Recently Adobe was in a disastrous, market threatening position – a major consumer software vendor that had to defend itself from the tyranny of Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s OS + App Store monopolies. These OS market share pinnacles allow arbitrary exclusion [Apple’s infamous Flash ban on iOS], OS API update dependencies or vulnerabilities [again, used in hampering Flash fixes in order to support Steve Job’s fraudulent Flash poor performance assertions] plus other OS vendor conflicts including features and pricing. On the OS App Store side, there are a host of problems starting with runtime gouging [all 3 vendors charge a 30% fee for software sold in their stores] but running the gamut of update timings and forced sharing of customer information with OS rival vendors especially Apple and Microsoft but increasingly Google as well.
So confronted with harball tactics from Apple plus emerging serious Flash rival software from Microsoft [Silverstream and the Exrpression family]Adobe had to do something to bolster Flash but also establish software sales independence. Hence the Creative Cloud – this provides some defense against the OS vendor App Stores but also cost Adobe users.
Adobe’s solution, the Creative Cloud, is equally Draconian, but now for Users
The Creative Cloud is the way Adobe now sells and updates the bulk of its software. Users no longer own an Adobe program but rather rent it on a monthly or annual basis. The monthly rent is higher than the annual rent by as much as 50%. If you don’t pay the rent at the end of the month or year, the Adobe software will no longer work until you pay up. Also the programs must be downloaded [and given some huge feature sets], these are multi-gigabyte downloads eating time and bandwidth.
Adobe has bundled its popular graphics software into groups like Web, Video, and Photo plans. These bundles have a cross over point of 2-3 programs over renting each individually. Adobe provides 20GB of cloudspace for each bundle but that cloud space becomes inaccessible except for 2GB if your rent is over due.
Finally user have to check in online every month to insure there rent is not due – this is done semi-automatically. Thankfully the Creative Cloud is not online dependent so most apps are capable of running offline most of the time.
This solution in which Adobe software is now sold like cable channels – in bundles and on an monthly charge but monthly or annual renewal basis – is disconcerting for both the OS vendors and Adobe users. The OS vendors have yet to follow the monthly billing model of Adobe so except for the iOS App Store they have not been able to enforce an exclusive buy from their App Stores on Adobe. End users get short changed because based on a 3-4 year update cycle the new prices represent a cost increase. Massive downloads and updates plus managing the cloud add further time burdens on end users. In sum the vaunted efficient, free markets become much more “sticky”, more expensive and sometimes arrogantly arbitrary. So in responding to the threat of OS vendor sales control, Adobe has setup a rental system that has many users up in arms; thus free and/or Open Source graphics software is looking more attractive.
Open Source Opportunity?
Given users overwhelming dissatisfaction with Adobe Creative Cloud subscription model, there appears to be an opportunity for Open Source and/or free graphics software vendors. But the continuing problem for both Open Source and free software vendors is establishing a healthy revenue stream to sustain their software development and support. As Linux Community has made abundantly clear[remember this is the largest number of potential users in this software sector], free and Open Source does not have a robust revenue stream that can support creative development ventures except by partially breaking theFree Foundation or Open Source mold as donations do not cover the rent.. The 6 most often used mold breaking methods are to:
1)charge more the a nominal fee for distribution and update services;
2)charge more than a nominal fee for support and education services;
3)piggyback other software on top of the free download for a fee;
4)offer quicker, directed updates for users who help pay for the cost of those feature developments;
5)adopt dual licensing allowing for a free core program but charging for full feature sets;
6)offering integration and/or consulting services for clients with special requirements.
Thus for the past 4-5 years it has been interesting to see how free and Open Source software sources are addressing their revenue problems while trying to sustain state of the art development as university and research funding becomes more frugal from both state and federal government cutbacks. So as monopoly infighting raises the prices and constrains the delivery of software feature sets, will free and Open Source be able to seize growth and presence opportunity?? If Linux failure to take advantage of the Microsoft Vista debacle is any guide, don’t expect too much from free and Open Source even as commercial software become more expensive and repugnant.