Software to rent, not buy

Adobe is moving its professional Creative Suite software to a rental-only model. How will that affect business users?

Inside the Enterprise: For most people who own a PC (or a Mac), the usual way to buy software is to buy a DVD or a download, install it, and then run it for life. Once you've bought the licence, that's usually it, unless you want to upgrade.

That, though, might not be the case for much longer. Adobe, one of the largest vendors of software tools for the creative industry – but also a significant provider of graphics and design tools to enterprises – has announced that its flagship software will, from now on, only be available on subscription.

If businesses do decide to subscribe, it changes their relationship with their software provider.

Adobe's Creative Suite bundles Photoshop, perhaps the vendor's best-known product, with Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign and Premiere, depending on the version. It's a comprehensive set of tools, with a price tag to match.

But Creative Suite 6 (CS6) will be the last sold on a "perpetual" licence. From now on, anyone wanting the latest versions will have to either rent them, starting at £17.58 for a single application, or rent the suite, for £46.88 (there are several other options, too, for education users, teams, and users upgrading from CS3 and above). 

The rental model is not new for Adobe: it has offered its software – known as "subscription editions" – for over a year now. The difference is that, post CS6, the only way to upgrade is to subscribe.

Before designers, photographers and other creative types cry foul, though, it is worth putting what Adobe is doing in context. The new services are not simply CS6, updated and rented.

The vendor is positioning the software as part of its Creative Cloud offering, which includes online storage (20GB for single users), portfolio and showcase tools, and even a tool for creating smart device apps. And the full CC bundle includes applications, such as Lightroom, which were not in Creative Suite 6.

And Adobe is allowing creatives to spread the cost of an otherwise expensive purchase, which will help freelancers. Die hards can still buy the conventional, CS6 licence; there just will not be any updates, aside from maintenance fixes, for the suite.

Adobe is not alone in allowing rentals – Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription product, although for now, there's still also a "boxed" Office licence. And, as Ian Murphy, of analysts Creative Intellect explains, there are benefits to enterprises from software subscriptions. "Simplifying the acquisition and management of key business tools is a real cost saver for businesses," he says; companies can also rent a specialist tool, such as Premiere, for a short period, perhaps for a project.

But if businesses do decide to subscribe, it changes their relationship with their software provider. As the writer and blogger Tim Anderson puts it: "users have an ongoing dependency on the vendor… this is not going to work unless you have a high level of trust and confidence in the vendor."

And that is the heart of the issue. Do businesses that depend on Adobe's tools, trust the company enough to abandon a perpetual licence, in favour of a subscription? For some, it may be like signing up to Spotify, but throwing away their CDs (or their vinyl). For others, it may turn out to be a simpler, cheaper and tidier way to run software they use every day.

 Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

Disqus - noscript

Have you seen the Euro prices? The Adobe currency conversion tables are a "Little" bit out. (i.e. we are getting screwed. €59.03/£46.88/$75.98 ? Hello?)

In five years Adobe will have its customers at its mercy. Watch the prices rocket then.

What a great opportunity for more customer friendly companies. Adobe is clearly not living in the real world, their rental offerings are impractical and expensive. We have two copies of the CS3 suite, went to upgrade this year and was told you can no longer upgrade. We have now moved to other products. Keeping the CS3 for looking at previous work. Thanks Adobe and goodbye!

About sums up Adobe - one very nasty and greedy company!

Wrong - they probably won't have any customers, 5 years is a long time in this business!

I agree with all of the comments so far - I use to like, no, I loved Adobe. Now I will do anything not to give them money - imho they've become arrogant and greedy.

I own old versions of CS and theyre just fine for what i need. When they tried to blackmail me into upgrading by giving me an upgrade deadline, and the option of paying an extortionate sum, it made me think - do I really need it? And the answer is NO!

And there are many other options.

So NO THANK YOU Adobe, I can live without you...goodbye!

Also, more users will be exploring freeware alternatives. Stupid move by Adobe.

This method assumes everyone wants to be connected to the internet, assumes all their potential customers can be connected to the internet. Many prefer a stand alone systems.

Is this fee per month?? If so, how stupid! But the writer should make it clear! Monthly, quarterley yearly makes a lot of difference.

If you use Adobe products a lot as we do it makes sense, and costs no more than an annual upgrade on two programmes. The new system also provides cross-platform support, and multi machine installation - although you can only it on one machine at a time. However, for occasional or private use the monthly cost is prohibitive. I also find it irritating when Adobe Creative Suite wants to connect to the internet at 35,000 feet. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man to make a software system that recognises it is installed on a laptop which might not be online 24/7.

Adobe making a huge and greedty error here. Their rental costs are simply pitched too high for many freelancers and small businesees. A cynical descision and one which I hope hurts them, with users looking elswhere for their software. Me included, Bye bye Adobe - you've developed some great software, but this 'online rental' malarky is too restrictive, places too many user limitations upon us, and you've wrapped it in an alienating price tag.

Hey, ho! Let's have a run-down of the open source alternatives, please.

You need to understand a thing. It's not only about the costs. I can bid an arm and a leg that in less then a year you will no longer be able to save to previous versions of whatever Adobe software you might use. This means that if you want/need to open your project files you will need to keep paying Adobe. Once you stop payment you can't open your files. And here is my main issue. They offered me a 'discount' at 744EU/year. Well, if i bite this bait, after 18 months i have paid a full Creative Standard but i own nothing! What a great deal. Time for Corel.....