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Adobe Shifts Focus to ‘Creative Cloud’

is the new marketing approach really an advance?

At Adobe’s MAX conference held in Los Angeles during May, the company confirmed it is changing focus from further development of the Creative Suite applications and bundles in favor of an online distribution model licensing. As part of that change, Adobe’s updated software titles will carry a Creative Cloud—“CC”-designation rather than the “CS” designation.

The Creative Cloud product is equivalent to the Creative Suite Master Collection. While Adobe makes the transition to CC-only services, the company will continue to provide support and bug fixes for CS 6 applications. There will be no Creative Suite 7 application releases.


Adobe’s new business model sets monthly-membership pricing for access to the Creative Cloud services at two levels with the higher level, the “complete individual” membership set at $50-per month. That fee provides access to all CC-designated titles as well as Lightroom version 5, which may be the last Adobe standalone application release that also has a “perpetual” license.

There is also a $20-per month membership available to users who want access to just a single application, but there are no individual user plans that might be the equivalent of the previous Creative Suite Design Collection or Production Premium Collection. However, there is a Creative Cloud for team package that provides centralized license and update management for multi-user shops. (Editor’s note: Members of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) were offered a $10 per month deal for the combination of Photoshop CC and Lightroom.)

Individual plans are equipped with 20 GB of cloud storage, while the team plan is outfitted with 100 GB of storage. Creative Cloud provides a “mis- sion control” dashboard that helps coordinate a member’s client-side service updates, authentication, synchronization and sharing of content through their Creative Cloud storage, with response and comment tracking for the subscriber’s cloud-hosted work.

It’s important to note that there is a government purchasing program—called “CLP-G licensing”— that allows government customers to purchase Creative Cloud Desktop Applications subscriptions including all the available CC apps, as well as Acrobat and Lightroom. These latter applications can be deployed locally and do not require server-based license validation during the term.

The idea of centralized data and service management with shared file access from anywhere is a key concept in cloud computing. In addition, the linkage of Creative Cloud memberships to Bêhance, Adobe’s creative media sharing site, appears designed to cement the cloud aspect of its new business model. However, many aspects of Adobe Creative Cloud are very un-cloud-like.


A true cloud-computing environment would provide local access to services and data located somewhere else in the cloud with minimal resources required on a client’s machine. Small cloud service interface kernels might not even remain resident on the local machine once the user’s session has ended. Cloud computing also promises the same or better data security, access control and performance than one could obtain on a local machine with local resources.

Creative Cloud Graphic, courtesy of Adobe
A major un-cloud-like aspect of Adobe’s Creative Cloud is that the CC labeled services do not operate in the cloud at all. Those large programs need to reside on the local machine to function requiring a user to download the entire Adobe CC service to a local machine and perform the online subscription validation before using the service for the first time.

Each CC service download will be 800 MB or more, and needs to remain resident on any device to use it a second time. Users cannot just buy a DVD set with CC service installers for their systems. That differs from the CS application model only in license validation and management, marketing, distribution and sales, but not in the application’s functional architectures.

Adobe’s all-or-nothing transition gambles that users will buy into its new licensing scheme without getting any of the benefits that are supposed to be the hallmarks of cloud computing. For example, if a user needed to work on a cloud-based Photoshop CC project from an Android phone or tablet, that user would be out of luck because only iPhone and iPad devices have apps that provide a very-limited interface to Photoshop, Bêhance and the user’s Adobe CC cloud storage. In addition, users who need to use Audition, After Effects and other applications on an iPad will also be out of luck because none of the CC branded titles provides true cloud-based services.


Adobe’s approach has created a backlash within the user community reflected by the largely negative responses to the Creative Cloud announcement posted online. Although many users might not be IT-savvy enough to realize Creative Cloud is not cloud computing at all, those critical of the plan are of the opinion Adobe is simply shifting their distribution costs to users and increasing Adobe’s profit with the subscription fees.

An Adobe online forum user posted a link to a petition for Adobe to abandon CC subscription licensing and return to the CS “perpetual” licensing and distribution model.

Other posts to the Adobe forum said not all users have access to reliable, high-speed Internet and CC service downloads could take from four to 40 hours. Others believe they will pay more on a yearly basis through the subscription process than they would through the upgrade license process.

There is also criticism that the system does not provide an option to skip a release due to cost considerations and those who use a single service regularly, and perhaps two others occasionally, will pay the same as those who regularly use the entire suite.

The new licensing scheme theoretically improves portability of CC services over CS applications, since it will not require a deactivate, uninstall, reinstall and reactivate cycle to use a CC service from other than the subscriber’s own machine and home facility. However, there are concerns the system will still require the non-cloud-like download-install- subscription-validation routine. CC services will also cease to function when the subscription ends, whereas current users who have not opted for upgrade costs can still run their older CS applications for years to come.


Adobe’s Creative Cloud is a social-media connection service for application users holding a monthly subscription-license. To facilitate the transition to a real cloud architecture without creating user defections, Adobe might have copied Microsoft’s playbook in which Microsoft has maintained its Office application suites and perpetual licensing for single, local users while introducing a fully cloud implemented version, Office 365, for those who need Office anywhere, on any device.

Will Adobe quickly move to a real, full cloud implementation and license model that satisfies the issues of its grumbling users? Or, will Adobe relent and continue further development and releases under the Creative Suite licensing and distribution model? Or, will Adobe shed its loyal-customer-base of individual artists and small-shop users to service only large enterprise operations?

The success of Adobe’s Creative Cloud is far from certain. Stay tuned.