What does Adobe’s Creative Cloud announcement mean for churches?

AdobeCCYesterday Adobe announced a major change to the way they sell and distribute software. Creative Suite 6 is the last version of CS that will be sold with a perpetual license. From here on out, if you use Adobe’s tools you’ll need to have a subscription to Creative Cloud.

I’m a big fan of Creative Cloud as a solution – particularly for churches. I’ve had a subscription since shortly after it became available. After the announcement yesterday I answered about a dozen emails from people with a lot of questions so I thought I’d share some common questions and my thoughts about this change. Most of this applies to everybody, but some of the pricing commentary is church specific.

What is Creative Cloud?
Creative Cloud is really three things:

  1. It’s a software licensing and distribution platform. You don’t buy software in Creative Cloud, you pay a subscription fee. The software is distributed completely online. This has worked well over the past year, the CC update will improve it greatly. Creative Cloud essentially includes Adobe’s Master Collection.
  2. It’s a set of cloud tools. There’s cloud based file sharing, think Dropbox designed to work with the CC apps. There are tools like Kuler and TypeKit that are incredibly useful.
  3. It’s a collaborative workflow ecosystem. Creative Cloud provides some great ways to collaborate on creative projects. This next edition is going to sync settings, sync colors, sync fonts, and help with version history (this is HUGE).

How does Photoshop (or any other product) work in a browser?
This is probably the biggest misconception about Creative Cloud. The software does NOT run in your browser. The software works like the Adobe tools have always worked – installed on your computer.

Isn’t this more expensive?
For most churches it will be about the same cost. Nonprofit pricing from Adobe gets you Creative Cloud for Teams for $480/year/seat. This includes some great management tools and additional collaboration tools. Right now if you use Creative Suite it’s cheaper to buy the $20/month promo ($240/year) but that isn’t the team edition. The normal academic pricing for Creative Cloud is $30/month. I’ve sent a note to Adobe to see if this pricing is available for nonprofits that do not want the team edition in this new round (it wasn’t last year). In comparison a nonprofit Master Collection license of CS6 is $979  (payable every 18 months or so = $54/month).

What if I only use one application?
If you only use one application Adobe has a plan that is regularly $20/month and is currently $10/month for existing customers. Chances are though you use more than one app. When I was doing media/communications for a church I used almost everything in the suite: Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Premiere, AfterEffects, Illustrator. Today as a pastor I use many of these tools on a regular basis. I manage all of my photos in Lightroom. I use Photoshop and Fireworks for image retouching and compositing. I do flyers in InDesign. I make posters in Illustrator. I edit video in Premiere. Am I normal – absolutely not, but I think you’ll find a use for more than a single application if you have them.

Do I have to be online all the time?
You only once every 30 days to make sure you have a subscription.

Will all my files be in the cloud? Won’t downloads be slow?
Your files are still stored on your computer, they’re synced to the cloud so you can collaborate or work someplace else. It’s actually really nice.

What about CS7?
There isn’t going to be a CS7. There will be updates to Adobe’s applications, but these updates are only going to be available as part of Creative Cloud.

Is this just a money grab from Adobe?
This is a shift in the revenue model, but it’s not really a money grab. It significantly impacts people who don’t upgrade regularly or use pirated software (you shouldn’t be doing this). The key to a subscription is that it provides a stable revenue stream rather than lump sums every 18-24 months. It’s the same reason steady giving is more useful to churches than annual giving.

How much more do I get with a subscription?
Creative Cloud includes more than 30 products. It provides updates on more regular basis. The cloud services are a big deal – particularly TypeKit which includes desktop licensing now. I’m guessing there will continue to be new offerings added – this past year the Behance toolkit got rolled into Creative Cloud.

Are there any bad parts to Creative Cloud?
The biggest drawback to Creative Cloud is that if you stop your subscription you lose access to your software. This is particularly a problem once file formats change and you can only open them with newer Adobe applications. The Creative Cloud locks you into the Adobe ecosystem and if you’re a casual user it may not be cost effective. If you typically don’t upgrade every version it’s not cost effective. If you use these tools professionally in your ministry it’s absolutely worthwhile.