Cloud Subscription Evolution at Adobe – Laying Out the Options

By Scott D. Rosenberg

Mixed reactions best describe the update to Adobe® Creative Cloud announced last May. Positive reactions are due to several new “CC” desktop applications, enhanced cross-device collaboration and publishing capabilities, and a series of promotional pricing offers under their Value Incentive Plan (VIP), Adobe’s monthly subscription plan for Creative Cloud. VIP Creative Cloud users also appreciate automatic program updates and support, which simplify licensing compliance.

Concerned reactions are based on the Adobe simultaneous announcements that while Adobe Creative Suite will continue to be supported and available for traditional licensing, there will be no future updates to CS 6. Future updates and enhancements target subscription-only Creative Cloud. Individuals and small enterprises are especially worried that this signals a transition to an all-cloud/all-subscription model that may cost more.

Adobe Relents . . . Somewhat

Customers rebelled and Adobe relented – somewhat.

Organizations with more traditional perpetual licensing for CS and above can maintain them indefinitely, but there will be no updates or future long-term support. Perpetual licenses can be used for the useful life of the software, and tools such as Adobe Acrobat, Captivate and non-core creative applications can still be purchased, with maintenance only when purchased through an EA). New customers may still purchase CS6 under one of two traditional licensing plans (Note: EA does not offer any Creative Suite products):

  • Transaction License Program (TLP): a perpetual license with a one-license minimum designed for smaller organizations with a single pricing level. There are no upgrades for this program except for Academic and Government customers who can opt for upgrades for eligible products. Companies with a “stable” environment that don’t need annual or semi-annual upgrades are ideal candidates for TLP.
  • Contractual License Program (CLP): a perpetual license with a 10,000 license point minimum requirement. Customers can purchase and download all CS desktop products (hardcopies are being phased out), but support costs extra. CLP is a two-year agreement, and customers must meet Adobe’s minimum 10,000-point system requirement based on products used. CLP is suitable for mid-size and large organizations.
  • Enterprise Agreement (EA): a relatively new, three-year perpetual license option for Adobe modeled after Microsoft’s licensing structure. Organizations must purchase at least 100 licenses plus support/maintenance for Acrobat Standard, Acrobat Pro or Adobe Presenter – the only programs available under EA. Pricing is locked in for three years, with a mandatory true-up after one year. This option is ideal for organizations that use numerous forms and documents, such as a law firms. Under EA licensing, Creative Suite products are not offered.
Cloud Advantages

VIP is Adobe’s subscription-based licensing program for Adobe Creative Cloud, with no minimum license purchase requirement. You can subscribe to as few or as many Adobe subscription licenses as needed. Once enrolled, you get a VIP number and access to Adobe’s license website (LWS) where you keep track of licensing and manage your accounts. You can download and start using the subscription immediately, but you must pay within 30 days or the product stops working.

This is exactly why other companies are evolving toward subscription-based cloud services. For instance, Microsoft is currently pushing its Office 365 subscription features on both business and home users, with an option to pay monthly or annually.

Adobe is upping the ante by only offering Creative Cloud via subscription. The lure is an array of next-generation versions of Adobe Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, Dreamweaver CC, and Premiere Pro CC. With this Creative Cloud update, creative files can also be stored, synced and shared on Mac OS, Windows iOS and Android. Moreover, Behance – a global leader for connecting the online creative community – is integrated into Creative Cloud, making it easy for customers to showcase their work, get feedback and gain exposure.

What About Cost?

Another enticement to enroll in VIP is a baffling assortment of promotional pricing. Like the price of airline tickets, at this stage nobody knows what the final pricing is going to be – including Adobe!

Additional promotional pricing is available for some customers, including CS6 users. A team version of Creative Cloud includes everything individual members receive plus 100GB of storage and centralized deployment and administration capabilities. Creative Cloud for teams is priced at $69.99 per month per seat, but this varies with discounts and deals.

Focus on Value

In some cases, the Adobe monthly subscription model may cost more. For instance, at $35 per month, the annual subscription for Photoshop is $420 for the first year. After three years, this equals $1,260. Current licensed users pay $699 for a regular license. Add upgrade costs of $199, and traditional licensing is still less expensive over three years at $898.

But that’s only price. Factor in the overall value of the new Creative Cloud described above, and the VIP subscription model may be worthwhile. For instance, Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Teams may be especially valuable for:

  • Multinationals collaborating with the same software worldwide.
  • Document heavy companies, small, large or multinational.
  • Any enterprise dependent on photographs, graphics, schematics, etc.
  • Entertainment and media companies, large and small.
  • Organizations with large volumes and multiple locations.
And, Finally, Check Your Licensing (Again)

Subscription-based cloud software models may well be a trend of future software licensing, but individuals and organizations uncomfortable with this change at Adobe have the option to stay in Creative Suite, but by doing so, they will not receive opportunities for future updates or support. While there isn’t any rush to move to the Adobe cloud model, the promotional pricing won’t last forever.

Adobe is currently keeping a form traditional licensing option open –– for now. However, check your licensing program as not all of Adobe’s traditional license programs are available.

About the Author

Scott Rosenberg is the CEO of Miro Consulting, Inc.