Adobe's subscription model could revolutionise the creative process

Published April 28, 2011

Adobe are soon to be offering pay as you go models to rent their creative suite of software. Things like Photoshop, After Effects, InDesign and Illustrator are all costly pieces of kit but the new payment method could bring the point of entry down to new users. I decided to take ten minutes to chat to Mr C about how this might change some of the things we do on Sidepodcast, and the way software is consumed as a whole.

As a quick note, we’re using US dollar pricing for comparison, as the UK subscription prices have not yet been announced.

First of all, what kind of software are we talking about?

Creative software. Things that enable you to create. Be it publishing, images, video, design, any form of visual and audio creation - still or moving pictures. By and large it’s aimed at the professional market and has a high entry point.

Could you tell me the situation as it stands? It’s quite expensive.

They’ve got the Master Collection (every piece of creative software you could need) which currently retails at $2599. Or you can buy them individually. Photoshop, which is just one component of it, that right now would set you back $659.99.

The Master Collection is a great discount, if you’ve got two and a half grand.

What they’re suggesting now is, you can rent them year on year or month on month. They call it pay as you go.

What kind of things do we use that for?

Do you mean before, or after? Because my usage is going to change based on the pricing. Before, that’s now, I use Photoshop, and use it for image creation on Sidepodcast. That’s all I can afford from that Master Collection.

But now, there are pay as you go options. How does that work?

There’s an annual commitment with monthly payments, just like your cable provider, or your mobile phone. If you cancel early, you have to pay the full amount. That’s the contract version.

Or, there is month on month, where you either continually renew, or you pause and take a break and come back to it.

Pricing at the moment in the US is $129 a month if you commit to the full 12 months. That’s for the entire Master Collection. Software updates tend to come round once every 18 months, so if you were paying the $2.5k, you’d need an additional upgrade fee (something like $1399 on top). With the rental version, you never do that. You’re always on the latest version and you only ever pay a fixed fee.

The month on month cost is slightly more, $195, but obviously you have the freedom to stop and start.

How will those change your workflow?

Both of those change my workflow because I could just about afford $129 potentially. I could get the whole Master Collection and because it’s in installments, it’s slightly more palatable. It’s still a huge amount of money, though.

However, the month on month is the one that really is going to do it because I can already see myself using it. After Effects is unaffordable to me to buy it outright ($999.00). If I could rent that - I tend to need it once every three months - it’s $75. I could rent it three times a year, and would save myself a fortune. I don’t need After Effects every single day. I need it occasionally.

It gives me access to software I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, with no massive commitment. It’s money that Adobe wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. And after that, I could be tempted to rent it for 12 months.

How do you think professionals will react to changes like this?

It will probably reduce piracy of the software because it was heavily pirated due to the price. The more affordable it becomes, the less pirated it is. It’s going to take a long time to make any difference to bulk buyers. Professionals who earn money from doing this would stick to what they’ve got, becuase they use it all the time and they just need it.

If the Adobe site goes down and I can’t log on to buy a month, I’ll just wait a day or two. If you’re a professional and the website is not available… that’s a bit of a risk to the business.

It may also change the way Adobe do their updates. If they really want to plug subscriptions, they could release two new updates in two months, but the people who want to buy it, have to upgrade twice.

None of this is amateur stuff, it’s all highly professional products. It’s not going to be putting iMovie on every computer. It’s not going to make a difference to entry level consumers. People who want it are already above entry level. It might mean smaller companies can challenge larger companies because they don’t have to make the upfront investment.

Are there any other kinds of software this model could work for? What would you like to see?

It could work for any professional product. It’s senseless renting software you can buy for £20. It’s senseless renting Pixelmator because it doesn’t have a high entry point. But there are Hollywood-grade pieces of software that come in between £15,000 and £20,000 which you might only need for a week. A month is too long for that kind of stuff. You could say I want that for a week, I could afford to rent that for a week.

It’s great for niche products, any product that appeals to a smaller number of people. The smaller your userbase, the higher your cost. Anything that’s niche, selective market, could all be rented.

In the end, it enables creativity at a price point you couldn’t previously afford.

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