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Adobe: A Cloudy Issue?

How do you feel about Adobe's move to the cloud?

So far, I have interviewed a semi-random group of Adobe Creative Suite users who both have and have not joined the Creative Cloud. Emotions run surprisingly high, and I'm getting about six "unhappys" to four "I like it"s.

I've been breaking down complaints by category. By far the biggest complaints have to do with the cost/benefit breakdown and online security. One VFX supervisor said to me, "It's only a matter of time before they get hacked, and there goes our IP." This was three days before Adobe actually did get hacked. But, to be fair, no user IP was compromised and the credit card numbers accessed were allegedly encrypted. So, no big deal. Or is it? Clearly, the hacker jackass club has its sights on Adobe, and while these lowlifes may act like idiot criminals, they can be scary smart. You have to wonder what they will do next. On the other hand, Adobe is throwing a lot of smart money at the problem and has hired an outside firm to beef up their security.

But I digress. I was able to get some knowledgeable real people to go on record with their feelings about the whole CC move. I'm going to share some of them with you. To this end I talked with some VFX houses and I have interviewed the head honcho at a new-concept, cloud-based VFX studio. That was interesting. Some like the cloud, others do not. But there is little argument that it is a trend, with The Foundry, Autodesk and Side Effects also heading in that direction.

It's an expensive and somewhat risky move for publishers because the payout is stretched and the infrastructure investment is substantial, both physically and security systems wise.

My personal opinion is that the cloud is here to stay and that in five years ownership of key software in our industry will have gone the way of the CD. It could be that, in the long run, it's a good idea.

This is part one of three. In part two I'll bring you quotes from sophisticated users in the industry who have lots of questions and concerns. In part three, Adobe has agreed to have Bill Roberts, who is director of video product management at Adobe Systems, join the conversation. He's a good guy who came over from Avid. He knows his stuff. He will address some of our concerns from Adobe's perspective. I've asked them for plain talk and no carefully prepared press release type mumbo jumbo. I think we all need some honest interaction.

We need to intelligently evaluate this trend towards cloud-based software. I selected Adobe for several reasons. For one, I believe a large number of casual users are involved. I define casual users as people who do not primarily make their living from Adobe products, but seek to use them for personal projects or occasional business such as tweaking their business website or designing Christmas cards or even as a regular tool for their social media posts. Casual users tend to buy software, learn the parts they use, and not worry about updates or all the fancy gewgaws power users may employ.

In fact, many I spoke with hate changes, even if they are labeled "updates." The software works and they own it and that's the end of it. Some disable the updates. Many don't join Adobe online. They just go to Vimeo and YouTube for free tutorials. As one casual user said to me: "That way, Adobe doesn't have their hooks into me." He may have a point.

Professional users aren't so worried about the monthly cost, but they are concerned about security and IP protection. I've been told that some have interpreted the small print in the Adobe Creative Cloud Agreement as giving Adobe rights and access to your IP. Many users, including me, never read that stuff. It's all legalese that I wouldn't understand anyway. But, as I understand it, that's the story that's going around the Visual Effects Society. I'll ask Bill to address this concern in the third installment.

Another potential problem is that if you store your works in progress in the Creative Cloud, Adobe could have leverage over you that we may not have yet imagined. If your subscription runs out, do you lose all your work until you pay up? They are nice people, of course. But we need to know these things.

The security issue is a biggie. Lots of people in this industry do not trust the cloud, apparently with good reason. Also there are many questions about Adobe's license plans, which may not be adequate for many different large-scale users. I'll bring these issues up as well. Hell, we may need four installments the way this is going. I keep getting more and more email from professionals I've contacted for their opinions. 

The thing is…I believe that the Cloud is definitely here to stay. It is a trend. We better understand it and use it effectively. To do that, we need to know a lot more. So let's start with our questions, and then give Adobe a chance to plain-talk with us about our concerns. We can also make suggestions to them to assuage our concerns and better meet our needs.

So as I've said, I've talked with dozens of people in the industry, and in my next blog I'm going to tell you who they are and what they had to say. In the meanwhile, we're interested in your two cents on this issue. So don't be shy—chime in below in the comments. I'll ask Adobe to keep an eye on those too. I'm trying to avoid so many anonymous posts. So if you can, use your name or at least your title when you post. Most of the really wacky or mean posts are from Anon. Let's keep the posts as civil as possible people. We are pros, let's act like it.

Also, since I mentioned other publishers going towards the cloud, you can mention them too, if you like. So, how does this trend impact you personally, and what suggestions do you have?

37 Comments

Categories: Blog, Business, VFX
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  • ProfTiredOfAdobe

    Subscriptions are bad for educational institutions and students. Students will continue to look for illegal downloads so good for them. Institutions can’t do that. Film and graphics programs have limited financial resources and they get tighter each year. Program budgets are often worked out to buy software one year, computers the next, and production equipment the next. Three years later the software is upgraded, which means one or two versions are missed out on, but that’s how it goes. A recent question came across the UFVA mailing list that asked what programs are going with CC. Almost all responses were something along the line of – we got CS6 and will stay there for now. My program went with CC. I told other members of UFVA what we spent. The responses were generally – we can’t afford to do that every year. I am currently looking for Adobe alternatives to build a suite that requires no subscriptions and provides equal or better quality software. BTW, PPro is a nightmare to manage in a student lab environment.

    • Daniel Lowe

      I’ve got CS6 and I won’t be going to the cloud anytime soon. I watched one of my colleagues try to launch After Effects with an unstable internet connection… it had to connect and authenticate before he could launch the program.

      What if I’m in a hotel in another country and there IS no internet connection? That means, no Adobe, I guess?

      So, no thanks, the market will adapt and something new will come along. I’m a C# programmer and I’m motivated enough to contribute myself, if anybody asked me to join an open-source movement. Do you think I’m alone in this feeling?

      The newcomers will thank Adobe for creating so many unhappy customers in the marketplace.

      • Peter Plantec

        Thank you Daniel. That is a very good point that needs to be addressed. Local authentication would appear to be essential. I appreciate your input here. And i agree, open source competition can be a great motivator…look at Blender!

      • Jeff Brue

        Uh once you’ve authenticated it doesn’t authenticate against adobe’s servers for another 90 days. So your analogy isn’t correct you only need an internet connection every 90 days.

        • kip

          Adobe’s servers have been less than stellar over the years. Sometime it takes hours just to authenticate – never mind access an update. When their servers fail – if you’re on a typical tight TV production deadline and your studio’s systems can’t authenticate – the whole shop is sitting around doing diddly. Who pays the producer penalty? Adobe? Who pays the overtime to put the show back on schedule?

    • Peter Plantec

      Thank you Professor. This is the kind of response i find useful and Adobe will as well. I’m curious why Premiere Pro is difficult to use in the Lab. This should be of interest to Bill as well. I believe Adobe is in the business of making it easier, not harder to use. Please share further.

      • ProfTiredOfAdobe

        Sorry for the late reply. The Premiere Pro issue in our lab was due to the licensing scheme. We have to pay separately for the Design bundle and the Production bundle – edu does not get everything as one cost like individual users (at least not back in June when they finally released an edu pricing scheme). We did not need to pay $400 per seat ($200 for Design, $200 for Production) for all of our computers so we have one lab with both and then everything else just gets the Production Bundle. Premiere Pro won’t allow access to the professional codecs if it sees an authorization conflict. We were given two auth # for the different bundles. Had to de-authorize each computer in that lab and just use the number that worked for Premiere Pro. Lost a lot of productivity tracking down the issue and finding the fix. The Adobe apps are generally not very friendly to our roaming profiles either. Caches and preferences get corrupted enough to create strange errors. There are workarounds, but we don’t have these issues with any other software vendor…

    • OldTimer

      Couldn’t agree more with Prof. We’ve gone as long as five years between upgrades due to budget shortages. Thankfully a cut is still a cut, so not much impact on editing aesthetics, but for institutions with a vocational slant aiming to teach the latest tools it could get pricey.

      And what about the ability to go back to old projects? While there’s usually backwards compatibility, but using the original tools would seem a safer way to go. Sort of the software equivalent of keeping a Kem or Steenbeck around.

      • Victor

        So your “educational” institution takes money from students, but can only afford to teach them with 5 year old software?

        Isn’t that what tuition and lab fees are for? To pay for these costs?

        Why should a student pay to take a course with outdated software that won’t prepare them for the marketplace?

        • Emilio

          Be polite, Victor.

          He never specified whether he worked for a private institution, a public school, or an NGO program.

          Even if he had a private film school, you still don´t know where he lives, so you don´t know how expensive it is for him to acquire the software, or how many students he has and how much they pay.

          Besides, he clearly stated he teaches EDITING, which can be though perfectly well on a 5.y.o version of premiére.

  • Jeff

    It only becomes a trend of customers tolerate it. We won’t. We’ve been with Adobe since the beginning and ended spending our business $ with them once they released CC. Our business automatically goes to other companies that offer non subscription software. We will never use subscription based software.

    • Peter Plantec

      Jeff, can you explain why? Is there some compromise that can be found? Perhaps a working version of the software locally valadated in case of internet outage and when subscription runs out you still have the last working version functional on your box? That would seem fair. You’ve paid your dues. This seems a biggie. Maybe Adobe could allow the retention of your three most used products, but without updates. That way, three years later you could rejoin CC when the software is out dated.

      • Jeff

        It’s pretty basic – we refuse to rent our tools. If it’s a $1 a month, we still wouldn’t want it. CC could edit a feature film by itself and we still wouldn’t subscribe. The sad part for Adobe is we always upgraded every time a new version came out before CC – and we were eagerly awaiting CS7. Now Adobe receives $0.00 from us. We have zero interest in any software that is subscription based and that opinion will not change over time. Customers like to have choices. Adobe didn’t allow customers to have any choices with CC. It’s either subscription or nothing. After considering CC, we’ll take nothing and move to their competitor’s product who want our business with non subscription based software.

        • Dheep’

          Thank you Jeff. “We refuse to RENT our Tools” . And yes many many were on the Upgrade Bandwagon – even when it was for no reason.
          And absolutely – “WHY should we check in with Adobe every time we open a Program”?
          This apologist for Adobe writing here refuses to hear what the people here are saying. We don’t need to come to an “Agreement “With Adobe ,or “Beg” them for changes. They Aren’t Listening ! And they are arrogant enough to think we will Cave in.

        • Victor

          What are your alternatives? I doubt CS6 will be updated in the long run.

          What are the serious alternatives to Adobe?

          Open source doesn’t have a great track record. Cinepaint, a more pro version of GIMP hasn’t been updated in years.

      • Scott

        Why should i have to check in with adobe EVERY time I open a program. The 20 checks a day are tiresome. Stop apologizing for a horrible company.

        • Peter Plantec

          Scott, honestly, i don’t think they are a horrible company…I think they may have communication problems with customers and it’s clear this cloud move needs more thinking, but their products are industry standards for a reason.

          • Emilio

            They are an industry standard for three main reasons:

            - They were the first company to occupy a host of vacant niches on image work, and their products were reasonably reliable and efficient not to migrate later on.

            - The software developed/bought by Adobe worked quite well between each other, simplifying inter-application workflows.

            - While their software was expensive, most users had pirated copies, which established a large user base.

        • Victor

          It checks once a month, or up to 90 days without internet connection.

  • Ken

    I wish Adobe actually went further with CC subscription to be more useful to larger companies. I don’t want individual, email address accounts for each seat of Creative Cloud I can manage…which you still need to do with Creative Cloud for Teams. I want true floating licenses. As a company, I’d like to be able to purchase 30 copies and install 50. The same way we do for lots of other floating software.

    Their current method still has too many hurdles to locking down a workstation to either using CC or deactivating the seat so another account can use it. It doesn’t float well, and it’s a challenge to manage. Actual floating licenses would solve all that, and would pretty much eliminate the conversations we’re now having about how many Adobe seats do I REALLY need vs. what other software can we buy to replace the occasional users of Photoshop or Illustrator. If it really floated, we might buy less seats…but we’d be willing to buy them.

    It also leads into other interesting conversations…especially with freelancers. As a company needing Adobe’s tools and who uses freelancers…why would I now provide them with the software anymore? Maybe we only hire freelancers who bring their own AdobeID and login to let them access their suite from now on.

    • Peter Plantec

      Ken, you make a good point. Ive heard similar things from other houses. These appear to be kinks to be ironed out. I think Adobe needs to move quickly to address these issues. Interesting about Freelancers. I believe they will come with their own licenses, but may charge you for their use…hummmm.

    • Peter Plantec

      This is excellent info, Ken. Very helpful insight. Adobe really needs to know how power users are reacting.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to say, I think you are missing the big picture. Adobe rolled out CC priced for professionals, but with an EULA and usage model suited to students and hobbyists. You mentioned some of the problems that make CC unsuitable for professional use, but those are just symptoms. The real problem is that Adobe is now run by people who do not understand or care about customers. Blinded by greed they have cooked up a computerized gulag that locks up our IP and holds it for ransom. The problem is that Adobe is no longer the company we signed up with. Adobe is not with us for the long term. For our long-term survival professionals will need to find vendors that support our businesses. Goodby Adobe.

    • Peter Plantec

      Not true toxoxy. You can store your IP locally. Cloud storage is merely an extra service they offer…beyond two gigs you have to pay for it. It IS the company you signed up with. Many of the key people are still there. The move to the cloud has been enormously expensive and risky for them. Some of you know, I get pissed at Adobe from time to time, but they really do care about the customer. They do actually listen to us. They are participating in the blog series by reading these posts and they will respond. Its easy to shoot pot shots without substance from an anonymous sign-in. I appreciate your participation, and your anger. But look a little deeper. Own what you say.

      • Dheep’

        Own what you say ? Are you serious ? Deeper? Are you for real?
        “Own what you say”. My God, what a thing to say.

      • kip

        I’m happy to own what I say – and I’d be curious to know how one becomes a customer that Adobe cares about.

        It certainly isn’t by repeatedly dropping tens of thousands of dollars on licensing and upgrading many, many seats of software for many, many years. They can’t even be bothered to properly collate licenses never mind respond to requests about industry relevant improvements to their applications.

        I will give a hat tip to Mr. Uusitalo – who got in touch after Adobe Crash monitoring software accidentally did its job and repeatedly reported one particular set of after-effects crashes. Other than that, despite trying for years to get some attention from Adobe – it hasn’t happened.

        • Peter Plantec

          Interesting Kip. This is the kind of thing the powers at Adobe need to know about. Some,one there doesn’t seem to be on top of this kind of thing. The powers are way too isolated.

          I found a serious flaw in AE once and could NOT get to anyone who mattered to report it. Some telephone operator got in the way as if she had a right to decide who i could and could not talk with. The problem was way above her pay grade and she was kind of snotty. Ultimately i went through contacts at Nvidia who reported the problem to them. So i feel your frustration. But i still believe that the isolated folks need to know these things go on. They are reading this stuff. Let’s hope we help them make this a better company.

  • David Fox

    I’m a professional photographer based in Boston, Ma, and have been a loyal Adobe user since Photoshop version 2.5. As we own a number of Macs in our shop, we run versions CS 3 to versions CS 6, and honestly it seems to suit us fine. We upgrade to every other version of Photoshop and every version of Lightroom. As with PS we are limited to only 2 machines per seat, upgrades totaled $400.00 because we use it on 4 machines. We also own and use Premiere on 2 machines. If I am to follow this line of thinking, it will cost me far more per month to rent the software than if I purchase it outright. Why would I bother to rent it, I will never do this. Upgrading to boxed or downloaded software is still far cheaper in the long run and we own the right to use it!

    Photoshop is still riddled with bugs which have never been fixed. CS6 is such a pain to use compared to earlier versions. It seems this whole move to the cloud is survival based for Adobe. Photoshop and many of the other Adobe programs are mature software. All they keep adding are features, not the real meat and potatoes. I’ve already been looking and playing with other software that in many ways are more progressive and I think by the end of this year we will be done with all versions of Adobe software and never look back.

    • Peter Plantec

      This seems like another situation where the bug reports are not getting to the right people. As for the costs, I know what you mean. For many of us, having the latest version is simply not necessary, making the monthly outlay add up. On the face its a great deal, having access to all of Adobe’s products. But i wonder how many people or shops need all that.

  • Dheep’

    Good for you. The Cloud is Here to stay. Again ,Good for you. As a LONG -time customer – I am NOT here to stay (with Adobe) that is.
    Once again they know more than the Customer (or so they think). And they couldn’t give a Rat’s you know what about the customer. Witness the Letter I got from Adobe for a “Free” year of Experian Credit Monitoring. But hey – the Cloud is safe.
    This kind of Disregard for the Customer Base always lead to outside forces seeing the need and filling it. They may be the big Boy on the Block for now ,but I believe this time – their Hubris has overstepped the bounds . We’ll see what transpires. Don’t go whining & crying down the Road after shooting yourself in the Foot. You won’t get much sympathy from your once Loyal Customer Base you crapped on.
    As they say – Bye Bye Adobe.

    • Peter Plantec

      Ouch! Another case of a customer feeling ignored. Seems to be a lot of that going around. I believe they can do a lot to fix this. I know they feel they listen to their clients and that their product improvements are primarily customer driven. I’m hearing that you and others definitely feel ignored.

  • Tony

    This is one of the most balanced articles I’ve seen on CC so far. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  • Ron

    I think a lot of users moved from FCP to Adobe because of the lack of features in the latest Apple release. Adobe seems to be making a big mistake by going to a subscription based model specially now that Apple is working hard to add the features they dropped in FCP X. I’m not moving to CC but I am keeping a close eye on FCP, I believe they’ll be taking users back.

    Adobe you might want to learn from Apple’s mistakes.

    • Peter Plantec

      Good point Ron.

  • MaroonedOnFCP7

    I work at a governmental institution, and we were on the verge of replacing our 10 seats of Final Cut 7 with Premiere when the new subscription scheme was announced. Changing software expenses to a monthly fee (from occasional upgrades when funds allowed) is really incompatible with the biennial budgeting and purchasing process we work within. We’re being told we can’t do it, even if we could afford it. So we don’t know what to do now. We could still buy copies of Premiere CS6 outright, but there’s no sense in leaving one dead end product for another. Instead, in spite of having ruled them out previously, we are re-examining Avid and FCPX. I’m sure the Creative Cloud works great for some, but I have to believe that it’s overlooking many customers like us at the same time, and that seems rather short-sighted. It may be too late for us, but I hope Adobe will look at the numbers one of these days and bring back individual, upgradable licenses for select products. We shall see….

    • Peter Plantec

      Another interesting and useful response. Thanks a lot for your input. These really are the circumstances Adobe needs to know about. This was helpful, Maro. Thanks.

  • michael sandiford

    I for one love it. I have had no problems with bugs, no problems with connections and use it offline as much as on. It works out cheaper for me than updating to the full Mastersuite of old and every few months I get updates that would have to wait another year for normally. If it wasn’t for some of my clients workflows I would use it solely. I am a multimedia creative so I use pretty much every software in the package at some point or another. The additions of Adobe story plus for me is the most important piece of software for a long time and is now fully integrated into my workflow when working on productions. Speedgrade integration now works instead of cs6 and the round tripping is fantastic. Added to this I get cloud storage and inclusion on Behance. I’ve even convinced some other professional workers to make the move to cloud once they see how much I can do over their “industry standard” software. I don’t know if it is that fear of change that affects things so much. My fiancée was pretty much a cs3 girl throughout and is only now beginning to use CC as the amount of extra changes and things she needed to learn frightened and annoyed her.