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Adobe launches Creative Cloud subscription service

The subscription service to CS6 software such as Photoshop, mobile apps, and online services is now live -- as is a potentially more stable business for Adobe.

Adobe's pricing for Creative Cloud
Adobe's pricing for Creative Cloud
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe is among the most successful purveyors of boxed software, but today it began a new chapter in its history: the expansion to a $50-per-month subscription service called the Creative Cloud.

Traditionally, Adobe has sold perpetual licenses to products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and other members of the Creative Suite. With the Creative Cloud, people get access to the full range of programs -- plus online services -- for a monthly fee. Adobe had hoped to include its Touch collection of tablet apps, too, but the app store sales models don't integrate well, so instead Adobe offers a free month of Creative Cloud subscription to those who buy three Touch apps.

And Adobe potentially gets access to a more stable revenue stream from customers who don't have to be persuaded to upgrade every couple of years.

"Cloud" branding notwithstanding, the software actually runs locally on a customer's machine after being downloaded. So most usage should be familiar to existing customers.

Adobe released the new CS6 products on Monday for traditional customers. The Creative Cloud sales pitch could be harder: in a survey by analyst firm Jefferies and CNET in March, 41 percent said that they had a negative view of the Creative Cloud compared to 32 percent who expressed a positive view.

Adobe argues that people will come around to it, just as they did in earlier years from the shift from individual products to integrated suites of Adobe software.

The prices vary. For those who commit to an annual subscription, it's $50 a month. For those who pay month to month, it's $75, something that could be convenient for short-term jobs. And for customers of CS3, CS4, or CS5 products, there's a $30 option with an annual commitment. Another version for corporate customers, priced by the seat rather than by Adobe account holder, will cost $70 per month for annual subscriptions.

Online services include 20GB of online storage space to sync and share files a la Dropbox, Web hosting, use of downloadable Web fonts, and some social-networking features for creative types to toot their horns or share ideas. Another perk is that Creative Cloud customers will get access to improvements that for perpetual-license customers will be bottled up until CS7.

In another step that signals the new future, Adobe also released its first version of a new product called Adobe Muse to let people create Web sites without having to know programming. It's available as part of Creative Cloud or on its own through a separate subscription for $15 per month. But it's not available with a perpetual license, and it's not a part of the CS6 Master Collection.

Adobe also released a sixth preview version of Adobe Edge another new tool for Web design. Edge is geared for HTML animations work. New features include tutorials, improvements to see underlying programming code, the ability to publish to Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite for turning content into tablet apps, and support for French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish.

Update 6:02 a.m. PT May 15 to correct that Adobe's Touch apps for tablets are a separate purchase, not part of the subscription as originally planned.

Adobe's explanation of the Creative Cloud.
Adobe's explanation of the Creative Cloud Adobe Systems