Sunday, May 12, 2013

We Want It All Right Now!

It's been too long since i've had a chance to finish the Time Travel experiment articles.  It has just been an extremely hectic year already trying to finish Hoopfighters, and now have 2 more shooting projects with different clients coming up next week.  However,  If you're and Adobe software user like me, you might have heard the news.

If anything, it's left me in shock.  I was going to post my outrage the day they announced the news from AdobeMax conference earlier this week but decided to just let the news sink in a little and ponder it.  If you haven't heard the news, open up a new tab in your web browser right now, and google Adobe Kills CS Suite.

There's no shortage of web sources reporting seemingly LIVE from Adobe Max conference.  The bomb has been dropped.  But just what does this mean?  Adobe's own Creative Cloud page on their site was my first stop to learn firsthand just what Creative Cloud is doing that is replacing Creative Suite line.  They mention quite a few new features and integration with a heavy ideology around centricity.  For example:
According to Adobe, with the C.C. is obviously... Cloud based.  Not just in file sharing and storage / backup, but in how the apps themselves behave.  You can access them across multiple devices.

To take the "feature list" even further, they're pushing even more 'freebies' in your pocket for the money you'll be paying, and this claim to be able to make everything easily publishable RIGHT from inside their platform.  Adobe wants you to use Adobe every step of the way.

An obvious selling point is that because you're not paying for a single 1-time fee license, you'll get rolling updates.  Today we are all used to getting free updates on a "version" of the software we have purchased a license for.  What Creative Cloud is offering is as long as you are subscribed you will have the LATEST and greatest new tools.  Additional features can be rolled out by the developers without having to wait to release an entire new version of the program and charge you another bundle for it.  I have my doubts about the claims to "never worry about compatibility" as stated in the above blurb, but at least the possibilities of Creative Cloud could mean decreased turnaround time for bug fixes (potentially).

So just what does moving to a subscription-based, cloud-based application platform mean for us users?  Now, keep in mind... Adobe is BIG.  For a lot of businesses that have to retain Adobe licenses moving to a subscription for maintaining software could mean less headache with authorizations and that "scaling" mentioned in the image above.

After watching the live chat with the guys at IndyMogul discussing some of the features and possible concerns once Creative Cloud rolls out, it definitely got me thinking about the subscription platform in a different light.  However, that being said I'm still more nervous than open-minded about what subscription based applications will spell for the future of Adobe, and for the software industry at large.

The immediate concerns are just how transparent will the Digital Rights Management be?  What will dealing with cloud based application launching from multiple devices and synchronization be like for a small shop or single freelancer?  I know there are a lot of different income levels that "freelancer" can scale acros. I personally am at the very bottom of that scale being as I struggle just to meet the demands of my cost-of-living.  I don't own a tablet, a super techy next-gen multi-tool (i'm on an older android phone that barely handles text and calls efficiently), and my workstation is literally my everything.  I work and play on the same machine.

The next big concern is obviously "am I paying too much for stuff I'm not even using?".  This topic came up a couple of times on the live chat mentioned above.

Excerpt from NoFilmSchool article:

Do I need ongoing Internet access to use my Creative Cloud desktop applications?
No. Your Creative Cloud desktop applications (such as Photoshop and Illustrator) are installed directly on your computer, so you won’t need an ongoing Internet connection to use them on a daily basis.
You will need to be online when you install and license your software. If you have an annual membership, you’ll be asked to connect to the web to validate your software licenses every 30 days. However, you’ll be able to use products for 180 days even if you’re offline.
While this is stated, another concern popped up that was discussed on the IndyMogul livechat and popping up on adobe's own user forums and that's the 1 active device at a time rumor.  Adobe claims their software is not an "always on" platform, unlike some companies (ahem, E.A. games). but if this is true then how will the DRM work to check and validate the same account and app are not being used at multiple locations. This obviously leaves concerns about licensing for multiple "seats", and that can quickly become a very deep topic across the range of Hobbyist, Semi-Pro, to small and even large businesses that have to scale accordingly.

So, with subscriptions comes questions, "when can I leave?", "when can I come back?", and "where are the hidden fees?"  I speak for myself when I say I hate phone service contracts.  2 year agreements with early cancellation fees can kiss my ass.  Unfortunately the mobile phone and data connectivity is so much a part of our daily lives now my only options are: do I join a giant phone company and deal with expensive, consistent service; or do a pay-as-you go plan and be forced to use lesser quality phones with shoddy applications with virtually no support, and bottom tier service?

Adobe is in a prime position to perform the same type of business practices that phone companies are notorious for, and that's probably the biggest concern people have with the move to subscription-based Creative Cloud.  Once C.C. rolls out they have to make one hell of a first impression so people don't feel like they're being "phone billed".  I know I don't like paying the $80+ a month just to have internet access on my phone. Using less than 1% of my monthly minutes and maybe 20% of my data cap leaves me feeling bitter every time I have to shell out for that monthly fee just to keep my service active.

Let's put that into perspective with Creative Cloud.  If I want to enroll in the Creative Cloud to get full access to the entire suite of software (formerly the master collection) that's $50 a month (yes, I rounded up).  Will there be an option to roll month to month? If I'm not using all the software all the time can I just pay $30 the next month?  What if the month after I have no jobs and won't be using any of the adobe software at all? I'd prefer not to have to pay a penalty for suspending the account simply because I don't have the jobs coming in that month to afford the bill.  Perhaps we'll just have to wait and see how Creative Cloud rolls out.

There are many more concerns beyond the subscription platform that come to mind.  Obviously the "cloud" has been around awhile, but that doesn't mean the concerns about data security, hacking, piracy, and identity theft are any less of a concern.  Until now, all of our work is primarily (and in a lot of traditional workplaces still only) done at the workstation and saved locally.  Adobe isn't just offering greater centricity and networking potential through Behance integration, but allowing for an easier way to collaborate with others online through shared access. C.C. users will now be able to display their "works in progress" to be viewable by that public.  Adobe is even making self-publishing tools even easier through the Cloud platform itself.

If you've used dropbox at all and have their little application installed on your computer, you have a basic idea of how the cloud collaboration can be possible.  That is, if Adobe is using that model.  Another model is Gobbler's "watch and search" for particular file and folder types that allow you to selectively backup online and send to other users.  Data security should always be concern #1 when putting stuff online.  Just because we live in an age where it's so commonplace doesn't mean it's inherently safer than it used to be.

Now stretch that issue out beyond Adobe's control at the server end, and realize that every device you enable your account on will be susceptible to someone else accessing it.  For someone like me who only has 1 workstation, that might not be an issue so much. I'd still be worried about accessibility at other ends of the cloud, but beyond that, I guess I could say I feel relatively "safe".  Take this situation to a workplace or office where creative competition could drive someone to log in to someone Else's account, and you can see how obtuse an issue this can become if your workstation, your phone, your laptop, your tablet, or super-rad wrist computer were left unattended.

The move to subscription based licensing brings up the concern for accessing project files when your license is not active, and this could lead to some really enigmatic solutions if Adobe isn't quick to solve this issue.  I for one have the belief that if a project I created or completed with software I had a license for at some point, i should be able to open it up even into the distant future if I desire and play around in it. Whether that's for saving out a template based on the workflow I used in that project, or exporting individual assets that never got bounced (if we're talking about video / audio) and/or rendered out individually that could be recycled or stored in my custom libraries for re-use later should not be the concern of Adobe.  I firmly stand against the idea that a valid solution to this would be an adobe "player" that will let you view project files without being able to edit them, this is NOT a solution.

To round up the cloud based storage for accessing projects, what will this mean for large Premier Pro and After Effects projects?  They've made certain to inform on their website that these applications and video production are also under the C.C. banner, but try and look up how the "collaborative" and "cloud" platform will integrate in to existing workflows and pipelines and you won't find any information, yet.  In general, Creative Cloud offers free 100gb online storage.  For the average freelance graphic or web designer that's plenty, but in the video world that might be 1 project at best.  Even a bottom-level freelancer myself the few small video projects I've worked on have averaged no smaller than 70+ gigabytes of data and the largest was around a terabyte for video alone, as an audio engineer and sound studio just the audio projects alone for some of the video projects I've worked on can soar into the 50+ gigabyte range easily if I'm working on a feature.

I haven't personally spoken with anyone at Adobe, but if experience has taught me anything about how companies operate, they like to protect their information as much as possible. So unless the services are set in stone, I doubt any solid answers from Adobe will be made available until Creative Cloud hits.  I know this is all still very fresh and keep in mind the news came just earlier this week.

I still have yet to sit here and sift through all the resources online, but first chance I get I'll be going through the keynotes.  If you'd like to do so yourself, here's the link below.

Adobe Max Online

Just taking a quick browse through it doesn't look like the answers to any of the deep and technical questions about the specifics of how things will work will be answered in the videos, but I'm sure there's plenty of feature goodness discussed to get you hyped up about this new model.

Just based on the current setup alone, those of us doing stuff at a semi-professional level or even hobbyists, may find it hard to swallow switching to a monthly fee.  As long as Adobe has a clean and smooth process for rolling out contracts so we can easily create a paying account and suspend it at will within reason, things may not be so bad.  After all $50 a month in comparison to the full price of Master Collection, (roughly $2,500) is quite a savings.  It averages out to around $600 a year, and at the rate of "version" releases the last few years at Adobe, that's about on par with how much you'd be spending to stay up to date every time Adobe rolled out a new version of Creative Suite if you were buying a full license each time.

Now, as we all start to sit happy and enjoy all the features they've implemented.  This is about when I get curious of how to manage plugins.  As far as I can tell the licensing is the only thing you're paying for to keep software up to date, it still installs like normal software onto your device and runs like a typical software should.  But, what about synchronizing your licensed plugins for whatever Adobe application you're using across the device range?  Those software developers that want to hop on board could quickly start talks with Adobe for switching their licensing schemes over to have Adobe's platform handle the whole shebang, and then those 3rd party companies can offer a paid subscription plan too.

It takes a lot of foresight to make a platform like this work, and clearly Adobe has done their homework.  But how about the rest of the industry, how are things going to shape in the years to come with a major platform like this running the show?  Obviously Adobe isn't the only solution for video and VFX editing, there are others like Autodesk and Avid. Switching product lines may take some re-training and unlearning habits that may have been formed from the particular workflow of the application we're all used to, but the bigger question is what's to stop them from switching to this very same type of business model?

There's an awful lot of potential to bleed it's consumers / users / customers dry through the subscription models and Adobe's move to the Creative Cloud is only the very beginning.  These are all my own personal opinions and concerns, what do you think about the move to the cloud?  Do you think 3rd party plugin developers will make the switch to the same platform?  Is this going to make your life easier or more complex?

Please share this article and leave comments!  I'd love to know what everyone's experiences are.

1 comment:

  1. is another article that brings up some similar topics. Definitely gained some more perspective on the issue! If you've got more free time, do check this blog article out as well!


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