Will Adobe's Move to the Cloud Finally Keep the Pirates at Bay?

Illustration for article titled Will Adobes Move to the Cloud Finally Keep the Pirates at Bay?

Today, Adobe announced the latest round of updates to its ubiquitous software suite, with its Creative Cloud subscription service taking center-stage. Not only is the old Creative Suite moniker being dropped completely, but a whole slew of cloud-dependent features were introduced. While the updates will be a boon to a huge number of Adobe customers, it's going to annoy the hell out of one core Adobe demo: the pirates.

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Adobe's ability to strike just the right balance between being hugely expensive and easily crackable traditionally made it easy prey for software theft. I can remember my early days of scouring Warez chatrooms on AOL, downloading Photoshop 4 and being utterly pleased with myself. Since then, there's been a low barrier to entry for for any creative adventurer looking to procure Adobe products free of charge, despite the company's attempts at instituting increasingly convoluted activation methods.

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Then, last year, came Creative Cloud. At first, Creative Cloud was just a subscription service and some peripheral online perks. But this year, a host of features are being tied into the service that actually promises to make the Adobe workflow significantly more user-friendly and efficient. Not only can you store your files in the cloud and access them anywhere, but you can also store your app settings online and sync to multiple devices, publish work on the Behance network, and utilize a robust set of sharing features built into the service. And you can be sure that future Adobe updates will only expand on these connected offerings.

What this means is that the dreamy promises of the Creative Cloud are going to make the choice between pirating or buying that much harder, to the point where the odds might finally swing in Adobe's favor. This should essentially be every software-maker's goal: Make the prospect of purchase more attractive than the prospect of piracy.

But what about password-sharing? Surely this will occur in some form—whose HBO Go account are you using?—but Adobe hasn't been shy in instituting clear limitations on Creative Cloud services. You are limited to 2 machines only, and if you want to run an app on a new rig, you must deactivate one of the others first. Of course, there will be attempted cracks, loopholes, and other ways people will try to game the system. And there will be plenty of users perfectly content with a simple cracked download of Photoshop or Illustrator without the bells and whistles of Creative Cloud.

But that doesn't matter. If Adobe can cut out even a fraction of software pirates by converting them to customers, it'll more than justify the move to the cloud.

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DISCUSSION

Reading this article, a couple questions come to mind:

  • For cloud storage, how is the Creative Cloud any better than, say, ANY other cloud storage system? Perhaps there's a dropdown option within Photoshop, saving you one or two mouse clicks?
  • The ability to configure and share your settings across all machines is actually pretty fantastic, from the perspective of a lazy man (such as myself). But... wait... I'm limited to two machines? Two? I MUST be reading something incorrectly here, because why the fuck would I need the Creative Cloud just to transfer my settings from one machine to ONE other machine?
  • Sharing, publishing, blah blah.. I'm quite certain that most users are sharing their work in places other than the Behance network today, and I don't see that changing now.

This is purely an attempt to remove the pirates, not a convenience for the customer. And I have NO problem with that! It's their product, they're welcome to protect it. But... Why is Photoshop THE defacto image editing tool today? Because it's a very powerful tool that everyone knows how to use. I was using Photoshop on my own before I was using it in a classroom environment. It's fantastic software.

But there is some pretty great image editing software out there that's free. Is Photoshop so great that you would pay $600/yr MORE than you would for Gimp? Have you (non-professional users) EVER paid $600 for the use of ANY software title for one year? (I have not.) I foresee a generation of users growing up on something else; something they can afford; and something they'll continue to use in the future.

I foresee this severely reducing the number of Photoshop pirates (most of which never would have spent the money to buy the retail anyway). I also see this hurting their overall popularity as THE image editing software title, and thus hurting sales 5-10 years from now. And this is just regarding Photoshop; their other titles in the CS already have far more competition. It's a questionable move; not from an ethics standpoint, but rather a longterm business standpoint.