An Open Letter to Adobe Systems
This is a discussion on An Open Letter to Adobe Systems within the Photography Discussion forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; Apparently Adobe is feeling secure enough in its role as the premier image software on earth to start jacking their customers around a little. The ...
An Open Letter to Adobe Systems
Apparently Adobe is feeling secure enough in its role as the premier image software on earth to start jacking their customers around a little. The following open letter is from Scott Kelby, founder and president of National Assn of Photoshop Professionals. Considering that his professional life and livelihood are closely entwined with Adobe, be assured that he doesn't write this lightly. I can summarize Scott's depiction of Adobe's new update policy easily: miss an update and your next one will cost you FULL retail.
As president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) I represent more than 70,000 Photoshop users around the world. However as I’m writing this open letter to you today, I would say that most of our 70,000 members have no idea about the upgrade policy changes you just announced, or about how these changes will affect them.
From the information I’ve gathered, it appears to me that this new upgrade policy for the next version of Adobe Photoshop and the Creative Suite (presumably called CS6) will leave a significant number of your customers with no affordable upgrade path to Photoshop CS6 or the Creative Suite.
It’s my understanding that when the next version of Photoshop and the Creative Suite is released, if you do not already own Photoshop version CS5 or CS5.5 (or the 5 or 5.5 Creative Suite):
(a) You will not be eligible to upgrade to Photoshop CS6 (or the CS6 Creative Suite). Instead the only way to get Photoshop CS6 at that point will be to repurchase the entire product again at its full price (presumably $699 US). If you’re a CS4 Creative Suite User, you’ll have to buy the entire suite all over again to move to CS6.
(b) For Photoshop CS4, or CS3 users, their only real option is to pay to upgrade now to CS5.5 (though you are offering a 20% upgrade discount upgrade until the end of the year), and then to pay again to upgrade when Photoshop CS6 is released, or sign up for your new monthly subscription plan.
While I understand that Adobe needs to make business decisions based on how it sees market conditions, I feel the timing of this new pricing structure is patently unfair to your customers (and our members). Here’s why: You didn’t tell us up front. You didn’t tell us until nearly the end of the product’s life cycle, and now you’re making us buy CS5.5 for just a few months on the chance that we might want to buy CS6 at a discount when it’s released. Otherwise, we have to pay the full price as if we were never Adobe customers at all.
Those users who didn’t upgrade to CS5 or 5.5, either couldn’t afford the upgrade, or couldn’t justify the upgrade, or they would already be on CS5 or 5.5. But now you’re kind of holding us hostage—–you’re making us buy something we don’t need now, just so we will still have the option to get something that we may want (CS6) when it is released without buying it all over again from scratch. You’re playing hardball with your customers—either upgrade twice or you’re out. That’s not the Adobe we know.
I have always felt that Adobe was very customer centric, and that their decisions were based on what’s best for their customers, but in this particular instance I can’t see how cutting off CS4 and CS3 users, and making them either pay two upgrades in a row, or pay the full retail price to get CS6, benefits anybody but Adobe.
With that said, here’s my plea to Adobe:
If you really want to be fair to your customers, at the very least don’t start this policy yet. Start it with Photoshop CS7. Make CS6 your new upgrade pricing transition version, and tell everybody now, up front—–at the start of the product’s life cycle, that everybody will need to upgrade to CS6 at some point because the next version (CS7) won’t support older users. That way, we’re not spending money just to spend more money again. Adobe, you can still have what you want—-you can still get everybody on the current version, but it gives us time to save, time to plan, and anybody still left behind at that point will have had more than fair warning.
Another option I feel would be very fair to Adobe customers would be to offer a tiered upgrade which rewards your best customers (customers who upgraded to CS5 or 5.5) by giving them the best upgrade deal, but then offer CS4 users a reasonable upgrade path (they would pay more for their upgrade, but they’re getting all the features added in CS5.5 as well, so that’s fair) and then why not even offer an upgrade path to CS6 for your CS3 users? They would certainly wind up paying the most in upgrade fees, but at least it wouldn’t be the full $699 (or even more if they’re on the CS3 suite). This tiered approach gives everybody an opportunity to stay on as an Adobe customer, but still gives your best customers preferential upgrade pricing.
I know, Business is business…
I understand that Adobe is not in business to be our friend or our buddy. Adobe is a public corporation with a responsibility to its employees, partners and shareholders to continually generate and grow profits. We don’t buy Adobe products because we think they’re our friend—we buy Adobe products because you make amazing products and tools for creative people like us. You have the right to charge $5,000 for the Creative Suite if you want, and likewise we have to make decisions based on what’s right for us and our business.
I also know that the clearest message you can send any company is not to buy their product and I am not suggesting in any way that we intentionally don’t buy Adobe products, but I am afraid for many people, including many of the Photoshop users I represent, that will be the case. Photoshop CS4 will wind up being their last version of Photoshop ever, and I for one would hate to see that happen. I think that would be a lose/lose for everybody.
Adobe, it’s not too late
You can still fix this. You can stand by your customers and make CS6 the “Transition upgrade”—-the one where going into it from the start ,everybody will know that after CS6 there will be a new upgrade policy. That way you don’t leave anybody behind that wants to stay with you. Nobody can say you pulled a fast one on them at the last minute, or didn’t give them reasonable notice about the next upgrade. You never go wrong by doing the right thing.
Thanks for listening, Adobe.
All my best,
President, The National Association of Photoshop Professionals
12-02-2011 01:20 PM
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I must admit to a modicum of surprise that this isn't comment worthy on a forum devoted to photography.
I'm a little unsure of exactly WHAT to say. I shared this same letter on my Facebook page. One photographer suggested 'boycotting' Adobe, but I can't see that happening.
Personally I had been waiting until CS6 to upgrade my CS4 -- doing the 'skip every other version routine' that many of us do. *sigh* I now feel like I'm between a 'rock and a hard place' with the upgrade situation.
Thoughts from others.....................
Unless there is some suitable substitute to PS and you're not planning to stay with CS4 forever, I see only two options: (1)-buy a CS5 upgrade to your CS4 and then upgrade to the coming CS6 for a total expenditure of around $400-$500 or (2)-wait and pay $700 for a retail copy of CS6. Somehow I suspect that even if you have CS5, like I do, the upgrade to 6 ain't gonna be cheap.
What surprises me is that I think Adobe is probably going to harm themselves by doing this and yet they're doing it anyway. This sort of reminds of the whole Netflix fiasco and the mass exodus that caused. You can't just double your price for a commodity item and expect people to take it in stride.
I've always held that Photoshop is "ludicrously" over-priced. Full retail should run about 1/3 of what Adobe charges and I think even that's being generous to Adobe. They won the web video market with Flash, tried to ride their own coat-tails, and found themselves being shown the door. Now most web developers view Flash as poison; inefficient, bloated, overpriced, and no longer welcome on every platform as it once was. Apple started the bashing, but even Microsoft and Google (classically anti-Apple) joined in on Apple's side to declare: "It's true! It's true!"
Now here we go with still digital photography. The features that once made Photoshop unique and king-of-the-hill are now commonplace in photo editing programs. Moreover, given the volume of photos people can take with digital as compared to the significantly smaller quantity in the days of film (owing to the price per-shot to buy film and process it) digital asset management software is more important than software that processes just a single shot at at time. Hence Aperture (only runs on a Mac) and Lightroom (also made by Adobe) are the preferred tools and they do the VAST MAJORITY of the adjustments that most photographers are constantly using. I suspect Lightroom's lower price tag is in response to the fact that Aperture was $200 originally but is now a MERE $79 (that's not the "upgrade" price... that's the "full" price.) I noticed that Lightroom can now be purchased for closer to $200 than the original $300 (though I think the official price is still $300).
This means I find that I'm _rarely_ invoking Photoshop. I owned CS4. I only upgraded to CS5 when they offered the 30% discount on the upgrade price (so the upgrade was $140 instead of $200). One of the major features of CS5... "content aware fill"... I'm finding is "not all that and a bag of chips". I'm finding edit after edit where I looked forward to the 30-45 minutes of cloning and retouching that "content-aware fill" would do in mere seconds, left me with a less than satisfactory result and I STILL needed to spend another 30 minutes trying to fix the marginal job. The improved edge selection is a much better improvement. They improved the HDR capability but I already had built-in HDR so the newer version now does a better job which possibly competes with the likes of Photomatix... but Photomatix is only $60 (I think). This leaves me wondering how Adobe could justify charging $300 in upgrade fees for what I can boil down to about 1 & 1/2 to 2 useful improvements. That's a LOT of money for not very much improvement. I only paid $140 for my upgrade so I'm feeling like I did "ok", but I'd have felt totally ripped off if I had to pay $300.
There's ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that I'm willing to shell out $699 to "upgrade" from CS4 to CS6. Had I not already taken advantage of the CS5 upgrade discount and Adobe popped the $700 price tag on me because I didn't do the intermediate upgrade then I'd be saying goodbye Adobe.
I see a lot of Photographers for whom spending a few hundred dollars on a new lens represents "all the money in the world" to them. And yet Adobe thinks nothing of charging this much for an upgrade of software??? What are they thinking? Every new piece of novel technology that's useful will eventually become a commodity item for which you can longer charge a premium. Adobe is struggling to differentiate themselves in a market which is increasingly being commoditized and they're still trying to charge the premium for software which is no longer novel. If Adobe doesn't recognize this, find new emerging markets and features worthy of justifying the price, and price their commodity features so that the masses can afford it, then they're just going to run their once-great company into the ground. That would be very disappointing.
Short Adobe stock (ADBE)?
Update: Adobe backed off, CS3 and CS4 users will have one year from CS6 intro to get update pricing.
I am stuck in an interesting position. I purchased the CS5 Design Standard student and teacher edition. From what I remember, under the terms of the student license, I can purchase only 1 Adobe product using student pricing. I have not seen anything about being able to upgrade under the student plan. If there is no path for that, I think that I will be using CS5 forever since I use it enough to justify the $300 I originally spent, but definitely not enough to spend for full price upgrades.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional so please take all comments with a grain of salt and consider the source.
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