5 are all considered to be the same version). Earlier major version releases will not be eligible for upgrade pricing.

Martin D writes:

What Adobe has been doing has made little rational sense, but the implication I see here is that anybody who wants to use this software is potentially looking at $400-1500 “Adobe tax” every year in order to stay current (depending on how many apps they use). Of course, we don't know if any pricing changes are coming.

They offer a CS5.5 Design Premium subscription at $95/month (pre-paid for a year) or $140/month-to-month, which suggests to me their target is to wring about $1200-1400 per year out of a typical suite user, one way or another.

By comparison, Photoshop Extended alone is $49/month (pre-paid for a year) or $75/mont-to-month, which is $600-900 per year.

Meanwhile, the low end of the graphics market is quite active these days, and fewer people have any need to shell out for Photoshop and its appalling learning curve.

If Adobe continues in this direction, their suite apps are going to form a shrinking bubble that becomes ever more isolated at the "high end" until it winks out in obsolescence. Maybe that's for the best?

DIGLLOYD MPG: The main reason I do not buy the full Adobe suite is that I use only a fraction of it, and the upgrade price is appalling— suitable for big corporations, but very unfriendly to small businesses. And the upgrade price simply does not reflect value for me, and no doubt this is the reason so many users are running older versions,

I use Adobe DreamWeaver CS5.5 and Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 heavily for my web site, and have paid Adobe many thousands over the years.

I would not mind paying the upgrade fees if Adobe actually fixed the appalling number of bugs, particular in DreamWeaver, which for 5 years now has been the most unreliable software program I use. The fact is, not a single one of the DreamWeaver bugs has been fixed, a track record showing contempt for users. I wrote about this in 2006— nothing has been fixed since then. I mean nothing. If anything, there are more bugs.

Instead, Adobe adds fluff features, while leaving both bugs and severe usability issues intact in each and every “upgrade” I have paid for, then calls it a “major upgrade”. It is deeply offensive to be treated this way by Adobe. I’d use another HTML editor in a heartbeat if a good Mac alternative existed.

As for Photoshop CS5, its aging sausage code base finally went 64-bit with CS5, but Adobe’s strategy does not seem to have anything at all to do with bugs fixes or usability, but rather stuffing in a few cool features for a “major” release, which is the same sausage code base foisted on users the previous release. What I want to see improved for my bread-and-butter everyday work: rock-solid reliability, full CPU core usage maxed-out on my 12-core Mac Pro, and elimination of modal nonsense (why can’t I do something else while saving/opening/batch-processing RAW?), What I do not need is cute features— those are nice but should come last.

I doubt I am alone here, as there seems to be universal dislike of Adobe. Adobe management is playing a fool’s game that will hit them hard at some point, perhaps for the reasons Martin D suggests, and perhaps for others. Witness the about-face on Flash for mobile devices— a shot across the bow aimed by Saint Jobs. For that reason, I issue a “sell” on Adobe; they are pursuing corporate suicide via slow poisoning by irritating a customer base that needs only a small excuse to look elsewhere.

Jak K writes:

Regarding the high price of Adobe Suite products, I have an interesting suggestion to talented professionals using these products.

In 2002 I inquired just out of curiosity about what the staffing situation was at a local community college. The department head informed me they like to hire professionals working in the field (graphics in this case) and most of their staff was part time otherwise known as adjunct. When the person I talked to learned of my prepress experience since the dawn of DTP, I was asked if I would teach a prepress course in the upcoming semester.

So, simple curiousity led unexpectedly to an offer to teach. I ended up teaching Prepress, Digital Color Theory and Practice, Photoshop and QuarkXpress.

When it came time to upgrade my Adobe software, it dawned on me that I was eligible for educational pricing. Phew, what a difference.

And it was, I believe, a win-win proposition for Adobe and myself. Most of my night class students were folks already in a related field from photography to graphic design and wanted to extend their knowledge. My students could buy educational versions as well and I strongly encouraged them to do so. I'd hazard a guess that more than 50% of my students went on to upgrade after they left school. That's a win for Adobe and a win for me.

So, I suggest that if you are skilled in graphics, that you consider giving back and passing on your insight and skills to the next generation. Teach them how to teach themselves and to collaborate with others. The pay is not great and there are no benefits, but the rewards are surprising. If you do a good job, you'll beam with pride of the curiosity and skill you develop in your students. The bonus is you will get educational pricing that is well worth it, and Adobe or other software companies will gain loyal users.

By the way -- some community colleges (CC) have a high turnover while others you have to wait for someone to retire to get a position. Some high schools and trade schools also hire graphic professionals. There are also a slew of "Art Institutes" which I'd approach cautiously. I don't care for their "high cost to quality of eduction ratio" at many of these institutions, so ascertain that you are comfortable with their value to students.

P.S. I'm still concerned with the future of Adobe's software and absolutely abysmal support. The bright note is they can reinvent themselves with HTML5 content creation tools in the area of web tools--but I remain equally cautious on that point as well.

DIGLLOY MPG: The education discount is more along the lines of what pricing could be to garner Adobe a loyal and wide user base. Alas, that is not the strategy.

As for technical support, I agree— it has been miserable for years. I don’t like the generic nature of it (or the outsourcing half way around the world). I liken it to a bouncer at the door; the job seems to be to make it annoying enough that the caller will find their own solution, which of course for bugs means no solution at all except suffering with the bugs for years.

In addition, having lost licenses many times over the years due to system changes, the “you’re probably a thief but we’ll help you out this one time” attitude is also offensive.

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