Joe Maller.com

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.

Conclusion

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.


No WWDC for me in 2012

WWDC 2012I’m not going to WWDC this year. I made the decision a few months ago, but since tickets went on sale this morning, I thought I’d post my reasoning. Maybe even before it sells out. (update: WWDC sold out in two hours)

I’ve been trying to get an iOS app together for a couple years. While not having finished one feels like a personal failing, I accept that some circumstances are simply beyond my control. So I should restate that; I haven’t finished an app, yet.

My past few WWDCs have gone something like this:

Tickets go on sale and I realize I haven’t worked on iOS stuff for months. I buy a ticket, knowing they’ll sell out, then frantically try to clear my schedule and restart work on my apps. I’ve forgotten nearly everything, so I’m sort of starting from scratch. I order updated versions of several iOS books, read articles and watch sessions from previous WWDCs. If it’s a good year, I have a few weeks to cram and actually start developing something. This makes me happy.

Then the conference starts. It’s embarrassing to be there again with nothing to show or really talk about, so I tend to avoid conversations and keep to myself. This makes me miserable.

The years I did get ahead and had an app partly working, I would come home to find existing responsibilities gradually crowded out iOS work. After a month or two, I’d once again forgotten not only what I was working on, but entire chunks of the language and workflow.

WWDC has also been a week I tend to get horrible news. As in, people-are-dying, horrible. But if not that, some work emergency or obligation always seemed to come up, and instead of returning to my hotel room to review questions from the labs or to try out concepts from presentations, I end up fussing with WordPress or PHP and being miserable.

This year my available time has been a disaster and I don’t see that trend easing anytime soon. There’s no way I could realistically clear my schedule to prepare, so I’m skipping it.

I attended every WWDC since 2003, and I’m especially glad I got to see Steve Jobs speak, both in his prime and one last time in 2011.

I will watch the keynote, renew my developer account and learn from the sessions once they’re posted. But I’m not going to pay all that money, feel guilty taking a seat someone else or put myself through all the same old misery. Hopefully next year…

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link: Apr 25, 2012 10:26 am
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Thank you Steve

I’m sad, but I’m trying to frame this sadness. Steve Jobs, in one form or another, has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. In 1979, demonstrating remarkable foresight and disregarding doubtless financial burden, my parents brought home an Apple ][+ computer. I was 8. My daughter is older than that now. A few months before she was born we bought our first iPod, Steve introduced it ten years ago this month. I still have it, and the Apple ][+ is at my parents–both still work.

I’m sad for his his wife and children. But mostly I’m sad for the rest of us. 56.

I was lucky enough to see Steve speak in person at WWDC several times. The first time I saw him come onstage in 2003, it was as if the air was suddenly electrified.

This post was drafted on my iPhone. Steve’s iPhone, running Steve’s new OS, built on the foundation of Steve’s old OS, connected to a machine Steve led the creation of, all of them sold by a company Steve founded 35 years ago.

It’s traditional to wish for the departed to rest in peace, but Steve’s vision won’t be resting, there is so much more to do.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

Thank you Steve, for everything.


iTunes slowdowns with Google DNS

Last night we tried to rent an iTunes movie on our newish Apple TV. Instead of starting right away, the Apple TV said it would be 2+ hours before we could start watching. I’ve got a healthy 15-20Mb/s connection and a clean wire to the Apple TV, so this shouldn’t be happening.

A little bit of research turned up a surprising fix: Don’t use Google DNS.

The iTunes Store has thousands of entrances. Everyone using Google DNS is trying to get in through the same door.

Some anecdotal evidence:

This totally makes sense. iTunes’ video content is delivered by Akamai who has distributed massive datastores around the world so those large files originate from nearby servers and spend less time getting switched around the network. Akamai somehow uses our DNS routing to determine our location. If Google DNS or OpenDNS routes everyone to Akamai the same way, then those Akamai nodes and the pipes leading to them get overwhelmed.

Since most people don’t know what a DNS server is, this problem primarily affects the “tech-vanguard” and those fortunate/unfortunate enough to be inside our circles of helpfulness.

I switched to my ISP’s DNS servers and now HD rentals on Apple TV are ready to watch in 10-20 seconds.

Go figure…

(I’d forgotton, but I wrote about a similar iTunes-DNS problem in March 2009: iTunes Store DNS Connection Problems)


How Netflix could blow it

Netflix streaming has become my family’s primary means of watching TV shows and movies. We long ago dropped cable TV, and for us, buying shows on iTunes was much cheaper than our monthly cable fees.

Over the summer my daughters asked for a $60 show from iTunes (29 episodes)–still cheaper than a month of cable–but Netflix was streaming it for $9/month. A netflix-capable $130 Blu-Ray player (cheaper now) should pay for itself pretty quickly and there’s no chance of buyer’s remorse over a particularly horrible show.

It all worked really well. Samsung’s Netflix app only showed our instant queue, so we loaded it with shows the kids liked or things we thought they’d be curious about. When they were allowed to watch TV, we could relax knowing they’d be choosing from a pre-screened set of programs.

As I said, it all worked really well…until this past weekend.

Saturday morning our Samsung Blu-Ray player asked to update its firmware. Unfortunately, that included an update to the Netflix app.

If the Netflix app had worked this way when I bought the DVD player, I would have immediately returned it.

There are a ton of things to criticize about the revised Samsung Netflix app, but the most glaring is that display of 4:3 content is broken. Everything which should be 4:3 is stretched wide.

It’s almost 2011, I never want to see a 4:3 image stretched wide again. Ever. If you’re a manufacturer or media company, botching display aspect-ratios sends a clear message that you don’t give a crap about your customers or the content you’re serving. Delivering your only product at the wrong size is absolutely unforgivable. Imagine if this happened with pants.*

Aside from that, the function of the application is abysmal. After the unit finishes starting up, it takes nearly 30 additional seconds to launch the app, the first 6 of which show a completely black screen. Navigation is confusing with multiple buttons having the same effect. Animated state changes are gratuitous, inconsistent, chunky and jarring. It takes 24 seconds to exit the app but only 30 seconds to power-cycle the entire unit.

There is no solution. There are no options to rollback the firmware. Samsung customer support is beyond useless.

So, I ended up buying a new Apple TV and unplugging the Samsung. I trust Apple not to screw this up. Netflix looks great on it and is seamless with the rest of Apple’s entertainment user interface.

The future of Netflix

Netflix dominates the streaming space, no one else is even close. However they seem to be at the mercy of various hardware manufacturer’s internal development teams. That, or just incredibly, stupidly lax about the quality of the applications they’re putting their name on. The lack of basic testing and quality control reflects badly on Samsung, but is much worse for Netflix.

With DVDs, the super-convenient red Netflix mailer became synonymous with their service. Netflix doesn’t own the movie experience, they own the delivery experience. Netflix wraps the movie, we’re only aware of them before and after watching something they brought to us. For the sake of their future, Netflix needs to put as much care into their streaming interfaces as they do with mail delivery. If the streaming apps degrade the experience or are unpleasant to use, customers will go elsewhere.

* pants, bad example?


WWDC 2010 Predictions

I’m excited about the new iPhone, though we know so much about it already that there’s not much surprise left. I expect it will ship at the end of the month. As Jonathan pointed out this weekend, June 25th is the last Friday in June and my pick for the release date.

AT&T’s been monkeying with plans and data the past couple weeks, but the most interesting tidbit out of the Death Star was the decision to double early termination fees for smart phones. To me, that’s a defensive move. There won’t be Verizon iPhones this year, but we might see a single-chip dual-mode iPhone which would be the beginning of the end of AT&T’s hegemony in the US. Apple won’t break their contract with AT&T, they’ll just hint that it’s up to the user. After all, the iPhone is open, so the consumer is free to swap in any sim card they’ve got.

I do kind of hope Jobs has Gray Powell introduce the new iPhone. Yeah it’s a longshot, but his appearance onstage would absolutely bring the house down. A lot of Apple developers (and other decent people) were furious about what Gizmodo did to him. Jobs bringing Powell onstage would be a fantastic show of support for Apple employees. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it’s fun to think about.

BTW, Gizmodo was denied press credentials. They’re never getting into another apple event. Ever.

iPad

…gets a software update and 15 minutes talking about amazing sales numbers. Unless…

AppleTV

I think we might finally see AppleTV cease to be a hobby. The thing I’ve wanted for a long time would be the ability to “throw” a display from one device to another. We won’t get that exactly, but I think the AppleTV may be reborn as the first peripheral display accessory for the iPad/iPhone. Essentially an AppleTV connected display would be a proxy-resolution mirrored display for a touch devices. No more of that silly grey swipe-box in Apple’s current Remote.app. What is on your TV is on your iPad. Adam Lisagor described almost exactly the same thing. Plus, when media is playing, the iPad or iPhone would have access to the media’s metadata, like a live DVD extra or PiP. (thanks Jonathan)

Little Fluffy Clouds

I don’t know if we’ll see the cloud services that a lot of people are hoping for. Is the NC data center even finished? (I find that video hilarious. Either it’s a data center or a Costco.)

While I’d love to see MobileMe finally live up to its potential, it’s been eight years and not a whole lot has changed. I finally cancelled my account this past year, but I’d be happy to have reason to reactivate it. I doubt it will be free, but I wish Apple would consider a free or discounted subscription with new hardware purchases. Or throw it in with AppleCare.

If there’s going to be an iTunes subscription streaming service, I think Apple would save that sort of announcement for a late-summer special event. It would be a huge thing for students going back to school, but there’s not much to offer developers in locked down streaming media.

Computers? Oh yeah, those…

Quite a lot of Apple hardware has gone stale, especially the Mac Pro which has gone 15 months since its last revision, but also iMac and Mac Mini, both models are 8 months old. This is a complete hunch, but I suspect the Mac Pro will see a new, much smaller form factor. Also, lots of people are still waiting for a new giant Apple display.

If there are hardware announcements, the entirety of the announcement will take less than 10 minutes.

Apple’s got something up their sleeve and Jobs’ said we “won’t be disappointed.” It feels pretty exciting this year, perhaps because there wasn’t the massive rumor buildup to be letdown about. Looking forward to it.


About that tablet…

Posting this before the big announcement tomorrow.

It feels somewhat obvious at this point, but I feel certain Apple with continue the iPhone’s conceptual move towards subordinate computing devices. The original iPod was a deliberate appliance, the iPhone is a computer limited by design. The biggest conceptual leap of the iPhone was that it couldn’t be used to create another iPhone. Even a years-old, bottom-end Mac or PC can still run software capable of designing microchips, programming an OS or running the CNC machines which fabricate the computer’s physical components. The iPhone and forthcoming tablet are more like electronic familiars. Without their master device, they’re forever limited in what they can do and become.

Jason Snell feels right on about resurrecting the iBook name and brand. “Canvas” sounds more like an app.

The price will either be $799 or $1199. $899 psychologically goes right to $1000 and if you’re over $1000, might as well go a little higher.

Hardware

There are several obvious components which will be present. GPS, accelerometer and vibration. I still don’t understand why my laptop doesn’t know where it is. It’s 2010, every moderately connected electronic device should have basic location awareness.

Size-wise, I’ll be surprised if the screen is much larger than 9 inches diagonal. I base that figure on an expectation that the short dimension of the tablet will not be much wider than an iPhone is tall, so overall dimensions around 4.25 x 7.5 inches. However, all size-predictions go out the window if Apple introduces some radical new input method.

The idea that it might not have a text-input interface is just dumb, it has to have some means of text input. The bigger question is what that interface will look or feel like. Simplest answer is the iPhone’s horizontal keyboard.

I don’t expect a user-facing camera, no one looks good photographed looking up from their own lap.

Dock connecter and headphone jack will the the only ports. Power, home button and volume will be the only physical interfaces.

Mostly though, I really hope Apple does something completely shoot-the-moon crazy. Word-keyboards instead of letters, or no keyboard at all. Make it round. Linked physical-virtual application rotation, screens with holes in them. Just something completely wild and new.

Connectivity:

Apple has no reason to abandon AT&T, they’re the perfect scapegoat. Should AT&T botch this too, then Apple opens up to other carriers. Should AT&T admit their networks are overwhelmed, then Apple opens up to other carriers. Either way, Apple puts the final nail in AT&T’s coffin. That’s good chess.

Apps and OS

iTunes App store only. All iPhone apps will work. There will be no windowing model like OS X, everything will be iPhone-style full screen apps. There won’t be a separate OS or SDK. iPhone OS 4 will be announced, but tablet development will be a checkbox in Xcode. Apple won’t have an SDK available on day one. As long as iPhone apps display well on the tablet, we’ll probably have to wait for WWDC to get the updated SDK. There’s no way developers are going to get a software tablet simulator before Apple ships the product. One other loosely connected thought; WWDC will see a unified SDK for iPhone, tablet and OS X. “All for one and one for all.”

No new iPhone will be announced, as that would detract from the main focus of the event. Whenever the new iPhone does appear, which I’m confident will be sometime before Summer, it will have a higher resolution display. The Android phones raised the bar on screen quality, Apple will match or beat them. There’s an outside chance for new iLife/iWork suites, but unless they’re somehow integrated with the new device, those aren’t happening either.

Flash

No chance in hell.

Post-mortem

Apple has posted the full announcement video.(Tech Specs)

Initially I was somewhat disappointed, but that’s starting to wear off as the reality sets in. Not just the reality of what the iPad is, but the universe it will live in.

Apple’s new A4 CPU is a very big deal, but the price was a biggest surprise. And it wasn’t just me, look at what Steve Jobs did to the S&P today:

S&P reversal after iPad price announced

The red line is the price trend before Apple’s price announcement, the green line is the trend after the announcement. Moments before the price was revealed, something caused the market to start tanking, that was stopped cold as soon as the numbers hit the screen.

Predicton-wise, I think I did fairly well. I was right about Apps, but not SDK availability. Very happily wrong about price but right about AT&T. Right about the camera and inputs, but wrong about the dimensions. I am really surprised it’s 4:3, that ratio feels so quaint.

There are some radical changes to the Cocoa Touch Human Interface Guidelines. I’m very curious to see how these changes transition to iPhone, and whether or not those changes will only possible on an iPhone screen with an increased pixel density.

One nice little thing I noticed at around 17 minutes into the video was a two-word contextual correction — haven’t seen that mentioned.

I really hope some of the UI stuff happening with Calendar and Mail find their way into 10.7.

I think my mom might be ditching her Kindle.



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