Cloudy With A Chance of Blueballs

I RECENTLY SHARED a positive view of what’s happening at Adobe. I’m still a huge fan of the company’s image editing software, and I remain optimistic about their new direction. But I’m unhappy about the two-device limitation Adobe Cloud places on software.

While the company is more liberal than it used to be (e.g. a license to use Adobe software on the Mac is also a license to use it in Windows, and vice-versa), the Cloud’s refusal to let me use software I’ve purchased from Adobe on more than two devices feels like a relic of the past. It’s a restriction that might have made sense for print designers working in corporations in the 1990s, but it is out of touch with the reality of remote and freelance workers designing digital sites and applications for a multi-device world.

I have an office iMac, a home iMac, a home laptop, and an office laptop. I use all of them for my work. My set-up is not unique. Everyone I know who works in this industry has something similar going on.

Apple gets this reality but Adobe does not. For instance, my copy of Lightroom 4, which I bought via the App Store, works everywhere. Not so Lightroom 5, which I purchased (rented? licensed?) as part of my annual Cloud subscription. As a paying Adobe Cloud customer and a photography and Lightroom fanatic, I should be chomping at the bit to upgrade to Lightroom 5. But I see no point in doing so if I’m only going to be able to use Lightroom on two machines.

You might ask why this is is a problem. Here are three times I use Lightroom: to edit business, family, and vacation photos on my laptop while traveling; to edit business photos on the computer in my design studio; and to edit family and travel photos on the computer in my home. Adobe Cloud will let me use Lightroom 5 in two of these situations, but not all three. That makes it useless to me. Lightroom 4, which I bought in the App Store, has no such restrictions. I can use it on as many machines as I own. (To be fair, Apple can easily afford to be liberal with software licensing, because it makes its money on the hardware I buy. Adobe does not. I get that, but understanding doesn’t solve my problem.)

Likewise, I need to use Photoshop when I’m traveling on business (laptop), when I’m working in my design studio, and when I’m burning the midnight oil at home. Adobe will only let me use the product in two of these contexts. Stymied, I use an older, non-cloud version of Photoshop on one or more machines—and when I do that, I run into compatibility problems.

Although I love Photoshop and have used it professionally for nearly two decades, I can’t help noticing that Pixelmator does pretty much everything I need Photoshop to do, costs a fraction of the price (US $29.99), and can be downloaded onto an unlimited number of computers I own.

Why should Adobe care? Because the current restriction is not sustainable for them. The frustrations the restriction creates for me every day actively encourage me to stick with Lightroom 4 and abandon Photoshop for a much more affordable competitor. In short, the one thing that’s uncool about the Cloud is actively unselling all the Cloud’s benefits. And that can hardly be in Adobe’s long-term interest.

What can Adobe do about it? Well, the company could offer a “pro” or “gold” version of Cloud service that removes the two-device restriction. If the difference in price is reasonable, I’d happily sign up. Even better, from a public relations as well as a love-your-neighbor point of view, would be if Adobe simply removed the restriction at no additional cost. Or set the restriction higher, allowing you to register Cloud software on up to five devices you own.

Whatever they do, they should do it soon. We want to keep working with Adobe software, but Adobe needs to work with us, too.

30 thoughts on “Cloudy With A Chance of Blueballs

  1. Adobe? I think Adobe is a company of the past.

    Adobe killed Adobe Fireworks in May 2013. They said “Who needs Fireworks for UI design, anyway? We have Photoshop!” — they never understood the concept of UI design tools.

    Adobe also tried to force all users to move to Creative Cloud subscription model (which means, we have to pay over 80 EUR (!) per month to use their software in Europe! it’s over 1000 EUR per year!) and I think this is never gonna work, in my humble opinion…

    I have only one word to say: “Goodbye!” (Good-bye, Adobe!)

    I hope there will emerge soon new, better tools, created by new, better companies!

    Please, Adobe, do stay in the old, pre-2000 w0rld 0f print! Please, go bankrupt! And goodbye! You don’t deserve to stay in 2013! You’re so old… greedy… and obsolete!

  2. Totally agree! – myself and my studio mates are each and all working on several computers, for exactly the same reasons. Not happy and are looking into alternatives.

  3. Agreed on the sentiment about Pixelmator. Sketch App is another one that’s catching up to Illustrator, and they’re filing the gap from Fireworks as well.

    If Adobe doesn’t wake up soon, the next “bootleg-photoshop” generation of college students will be replaced by the “paid-non-adobe-app” one.

  4. Adobe lost me with the subscription only model, and the fact that is one year after buying the Master Collection, it will no longer properly install on any of my systems (I assume they have some online dependencies that have either been moved or taken down). I have switched to using open-source equivalents (GIMP, Inkscape, etc.), which have most of Adobe’s functionality, and in some cases do things better. These apps have the added bonus of Linux support, and also being free! Adios, Adobe!

  5. The worst part of this move to cloud is the helplessness we all now feel. Industry uses Adobe. I must also, right?

    Helpless seems like a terrible thing to make your customers feel.

  6. Well stated and agree with so many comments here. Not sure Adobe understands our working habits with devices. Finding I’m yearning for replacements to kick Adobe out of complacency. Also a bit tired of paying a high premium for Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ve adapted to the subscription model but it isn’t annually cheaper if you only purchased every other year.

  7. I’m a little numb (shell-shocked?) to the whole Abobe thing now. Every month the auto pay subscription goes ding and I use the few programs I’ve always used over the years. Strange with all this access to the complete Master Suite I care even less about what Adobe puts out there these days.

  8. Hi Jeffrey, while its not exactly what you are looking for you can install and use Creative Cloud on all your devices – you’re just limited to activating two of them at a time. I have it installed on 5 systems (both Mac and Windows). When you sign in on a third machine, it will ask if you want to reset your activations even if you don’t have access to the activated systems (similar to iTunes) and start working on the current machine. Cross-platform licensing and roaming sign-in/activation is new to Creative Cloud.

  9. “Helpless seems like a terrible thing to make your customers feel.”

    Just like with banks, energy and insurance companies, the feeling is getting all too familiar!

  10. What Tranberry has writ pretty much negates this whole article; as well as the affirming, knumskull comments. Also, Fireworks sucks; Adobe should have put it to rest after they bought Macromedia.

  11. The whole adobe product range is getting worse. It starts with a PDF viewer – 48 mb in size, a flash player with updates every week and a user-unfriendly graphics suite.

  12. Michel (first comment) said it all and said it best. Adobe is a company of the past. The sooner they fold, the better off we’ll all be. Greedhead company putting out bloated lameware crap. Bye bye, fools! Hello, Pixelmator, Sketch, et al!

  13. After paying $29.95 (i think that was the amount) per month for one year, Adobe decided to up the price of my Cloud subscription to 49.95. I went back to CS3, which works just fine. They recently sent an offer for the old $29.95 rate – I’m still thinking about it, but the fact i have not needed to make a decision tells me i don’t really need it. This move to the cloud will prove fatal for Adobe, i suspect…

  14. Bro, I can’t even pay the rent here. Cloud, cloud, cloud. I might be a plain and simpleton, daddyo. But I sure as hell don’t wanna go
    down to the basement. Thanks again, bro!

  15. Man, I’m so glad reading that post, as I’m so frustrated by this fact, too. When travelling, I would like to use the Macbook to work on my CC Subscription, but I cant, as CC is installed on my two Machines already. My solution: complete new install of the OS and a trial version of CC. Or, when working in the Coworking Office I use a VM to install CC. Annoying! I would love to pay, say 30%, mor for CC and have it installed on more than two machines.

  16. Thanks for the reference. It’s a perfect fit for folks like me. It serves need.

    Adobe at it heart will always be Adobe. It’s not in their DNA to make things accessible, sharable.

    Gold account = Exclusive account. The design/creative community at it’s best hasn’t grown or met in exclusivity. It seems like those who have been in and supported “the conversation” over they years don’t need it anymore. Gold accounts are affordable for them. That could work out for Adobe.

    There’s a lot of really talent, really young people out there. They have way more creativity then they have money. They will figure this out. Adobe is an concept they may not need.

    Time will tell.

  17. I’m no pro, but I used to give Adobe a thousand bucks every 2 years or so to get the suite. Not for a few years now, it’s too hard – they treated me like a criminal, not a customer (when I swapped my hard drive for an SSD). Acorn is my first choice now and with Flash dead I don’t look back.

  18. My copy of CS3 is still hanging in there so don’t have to upgrade to the cloud version, yet.

    Pixelmator is getting better with each iteration so I am hoping that by the time CS3 goes pop, Pixelmator will be ready for prime time.

    Adobe make great products, but I want to own my software, not rent it. The subscription model works well for some classes of software but I will jump through hoops to not have to pay monthly for the basic tools of my trade. I would rather use other tools, even if they are not quite as polished.

  19. As I find myself at the intersection of design, technology and communication, I only use Adobe’s stuff at the start of each project. The Cloud Thought for me would be turning it on and off for bursts of a couple of days, not whole months. So I stick with CS4 Premium Web, and have yet to meet a situation where that didn’t do the job. I had similar feelings about Quark (before they went belly-up), as I have now on Adobe.

  20. I like Pixelmator. I own it and used it for about 18 months almost exclusively, except for two months of Photoshop I purchased. I recently changed position and am doing more graphic work again and was surprised to see the subscription rates seem to have gone down a lot. I pay something like €12/month here in Ireland for Photoshop. From what I remember it was more like €36 before — apologies if I’m way off on those.

    That’s to say, Adobe is a big ship, and it will take time to turn, but I think they are starting to listen, things are improving. Hopefully the silly device restriction will be reconsidered soon.

  21. For the past year, I’ve been on a mission to pluck Adobe out of my life as a UI/Front end dev entirely. ( has made that all but a reality—I’d encourage anyone looking for an alternative to try it out. The primary hurdle that remains is convincing employers, and coworkers that collaboration compatibility issues are worth the gain.

  22. Name of Adobe rules in market of software and i am also still fan of the abode as myself use Photoshop from last many years really a good amazing tool for images editing

  23. I am still clinging to CS5 (for different reasons) but I have this same issue with my boxed CS5, yes? It is a one-user/two-device license and I need to constantlt deactivate and re-activate the devices I routinely use.

    [My reason, incidentally, for clinging to CS5 is just that I am a pretty scrappy, overhead-averse freelancer. I am much more comfortable making a large, one-time outlay for Creative Suite, and then knowing that I will have at least that version indefinitely. I suppose that $50/month is a reasonable-ish (at the upper end of reasonable?) amount to pay for a sophisticated suite of essential tools. But I just don’t like the feeling that these essential tools are hostage to an infinite autopay and that, regardless of the amount I’ve sent to Adobe, a cessation of payment means my tools *poof* vanish. I understand this is probably more of a psychological thing than a financial one. But if I spend a large amount on CS, I want to own it. I don’t want access to be at the mercy of Adobe’s discretion and future non-negotiable policy and rate changes.)

  24. By the way, I see Pixelmator and GIMP, but I notice this thread does not contain the word “Corel” anywhere. Is Corel a non-starter/non-entity nowadays? If I am correctly interpreting Wikipedia, their last full-suite refresh was X6, March 2012. Does anyone know if that corporation is in any state to capitalize on a Creative Cloud backlash?

  25. I started with Corel. Went to Photoshop out of curiosity when Adobe bought Macromedia (I use Dreamweaver).
    I bought CS5 because Adobe cuts your upgrade eligibility if you don’t use it (I had CS3-if I waited for CS6 I would not qualify for upgrade price). This was the beginning of the Adobe stink. I remember in the old days, software companies would give you the upgrade price if you owned a comparable competitor!
    Adobe went cloud, take it or leave it mode. I left it.
    I now have Corel X6 (added to my Corel 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12 collection).
    I use CS5 and Corel as the mood strikes me. I am looking into alternatives listed above to play with on my Surface Pro 2.

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