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Adobe CS6: Why Buy When You Can Rent?

- 2012.05.01 - Tip Jar

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No, this is not part of the eternal conversation about Vancouver's housing market, but about software. In particular, the question is being asked by graphics and publishing powerhouse Adobe, who on April 23rd announced availability within 30 days of the latest version of their professional design and editing software, Creative Suite 6 (CS6), accompanied by Creative Cloud, a service combining online storage with rental of the CS6 programs.

At first glance, it would seem to Adobe's advantage to encourage users to purchase one or another of the various CS6 collections, each combining a subset of the 14 Creative Suite applications (including the company's flagship Photoshop photo editor, Premiere video editor, Dreamweaver web editor and other software) and ranging in price between Can$1,299 and $2,599.

At $50 a month to subscribe to Creative Cloud, it would take over four years for Adobe to earn as much as if a user purchased the $2,599 CS6 Master Collection.

On the other hand, software by subscription promises ongoing income to Adobe. Too often - at least from the company's viewpoint - customers purchase a version of Creative Suite and then go on using it, ignoring subsequent newer releases. To encourage users of older versions to jump onboard, Adobe is discounting a Creative Cloud subscription to $30/month for users of the CS 3, 4, 5, or 5.5 versions of its suites.

Plugging users into Adobe's Creative Cloud also holds the possibility of reducing piracy of the company's expensive software.

What's in it for users, though?

Individuals and companies who use Adobe software for photo editing, print or online design, or video production and opt for Creative Cloud are guaranteed the current versions of the software, which Adobe claims will be on an annual upgrade cycle.

Unlike most Creative Suite purchasers, Creative Cloud users have access to all 14 CS applications - for photo editing, print layout, web design, and video editing - and several new applications that are not included in the traditional Creative Suite packages. These include, for instance, Edge for creating Flash-like content for HTML5 - making it usable on Flash-challenged devices like the iPad - and Muse, a visual website editor. More Creative Cloud-only applications are promised.

If a company needs additional licenses for a short period of time for a specific project, they can benefit from the rental model; Adobe offers Creative Cloud at $50/month for an annual subscription or $75 on a month-by-month basis. Just need access to Photoshop or Premiere? They're each available for $20/month on a yearly contract.

Users needing access to the Adobe software for a short time can opt for a free month's trial - though with a reduced 2 GB online storage, compared to the 20 GB for paying customers. Files stored online can be edited on multiple systems, synched with offline versions, shared with other users, and previewed without needing to install the CS applications.

A single Creative Cloud license allows users to download any or all of the Creative Suite 6 applications and run them on up to two computers - though not at the same time. The applications are available in Windows and Mac versions, and a user could potentially use a single license on one Windows system and one Mac.

A $70/month Creative Cloud Team offering aimed at small business users is expected later this year.

Adobe is promoting the ability the ability to start a project on a mobile device, fine-tune it using more powerful applications on a standard Mac or Windows PC, and publish content to a range of platforms, from print to the Web to iOS and Android mobile devices.

Whether accessed through Creative Cloud subscription or more traditional Creative Suite licensing, the CS6 programs promise modernized user interfaces, simplified workflow between programs, HTML 5 output, and faster processing. LEM

First published in Business in Vancouver's High Tech Office column on April 23, 2012.

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, www.zisman.ca. If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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