Creative Cloud is Here to Stay
Last week was a big one for Adobe, with the firm making public significant additions to its Creative Cloud membership service prior to reporting its financial results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year. The news was good, with Adobe reporting record revenue of $4.4 billion for its fiscal year. While the Acrobat and Marketing Cloud product families performed well, Adobe reported that it had added approximately 10,000 Creative Cloud subscriptions per week during the quarter, versus the addition of 8,000 subscriptions per week in the third quarter. As you can see in the chart below, the Street responded positively to this news, giving the stock a nice spike. So what, you ask?
Well, one of the most significant barriers to abandoning the traditional perpetual license approach and jumping to the Creative Cloud is trust. CC members become entirely dependent on Adobe to maintain and update the service. So if the company stumbles, subscribers would take a serious hit. But it would seem as if Adobe's gamble has paid off — CC is here to stay. There are other very real reasons not to subscribe to CC — such as there being no exit strategy — but having Adobe or the service fade away is simply not going to happen.
Photoshop Gets a Boost
On Tuesday Adobe made available a free update to all Photoshop and Illustrator users, which added support for HiDPI (Retina) displays for Apple MacBook Pro. The other improvements are immediately available to Creative Cloud subscribers, with general availability expected for future general releases. While this long overdue update was welcome enough, Adobe saved the Photoshop CS6 feature enhancements for its Create Now Live event, which introduced a substantial number of enhancements available to Creative Cloud subscribers. While annoying for perpetual license customers, who will have access to these features only by upgrading to CS6.5 or CS7 next year, Adobe once again emphasized the value of subscribing to Creative Cloud and thereby receiving immediate access to all feature enhancements.
So what's new in Photoshop 13.1? Let's start with Smart Object support for Blur Gallery and Liquify, an extension of Photoshop's non-destructive editing. Next we have CSS support for web design, which allows users to easily export CSS code for text and objects, and also import color codes from HTML and CSS files to Color palettes, to help in web design projects. Conditional Actions can speed up image processing, with these commands using logic to automatically choose between different Actions based on user-defined rules. And then there are Crop tool refinements and 3D enhancements including improved live (OpenGL) previews of shadow effects, additional control over illumination using a 32-bit color picker to create glow effects, image-based lighting enhancements and enhanced details for textures. The clips below cover what's new, with all the Creative Cloud-exclusive features listed on the Adobe site.
This was all welcome new functionality but, as announced by Adobe in October, those with less than 512 MB of vRAM suddenly found themselves unable to tap any of Photoshop's 3D functionality whatsoever. Which served as a wakeup call that while it's great to receive new functionality as a Creative Cloud member, the flip side is that subscribing also requires keeping your hardware and OS up to date — as Windows XP users also recently found out. This is in contrast to perpetual license customers, who have the option of running older versions on aging hardware. While I'm happy having access to Creative Cloud for my desktop Windows 7 system, for example, which can handle Photoshop CS6, my aging Windows Vista laptop will continue to run the CS4 version.
Muse Goes Mobile
The latest version extends this approach to allow designers to create tablet and smartphone versions of Muse sites, again without any of that pesky coding. Adobe's approach is quite robust, combining mobile layout options, content and style options, touch-enabled interactivity and gesture-enabled widgets. All in all a significant step forward to evolve Muse from being an interesting experiment to that of a production tool.
Creative Cloud Training
Announced during the Create Now event was the imminent availability of training videos created by Kelby Training, video2brain, Attain and Adobe available exclusively for CC members. An initial batch of these would now seem to be available. This initiative may further annoy non-subscribers but it makes sense for Adobe to provide training material dedicated to new application functionality that's available just to subscribers.
Creative Cloud for Teams
Also announced during the Create Now event was Creative Cloud for teams, which begins with the individual version of Creative Cloud and then adds easy management of virtual workgroups, 100GB of cloud storage per user (versus 20GB for the individual Creative Cloud offering), expert support services, centralized administration for the deployment of new seats, as well as centralized billing and efficient license management. The support is interesting, in that it provides team members with direct access to Adobe product experts, via up to two yearly scheduled one-on-one sessions. Membership is priced at $69.99 per month per person, with the upgrade price set at $49.99. Promising, although it's still limited until the anticipated Creative Cloud Connection folder sharing become available. What's next? Something apparently called Enterprise Term License Agreements. Can you say "global domination"?
The Creative Cloud Discount Continues
For many, this will be the week that the decision will finally be made whether to upgrade Adobe CS3-CS4 applications and suites to CS6. Beginning January 1, 2013, only CS5-CS5.5 will be eligible for upgrades, so the decision to upgrade or stay with current versions and eventually move to Creative Cloud can't be put off much longer. Adobe dropped an earlier deadline for its 40% off Creative Cloud promotion for the first year of membership for CS3 or later customers, so there's no rush to join to take advantage of this offer — unless of course you're craving access to all the CS6 applications and services a membership provides. Available discounts are listed on the Adobe site.
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