Cost of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud vs. Creative Suite

Adobe recently announced their new Creative Cloud software subscription service. While regular paid updates have essentially already made Creative Suite subscription software, I wanted to know if there was any cost benefit in switching our conventional CS Master Collection licenses over to Adobe’s new Cloud.

After projecting some numbers, I was disappointed by what I found.

(source spreadsheet)

Should you switch?

Starting from scratch? Yes.

Creative Cloud is clearly a smart financial move for those who don’t own any Adobe software. Buying Creative Cloud vs. a full price Creative Suite Master Collection license will save money for the foreseeable future.

Upgrading existing licenses? Erm, maybe?

For existing users, the value of Creative Cloud gets murky. It looks like Adobe set their price based on a straight transition of existing Creative Suite users to Creative Cloud. When compared to the standard Master Collection upgrade path for existing licenses on a 12-month product cycle, Adobe’s revenues are precisely maintained–with a slight tip to their favor. I believe this is shortsighted and fails to recognize the potential of growing revenues by increasing licenses.

Adobe’s Introductory offer for current CS customers ($29.99/month, for one year) ends on August 31, and taking advantage of this offer makes Creative Cloud much more compelling. With standard pricing ($49.99/month), Creative Cloud subscription costs would equal Creative Suite upgrade costs after 11 months, though the advantage sawtooths back the following month. Taking advantage of promotional pricing pushes cost-parity back to almost 4 years.

Teams and temporary workers? Probably not.

Team-ready pricing ($69.99/month) seems the most broken. Maybe there’s a cost/complexity crossover with bigger groups, but for a small office I can’t imagine any collaboration or turnover features would justify the significant additional costs.

The month-to-month price of $74.99 is unfortunate too. Paying for eight months of Creative Cloud is the same price as a year at standard prices (four months costs the same as a year at the promo rate). A small army of fine artists support themselves by freelancing as typesetters, retouchers and production artists for only part of the year. They need software, but for many studios with a distinct busy season, those licenses sit idle for half the year–effectively doubling the cost of necessary software.


One would think the truck-loads of money Apple is making on volume might make a compelling argument for Adobe to dramatically undercut the price of Creative Suite and push their customers towards Creative Cloud. In 2007, Steve Jobs was asked if he feared cannibalization of Mac OS by iOS. He replied that if there was to be cannibalization of Apple products, it should be by Apple. This is exactly how Adobe needs to start thinking.

Reducing the price of Creative Cloud by a third or even half would not diminish the perceived value of Adobe’s apps, but it would help dissipate the perception that Adobe’s products are impossibly expensive. This poisonous idea carries on long, long after people leave school and is partly why Adobe always tops lists of most-pirated software.

Going back to Apple as an example of doing things right, Creative Cloud should not have five price tiers (promotional, standard, team, student & teacher and monthly). The CS6 product grid is bad enough. Educational users should not be rewarded for forswearing commercial work, nor should they be financially punished when their skills are practically applied in the marketplace. The Student & Teacher price should be the only price. If Creative Cloud was simply $30/month–with no caveats–I’d recommend it without hesitation.

For Adobe’s existing customers, Creative Cloud is a slightly better deal, but disappointingly, not by much. When compared to the cost of upgrading existing software, Creative Cloud is more of an installment plan than a subscription. It costs the same, but the payments are spaced out over time.

We’ll be switching over, but with full knowledge that the monthly fees are not really saving us anything in the long run.

Other thoughts

  • Creative Cloud Mac/WinCreative Cloud appears to be platform agnostic. Being able to install on Macs and PCs would be a big plus.

  • Immediate updates sounds good, but it could also present a huge headache if a critical bug or backwards incompatibility slips through. If an update breaks an application, which has happened in the past, will Adobe offer rollbacks to previous versions?

  • Promised “community collaboration” is a potential security disaster. Having worked on projects with sensitive information, the potential for a slip-up is terrifying. Agencies should be very concerned about pre-release materials being “shared” before they’re public.

  • A lot of studios purchase every-other Creative Suite upgrade. The chart clearly shows this is cost-neutral. While there may be some benefit because known systems increase productivity and reduce training costs, Adobe’s upgrade pricing model has eliminated any cost saving from skipping versions.

    Adobe’s Creative Suite release history:

    • CS1: September, 2003 (19 months)
    • CS2: April, 2005 (25 months)
    • CS3: March, 2007 (18 months)
    • CS4: September, 2008 (19 months)
    • CS5: April, 2010 (12 months)
    • CS5.5: April, 2011 (13 months)
    • CS6: May, 2012

    In 2011, Adobe announced they had switched to an annual release cycle.

Fixing CS3: All apps crash when saving

Post updated, jump directly to the improved solutions.

I spent the better part of today remotely trying to figure out why our latest Creative Suite 3 installation was crashing. Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign all crashed when saving. CS3 (Design Premium) was being installed onto a new 24" iMac, everything else with the machine is fine.

For whatever reason, CS3’s shared VersionCueUI.framework component was not installed. Here’s what was showing multiple times in the logs of the problem machine:

2007-08-10 19:30:33.926 Adobe InDesign CS3[919] CFLog (21): Cannot find executable for CFBundle 0x2e1b5a50 </Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Version Cue CS3/Client/3.1.0/VersionCueUI.framework> (not loaded)

Even though we aren’t using Version Cue (I’ve yet to meet anyone who does), that component is necessary for all save functions. If it can’t be called, as I found to be the case here, all CS3 apps will crash out immediately upon invoking Save or Save As. We aren’t installing the Version Cue server on any stations, but I did try installing it once to see if that would fix this. It didn’t.

I re-installed. I repaired. I wiped everything with maccs3clean, restarted and reinstalled — three times. From two different accounts. If you’ve ever installed CS3, you know how much time that eats.

Then I gave up on the installer.

Checking /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Version Cue CS3/Client/3.1.0/ against a functioning install showed that VersionCueUI.framework had the wrong byte-count. I decided to try replacing it with a copy from a working installation.

Starting from a working installation, I tgz’d the framework with this command:

tar -cvzf ~/VersionCueUI.framework.tgz VersionCueUI.framework

Next I copied the archive to the machine with the problem install, untarred it, moved the bundle to the right directory and changed ownership to root:admin:

tar xvfzp VersionCueUI.framework.tgz


sudo chown -R root:admin VersionCueUI.framework 

I’m sure there’s an easy way to integrate user, groups and permissions into the tar commands to save the chown, but after a day of dealing with this I wasn’t in the mood to look it up.

After that, saving from various CS3 appears to be working perfectly and updates installed without errors.

This experience was very similar to the solution I found to my Illustrator 13.0.1 upgrade problems. Manually doing the installer’s job solved the problem there too.

Dear CS3 Installer,
Thanks so much for ejecting the DVD after a failed install. Everyone I called to shove the DVD back in for me were really glad they could help.

Update: Several great self-contained solutions in comments, I’ll be trying these first if I run into this again. Thanks to everyone who posted.

  • Dave Pijuan-Nomura’s solution looks the simplest and builds on Dusty’s earlier method:
    1. Delete /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Version Cue CS3/Client/3.1.0
    2. Run Adobe Updater
  • Dusty was first to report success after deleting /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Version Cue CS3/Client/3.1.0/. He also paused Adobe Updater to make a copy of the Version Cue installer, Updater will otherwise delete the file after the install fails. That standalone updater now appears to be here: Adobe Version Cue CS3 client 3.1.0 update.
  • Dave Henderleiter got it working by renaming an older version of Version Cue:

    In [/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Version Cue CS3/Client/3.1.0/]… I had a 3.1.0 version and a 3.0.0 version. I deleted the 3.1.0 version and renamed 3.0.0 to 3.1.0 and all the apps worked right away without even a restart.

    Faking CS3 into using older component versions makes me nervous, but several people reported success with this method.

Illustrator CS3, 13.0.1 and application.sif

While updating several machines to CS3, one (otherwise identical) machine would not successfully complete the Illustrator 13.0.1 update. I discovered a solution which I posted to Adobe’s forums, where plenty of other people seemed to be running into the same problem. Here’s the text since their support pages are not especially Google-friendly.

After spending way too many hours beating my head against CS3’s lethargic installer, I finally found a fix for the impossible-to-update Illustrator.

I should note that I’ve installed CS3 on a half-dozen machines, five of those installations were flawless (though deathly slow). The remaining one however, on identical hardware, was a disaster. (all were iMac G5s running OSX 10.4.10)

On this one machine, Illustrator would not update to 13.0.1. I’d already given up on Adobe Updater, so I was running the downloaded standalone Illustrator update. It failed every time at “application.sif”. In reading this thread, one line jumped out at me in the Console dump above: “File to add already exists. Need not add.”

Renaming the “application.sif” file inside the Illustrator application allowed the 13.0.1 update to finish. I didn’t delete the file until after the update finished, but I suspect that would work too.

Here’s the path to the file to rename/delete:

/Applications/Adobe Illustrator CS3/Adobe

To find that file, open the Illustrator CS3 application bundle (control-click on Illustrator CS3 and choose Show Package Contents). Open Contents. Open Resources. Open AMT and there it is. Rename or delete it and try running the update again.

Hopefully this works for more than just me.

CS3 is really an exceptionally solid release, but Adobe seems to have completely dropped the ball on the installer. It’s hard to describe exactly how slow it is when things work right, should something fail and need to be re-installed you can kiss your day goodbye. In this case, I ended up losing the night as well.

The care and testing which went into the applications is badly served by a lousy installer, something should be done about this in the next point release. CS3 should not be stuck behind this abomination for the suite’s entire 12-18 month product cycle.

Workaround for Illustrator CS2 Crashing on Intel Macs

Adobe Illustrator CS2 on Intel Macs crashes a lot. Usually, the crash has to do with something involving a compound path, even simple ones. The kind that have been working just fine for twenty years. Today I had a reasonably simple, hand-drawn compound path which would crash Illustrator immediately if I so much as tried to change it’s color.

The improbable workaround is to restart Illustrator with the Appearance palette hidden. It really is that simple. Just close the Appearance palette, quit and restart Illustrator. The palette works file after that, at least for the current session.

Chelan on Adobe’s forums deserves credit for discovering this. Me, I just kept doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.