Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adobe cranks the price of Photoshop sky high … big stink ensues …

Yeah, Adobe has been playing cat and mouse with their users for a long time. Most of us have happily paid our $200 upgrade tax every 18 to 24 months and many of us have even added Lightroom into the mix, adding another cash outlay every 18 to 24 months.

But that is not enough. Adobe has bought completely into the “creative cloud” concept that is similar to Microsoft’s Office in the cloud concept. A subscription, after all, keeps the buyers paying year after year with no relief if they want to keep the software. Bummer, but there it is.

Adobe just announced that the big creative suite is going to a subscription model only in the next version. In other words, grab the latest version  while you can. And don’t expect raw converter upgrades after that except as part of DNG converter (and one wonders how long they will agree to keep that around.) There is a shred of relief though, as Adobe is saying that, for now, LR will continue to exist as a perpetual license product. Of course, they threw a little slap in anyway, mentioning that LR CC will have new features that the perpetual product will not.

My bottom line on this is that I don’t actually mind subscription software. if the price is reasonable. Microsoft give you literally all of office for about 10 bucks a month and they let you install it on all the computers in the family (up to 5.) This is a steal in my opinion, despite being more expensive than buying a pair of copies of home and student every 4 to 6 years or so. But I bought in anyway because I really like the software.

So with Adobe, it is obvious that I am a definite candidate. But then I saw the prices. Gak ... twenty bucks a month (you can get it for a year for 10 bucks, but I hate programs that end and promise to double the price later) … and if you want the whole suite, they want fifty bucks a month … they are clearly targeting professionals in the film and other businesses where this kind of money is not a big issue. But it will be crippling for part time professionals and enthusiasts. So no go for me. I’m a bit disgusted.

I have LR 4 and I plan to upgrade to LR 5 later. I will probably buy Nik Suite for 126 bucks fairly soon, basically switching the majority of my work onto the Nik tool set with Adobe playing host and converter. Adobe has opened Pandora’s box for the vast majority of its market, and you never know what will come out of there.

I harken back 2 years to a long, nasty Photoshop community forum thread about ACR and back versioning compatibility with Photoshop instead of forcing upgrades every 18 months to support the latest cameras.


I guess Adobe have now proven that a really nasty customer service issue can get a lot worse, but even at that time there was a lot of tension and acrimony. I got replies on my assertion that ACR is basically a plugin for Photoshop and there is no software architectural reason why back supporting prior versions of Photoshop for newer versions of ACR could not be done. N-1 is trivial (i.e. ACR 7 on CS5) and N-2 and N-3 are not difficult at all with competent architects and engineers. Adobe have those, so the only reason can be marketing … the big cash squeeze must continue to satisfy the shareholders. Old news … boring … gives people a reason to investigate all those 3rd party tools.

But the responses I got from Adobe employees – senior customer advocates and software engineers alike – were rather vociferous and sometimes personal attacks on my theory and on me. These guys were selling BS like:

It’s untenable to keep updating previous versions of the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in going back to CS2 to support new cameras/raw formats in a timely fashion. Using the DNG converter is the fastest way to deliver backwards compatibility to ALL users (CS2, CS3, CS4, Lightroom 1 & 2, as well as 3rd party apps that support DNG). This allows us to support the greatest number of customers and cameras as possible.

My response to silly statements like that being …

But ... this is obscuring the fact that there is no technical reason (other than artificial) why two ends of a protocol cannot be updated independently. Especially a protocol that is as simple as passing image data. That protocol has likely not changed in a decade or more.

But I get back even dumber comments …

No, that is not the case. The newest ACR may use new APIs, may be written for newer OS versions, newer compilers, newer architectures, etc.

And …

No, I'm talking about OS APIs (which are not irrelevant). But yes, the plugin could also use new APIs with the application. Um, ACR has a lot of UI, plus memory management. It's far from simple.

Sorry, but it's a lot more work than you seem to realize. Again, you are asking for something unreasonable.

And later, the same guy proved how stupid he was with this gem of a sarcastic remark …

"Go to moon, get rock. How hard can that be"?

Ok … things lie quietly for 2 years and what does Adobe say today in response to the huge kerfuffle about their new cash grab er, pricing model?

Barring something unforeseen from Apple and Microsoft, we plan to update Photoshop CS6 for the next Mac and Windows operating system releases. Once Camera Raw 8 is completed for Photoshop CC, we are going to release a version of it for CS6 that includes any new camera support but without any of the new CC tools and features.

Which Adobe could have done at any previous point in their history, because ACR is just a plugin in the Photoshop world. Makes those Adobe employees and a very nasty senior marketing guy at Pixel Genius (the last thing he is is a genius) look pretty duplicitous, no? (In the PG guy’s defense, he is loud and proud but knows dick all about software.)

It is important to understand this … Adobe say that they are going to a subscription only model because they cannot afford the time and resources to maintain the two separate code bases. So how is it they have the time to suddenly bang out a version of ACR that supports the previous version of Photoshop? The answer, obviously, is that it does not take extra resources. They just have to decide to do it, and in this case it delays a huge mutiny among customers for 2 more years. By then, one can assume that Adobe are reckoning that the kerfuffle will be over and people will have accepted the inevitable … that they will be shelling out a whole lot more money to use the creative suite in the future. It is an obvious strategy, which is why one must chuckle to read all the wonderful prose.

One last note on the Adobe product suite. I like it. A lot. But I have a limit and they have crossed it and now I will see what else is out there. I suspect that I can get along just fine on 3rd party additions to LR4 and maybe LR5.

Corporate avarice always wins. One gets tired of feeding the piranhas after a while …