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Adobe: Here's why Creative Cloud is worth $600 a year

The subscription to Adobe's software, services, and social features will arrive later this year, and the company is showing new attractions.

Elements of the Creative Cloud
Elements of the Creative Cloud
Adobe Systems

Unimpressed by Adobe Systems' Creative Cloud, its forthcoming $50-per-month subscription plan? Adobe wants to change your mind.

The company offered some new details today to show people that the Creative Cloud plan gets people access to more than just the full Creative Suite (CS) Master Collection and tablet-oriented Touch programs. Specifically, according to Scott Morris, senior director of product marketing on Adobe's digital media team, there are these elements:

• The Creative Cloud will include Adobe's Muse and Edge software for creating Web pages. Muse won't be part of the Creative Suite, and Adobe hasn't decided whether Edge will be.

• When Lightroom 4 is out of its current beta-testing phase, it'll be added to the Creative Cloud subscription, too. Lightroom isn't included in CS.

• Creative Cloud subscribers will get early access to new features as they're done without having to wait for them to arrive in the official new CS apps.

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

Creative Cloud has several other elements, too, including 20GB of online storage that can be used to sync files across multiple machines, access to Adobe's digital publishing tools for repackaging magazines or other content for tablets, use of the TypeKit service for using fonts on Web sites, and use of Adobe's Business Catalyst service for hosting Web sites. (Update: there seems to be confusion about the cloud storage in the comments, so to be clear, it's only for optional syncing and sharing; the local computer runs the programs and stores the files, with or without an Internet connection.)

"It is not repackaging of CS in a subscription model. It is delivering the core desktop apps and the services that tie them together to help solve this publishing challenge for our customers," Morris said, referring to the difficulties of reaching the Web and mobile devices, not just older media such as video and magazines.

In addition, he said, "It's a focal point for creative expression as well as creative inspiration, for delivering inspiration and community with an integrated social experience."

For those who don't want the full Creative Cloud, Adobe plans to make its current subscription plans to Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, and various smaller suites more affordable. Morris admitted that the current pricing is prohibitive, but promised subscription "price points for individual products that are very attractive."

Adobe says the Creative Cloud will steadily get better as new components arrive.
Adobe says the Creative Cloud will steadily get better as new components arrive. Adobe Systems

The Creative Cloud is something of an inevitability. The world is moving to online distribution of software, dumping the DVDs, and that makes it possible and indeed often competitively necessary to ship smaller, more frequent updates. Subscriptions are a natural way for software companies more accustomed to selling a perpetual license to try to fund such ongoing work.

Change is never easy, though, especially when customers fear they're going to have to pay more. Last year, Adobe faced outrage from customers who wanted the traditional perpetual-license version but who hadn't bought the latest CS5.x versions necessary for a CS6 upgrade. Plenty of customers skip out on alternate versions to cut costs, and it looked like Adobe was in effect railroading them onto the subscription plans.

But Adobe relented and announced a CS6 upgrade promotion for CS3 and CS4 customers, too, that will run through the end of 2012. Details have yet to be revealed, though.

In the long run, Adobe expects DVD distribution to fade away, and perhaps even perpetual-license sales, too.

"For several years to come, we'll deliver the way we are today. It all depends on customer adoption. If we come out with the Creative Cloud and it's fantastically successful, and a huge percentage of customers move, then it will accelerate our discontinuation of shiny disks," Morris said.

And although it's not in the current road map to move to subscriptions only, "it's very possible that a couple years from now we will only offer something like Creative Cloud and subscriptions. The road map today is a choice, but if we see 80 percent going to Creative Cloud because of the value, we probably would eventually get rid of the [perpetual-license] software."

Not everything in the Creative Cloud will ship at once. The debut version of the Creative Cloud will include only a preview version of Edge, a tool under development geared for designers who want to build interactive Web sites, but it'll be updated when the final version arrives. The community features, accessed through a browser, will be missing at launch.

And the enterprise version, which will add collaboration and sharing tools, will arrive later in 2012, too, Morris said. And he revealed that option's pricing: $69.99 per seat.

Those prices are for annual subscriptions. Month-to-month plans are also available, but they'll cost an undisclosed amount more.

Creative Cloud questions answered
Creative Cloud questions answered Adobe Systems