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Survey shows polarized opinions about Adobe Creative Cloud

The company's software subscribers are generally satisfied, but Adobe still faces critics who don't like its 2013 decision to cease developing its Creative Suite software.

A CNET-RBC Capital Markets survey shows Adobe Creative Cloud customers generally happy with their subscriptions.
A CNET-RBC Capital Markets survey shows Adobe Creative Cloud customers generally happy with their subscriptions. RBC/CNET/Stephen Shankland

Two and a half years after launching its Creative Cloud subscription program, Adobe still hasn't won over critics who prefer the company's traditional software sales approach. But with indications that satisfaction is high among the 2.8 million who have subscribed, that might be a shrinking problem.

The split opinions are evident in a survey that financial analyst firm RBC Capital Markets and CNET ran earlier in December concerning the Creative Cloud subscription and the Creative Suite products sold through traditional perpetual licensing.

Adobe began the subscription in 2012, and in 2013 controversially said improvements only would come to the Creative Cloud versions of its products. Both CS and CC primarily consist of titles for creative professionals including Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and After Effects.

In the unscientific survey, to which 284 people responded, 95 percent of Creative Suite customers said they don't plan to move to the Creative Cloud, indicating that a sizeable population is still eager to take Adobe to task for its shifting business.

Their major objections were as follows: 72 percent said it was too expensive; 56 percent said the current Creative Suite products were good enough; and 28 percent said they plan to switch to products from Adobe competitors.

Creative Suite customers who plan not to upgrade cited cost as the single largest factor.
Creative Suite customers who plan not to upgrade cited cost as the single largest factor. RBC/CNET/Stephen Shankland

Among Creative Cloud customers, though, Adobe got a warmer reception. There, 57 percent said they were "very satisfied" with their subscription and 20 percent said they were "satisfied." And a notable 89 percent said that after their first year, they renewed or planned to renew their subscription.

Adobe's stock is trading at an all-time high, so investors seem inclined to see the glass as more than half full. The company in September reported it has 2.8 million Creative Cloud subscribers and will update the figure Thursday as it reports results for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Adobe's financial fortunes hinge on converting CS customers to CC subscriptions; with no more CS upgrades, they're no longer paying. "Creative Cloud is around 3 million [customers], or 23 percent of Adobe's 12.8 million active base," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Ross MacMillan.

Subscriptions produce steadily recurring revenue instead of the hard-to-predict surges that accompany occasional releases of big upgrades. Adobe argues that subscription lets the company deliver smaller updates more frequently instead of holding new features back until there are enough to justify a big new release.

The Creative Cloud subscription costs $50, £47 or AU$50 per month for subscribers who sign up for a full year and want the full collection of Adobe software. The company also offers $20, £18 or AU$20 plans for individual titles; a $10, £9 or AU$10 plan for Photoshop and Lightroom; and a $70, £38 or AU$50 plan for business users who are part of a team. The subscription includes the software, some Adobe services for file sharing and publishing, and access to iOS and Android apps including Lightroom Mobile.

Adobe's Creative Cloud subscriptions reached 2.81 million in its third fiscal quarter of 2014.
Adobe's Creative Cloud subscriptions reached 2.81 million in its third fiscal quarter of 2014. Stephen Shankland/CNET

For comparison, the full CS6 Master Suite costs $2,600, £2,644 or AU$3,949, and Photoshop CS6 alone costs $700, £660 or AU$1,062.

For the minority of survey respondents who are using CS products but who plan to shift to the Creative Cloud, the top reason cited -- by 70 percent of respondents -- was the ability to use features in the subscription version of the software. The traditionally licensed CS6 products' last update was May 2012. Of those respondents, 80 percent said they planned to switch over by the end of 2015.

The Creative Cloud seems to have coaxed some customers to use software they hadn't used before. Of the subscribers, 39 percent said they now regularly use new Adobe software.