Stormy reception for Adobe's Creative Cloud

In a Jefferies and CNET poll, creative pros express more negative than positive views about Adobe's new service and pricing, but Adobe says they'll come around. Also: new possibilities with HTML5.

Adobe thinks the Creative Cloud subscription plan is the wave of the future, but it's got plenty of work to do to convince potential customers.
Adobe thinks the Creative Cloud subscription plan is the wave of the future, but it's got plenty of work to do to convince potential customers. CNET/Jefferies

It looks like Adobe Systems has some more convincing to do when it comes to the Creative Cloud, the company's subscription for software and online services due to arrive later this year.

A survey of creative professionals by analyst firm Jefferies & Co. and CNET showed that people have concerns about the Creative Cloud and its price of $600 per year for individuals and $840 per year for corporate users.

Specifically, 41 percent said that they had a negative view of the Creative Cloud compared to 32 percent who expressed a positive view. Beyond that, 62 percent of respondents had a negative view of the price compared to 27 percent who felt positive about it.

Adobe must convince people that Creative Cloud is a good value for the money.
Adobe must convince people that Creative Cloud is a good value for the money. CNET/Jefferies

Complaining about prices is nothing surprising, but some just don't see how the subscription makes sense. "Rent my software? What if Adobe one day goes bankrupt?" complained one respondent.

Added another: "$600+ per year, every year, instead of about $550 to upgrade every two years? Nearly doubles my Adobe software costs."

But there are fans, too. "Less than my iPhone bill and does so much more for my business," one respondent commented.

Adobe is staying the course, of course. In response to the survey findings, the company had this statement:

We certainly do not expect everyone to choose Creative Cloud. Customers can still purchase Creative Suite, as they have done in the past, and CS6 is shaping up to be a phenomenal release. It should be noted that we heard similar objections -- from customers and media -- when we moved from the point product to suites back in 2003. Now the vast majority of our CS software is sold as part of a suite...We believe customers will see the added value of our new offering when it is available. It will become quickly apparent -- via the continued addition of new products, services, and capabilities -- that Creative Cloud is the best long-term choice for customers.

A total of 197 people took the survey two weeks ago. Most of the respondents said they use the recent CS5 and CS5.5 versions of Adobe's Creative Suite products. The survey also polled opinions about how well Flash backer Adobe fared with the new era of Web standards such as JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS3; see below for some details in that area.

What is the Creative Cloud?
Before concluding that the negative response means the Creative Cloud is doomed, remember that Adobe still hasn't released full information on it and its other subscription plans. For example, Adobe hasn't shared a price for a month-to-month rate will be available for short-term projects or for those who don't always use the software. The month-to-month rate will be more expensive per month than an annual subscription; the survey showed a general preference for the annual subscription term.

Another unknown is how much Adobe will charge for subscriptions for individual products, not the full Creative Cloud collection. In February, Scott Morris, senior director of product marketing on Adobe's digital media team, said product subscription prices will be "very attractive." Adobe also hasn't detailed the pricing for traditional Creative Suite licenses.

Customers generally see annual payments as better for the Creative Cloud.
Customers generally see annual payments as better for the Creative Cloud. CNET/Jefferies

And the Creative Cloud still is new to many potential customers.

"Given some of the confusion around key aspects of the Creative Cloud, we conclude that it is too early to make a call on the solution's potential success," concluded Jefferies analysts Ross MacMillan and Sonya Banerjee in a report today.

Here's what Adobe has said the Creative Cloud includes so far:

• The full Master Collection of the Creative Suite products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash Pro, and Dreamweaver. The software still runs on a person's computer, with occasional Internet check-ins to see if the license is still paid up.

• New software features that arrive as they're done rather than waiting for a full new CS release.

• New Web development tools, Adobe Muse geared for designers without coding experience build Web sites and Adobe Edge for creating interactive Web pages using tools geared for both designers and programmers.

• The full collection of Touch apps for iOS and Android tablets, such as Photoshop Touch, Ideas, Proto, and Kuler.

• Lightroom for photo editing and cataloging.

• Online services including 20GB of space to sync files across multiple computers a la Dropbox; use of TypeKit Web fonts on Web sites; and use of Adobe's Business Catalyst service for hosting Web sites.

• An online social-network community to let people share files, comment on each other's work, and follow each other's activity.

It's also possible Adobe will add more features to the Creative Cloud. With online services and software that's updated when features are done, Adobe appears to moving to a more continuously updated set of products rather than software that undergoes a massive changes only every year and a half or two years.

The rise of HTML5 and other Web standards has decreased many survey respondents' reliance on Adobe tools.
The rise of HTML5 and other Web standards has decreased many survey respondents' reliance on Adobe tools. CNET/Jefferies

Web standards arrive
Adobe is weaning itself from its reliance on Flash Player as the means by which it suggests its customers build interactive Web sites, embracing a host of Web standards. Flash is for games and premium video now, and Adobe ditched an attempt to spread it to mobile devices. In its stead are JavaScript and updates to Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

The company is trying to tap into these new Web standards, in part by offering tools such as Edge and Muse for nonprogrammers. So how well is the company doing?

For 41 percent of respondents, the Web standards haven't affected their use of Adobe tools. But 31 percent said they're using Adobe tools less, compared to 12 percent who said they're using them more.

That result indicates there's more convincing to be done in this part of Adobe's transition, too.

Web standards are good enough to use for many survey respondents, but not all.
Web standards are good enough to use for many survey respondents, but not all. Jefferies/CNET

However, Adobe has some breathing room at least among some customers -- 35 percent said Web standards are useful but not yet ready to replace Flash. The bad news for Adobe is that 40 percent said the standards are mature enough to do so, and only 9 percent said they still need Flash.

And although plenty of respondents -- 38 percent -- said they feel it's more important to know how to program in JavaScript, a sizable 30 percent said they're waiting for better tools that will simplify development for designers. That indicates an opportunity for Adobe's products to find a significant market.

But first, Adobe must deliver its tools, and the Creative Cloud it hopes will be the vehicle for that delivery.

There's a lag between what Adobe is up to and broad recognition of that new reality. So take these results with a grain of salt. But don't discount them altogether.

Updated 8:32 a.m. PT to clarify that Adobe Edge is for both designers and developers.

Most people use suites of Adobe software, not individual products.
Most people use suites of Adobe software, not individual products. CNET/Jefferies
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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