Creative Cloud News: Adobe Really Wants You to Subscribe

Yesterday Adobe released a major update for Adobe Muse, its web design program for creative pros that doesn’t require any coding knowledge. But when Adobe reps briefed me on the update last week, I was more interested in what they had to say about their road map for the Creative Cloud, the new subscription service that serves up online versions of the entire Creative Suite.

As I noted in my recent reviews of Creative Suite 6, the new subscription pricing is a powerful incentive for users who previously balked at upgrading their Adobe software. For $49.99 per month, you have access to fully functional online versions of all Creative Suite programs. An introductory offer that expires Aug. 31 makes it even cheaper: If you have any Creative Suite product (CS3 or newer), you can get the first year’s membership for just $29.99 per month. (The monthly fee applies if you agree to pay for an entire year, though you have the option to cancel within the first 30 days. You can also opt for a $75 month-to-month plan.)

Let’s put that pricing in perspective. For about $600 per year (or $360 with the introductory offer), you have access to the same software that’s in the $2,600 Master Collection, including the design, web and video apps. On top of this, you get Muse, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Edge, Typekit web fonts, 20GB of online storage and several other services.

If it seemed hard to resist before, Adobe is making the subscription model even more attractive by giving its subscribers the first look at new features as they’re added to these programs. First in line is Illustrator, which is slated for an update later this month, followed in September by an update to Dreamweaver, with more to come later this fall and winter. These won’t be simple maintenance releases with bug fixes, but actual updates that add new features. Adobe has not yet revealed what these new features will be, except that Dreamweaver will get added HTML5 functionality.

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If you purchase a conventional software license, you’ll have to wait for the next major Creative Suite release and pay the normal upgrade fee. Adobe won’t reveal when Creative Suite 6.5 will come out, but if the company follows its usual pattern, we’re probably looking at the second or third quarter of 2013. You’ll still get maintenance updates via the automatic update feature, but not the new features.

The big question, of course, is whether the new features will be so compelling. In the past, Adobe has added features between major releases largely in response to new web standards, such as the free “HTML5 packs” for Dreamweaver and Illustrator in 2010. But when it unveiled its new subscription pricing, the company indicated that it plans to be more aggressive with these updates. It’s clear that Adobe sees the new model as a way to unshackle itself from the typical cycle of major releases every year or so. This fall’s updates to Illustrator and Dreamweaver should provide a strong clue as to what we can expect for Adobe’s other apps.

I personally succumbed to temptation and became a Creative Cloud member last month. It’s a smooth process—once you sign in, you download the new Adobe Application Manager, which lists the available applications. To install an application, you just click on the “install” link next to its name. There are no serial numbers—instead, once a month, the software checks with Adobe to make sure you’ve paid up and then keeps on chugging. You can install the software on up to two computers (but you can’t run multiple versions simultaneously). You can deactivate the software if you want to reinstall it on a different computer.

A few other points from the briefing:

  • The 1.0 version of Adobe Edge, the company’s new web-animation program, will be released in September, re-branded as Edge Animate.
  • Also in September, Adobe will release the Digital Publishing Suite Single Edition, which will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to create one-off tablet apps for free.
  • The big news with Muse is the ability to create contact forms without embedding HTML code. The update also adds the ability to link to downloadable files, including PDF, ZIP, DMG and EXE. In addition, users can now place HTML5 animations produced in Adobe Edge. The update also adds some performance enhancements.

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