Getting Bricked by Adobe

November 27th, 2012 | Posted in General

I received this email the other day from reader Randy Arnold:

I know you keep up on things like this, but just in case you didn’t know Adobe is changing their upgrade policy. This is where I found out.

I believe you have mentioned you are using CS3 now and it is probably like your favorite pen and you may not care to upgrade.¬¨‚Ć Wouldn’t mind hearing…seeing…reading your opinion on upgrading software on your blog.

This from Adobe on their new upgrade policy:

“Special upgrade offer for CS3 and CS4 customers. Take advantage of our special introductory upgrade pricing on Creative Suite 6 for customers who own CS3 and CS4 individual products and suite editions. This temporary upgrade offer is valid through December 31, 2012. After that date, only customers who own CS5 or CS5.5 products will qualify for upgrade pricing to CS6.”

This change in Adobe’s upgrade policy is pretty lousy. Up until now they allowed users to wait up to three versions to upgrade and still qualify for their upgrade pricing. That meant that if you used, for example, CS3 Standard, you could still upgrade to CS6 for the “upgrade” price of $275. As of January 1st, they will only allow the upgrade pricing break from the most recent full version. That would mean paying full price for CS6 if you use earlier than CS5. The full price for CS6 Standard? $1,299.00.

That’s right. $1,299.00!!


I can’t seem to find information on buying upgrades of older versions, which might be considerably cheaper depending on the pricing. If Adobe still allows users to buy an upgrade to CS5 somehow, and keeps the pricing the same, CS4 users could upgrade to CS5 for $275, and then buy the upgrade to CS6 for another $275, or a total of only $550. ONLY? Bleech.

This really is ridiculous. The upgrade pricing on Adobe products is already an outrageous amount. To force customers to upgrade to every new version, or have to go back to full retail pricing is a slap in the face to users who don’t resort to pirated software (very easy to get), and are willing to support the software developer with legitimate upgrade purchases. If a user already purchased the software at full retail price, and let me tell you charging $1,299.00 for a suite of computer programs borders on a criminal offense, then those customers should be able to choose when they want to upgrade for an upgrade price, within reason.

I am currently using CS5.5. I have no interest in upgrading to CS6. There are no features worth the $275 upgrade fee for me. Likely I would upgrade to CS7, simply because if you upgrade your operating system regularly, you need to stay reasonably current with major software as well or you may run into compatibility issues, and maybe this version does have some features I’d really like to have. Now Adobe is telling me if I don’t upgrade to CS6 by the end of the year, they are going to make me pay $1,300 to get CS7??? Unbelievable. No wonder software piracy is so rampant. This kind of pricing and practices like Adobe’s new policy are practically begging people to say “%@#$% you” and just steal their programs. I have NEVER used a pirated program and have always paid for legitimate licenses, even when I had to buy multiple ones for software like Microsoft Office, so each of my kids could have the programs on their laptops for school. Paying twice for the same program just so you can use it on several computers really rankles as well, but I get that policy and paid the money without complaint. Developing software costs money, employs people, and deserves to be supported. This new upgrade policy, however… this is just putting the screws to the people that do legitimately support Adobe and their products.

Why the change? I think they are trying to get people to switch to their new “cloud membership” program. This is a subscription service, wherein you pay a monthly fee, currently $50 a month, and you are automatically upgraded to the latest and greatest with every release.

I can see some attraction here for those who must have the latest version no matter what, but other than those types of users, I don’t see how this idea makes any sense. First of all, my math says that $50 a month equals $600 a year. That’s double the price of a next version upgrade even if that version came out in only one year, and word has it Adobe’s upgrade timetable is going to be about 18 months between major versions. That means you’d be paying $900 in monthly fees to get the next version in 18 months. Why would anyone do that, when you can upgrade for $275? The other features the subscription model offers, like 20 GB of cloud storage, is something you can get many other places for free or next to it. Also, who would want the latest version automatically? Adobe has sometimes added or taken away features I don’t like or didn’t want to see removed. Now I have to deal with that whether I like it or not? New software is also often buggy, and drivers for things like scanners or Wacom tablets/Cintiq might need to catch up to work. No thanks.

This new policy is terrible and a real disservice to longtime users like myself. I’ve been using PhotoShop since version 2.5 around 1993, and have only skipped two upgrades, version 4 and now version 6. I also had separate versions of Illustrator and PageMaker, then InDesign, and got the combined Creative Suite once that came out. I don’t know how much of my money I have paid Adobe over the last almost 20 years, but it’s been in the many thousands. I would think customer loyalty like that warrants highly preferential treatment, not the opposite. I think Adobe needs to step back and rethink their new policy, but I’m not holding my breath they do.

In the meantime, I don’t know if I will surrender to Adobe’s upgrade ransom… uh… OFFER, or stick with version 5.5 until it won’t work with my OS anymore.


  1. I’m in the same boat. I only upgrade every other version and so far see nothing in CS6 which I can’t live without. I’m not interested in their subscription service or cloud storage.
    Thank you for doing the math. I hadn’t really dug into what each method would cost me, but now it becomes really clear that the advantage of many of their ‘offers’ don’t add up to be much of a benefit.

    Lets hope they come to their senses.

  2. […] MAD Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond sums up how I feel about it: […]

  3. Leigh says:

    Why would you have to upgrade to 6 to be able to upgrade to 7 for $275? If you have 5.5, then upgrading to 7 should be the same price as upgrading from 5.5 for 6, right? Or am I getting my math wrong? If their math is right, then upgrading from 5.5 or 6 to 8 or 9 would cost a lot. It’s the 3 versions between upgrades that’s confusing.

    • Tom says:

      Not after the first of the year. After that, you can only upgrade from the most recent version for the upgrade price. So, when 7 is released, only users of 6 will be able to upgrade for whatever upgrade price they decide to charge (might be $275, might be different). Users of 5.5 or earlier will not be able to upgrade to 7, but will have to pay full retail to get it.

  4. Lincoln Eddy says:

    Have you looked at GIMP? I doubt there’s anything you’re doing in Photoshop that GIMP couldn’t handle – and you can get plug-ins to make GIMP look to Photoshop (which would reduce your learning curve).

  5. Daniel says:

    I’ve looked into the cloud program just a little bit (not a lot of digging), and it seems as if it may not even be as good a deal as you describe.

    It almost looks to me like if you “subscribe” to the CS6 cloud version for $50 per month, you get all the interim updates to that specific-number release, and when CS7 comes out you’d need to switch to a CS7 subscription, which may be the same price, maybe more, maybe someone at Adobe suffers a head injury or something and it’s less.

    $600 per year seems to be a pretty great deal for users who buy a complete CS package for every new full release, but not so much otherwise.

  6. John Lotshaw says:

    $600 is what I’d have paid in an upgrade to CS6 anyway… if I’d had CS5.5. Adobe wanted me to basically upgrade to CS5.5 then CS6, instead of jumping from CS5 directly. Heaven forbid I should gyp them out of that intervening $600.

    Oh, I have the full Master edition, by the way… I do video and animation in addition to animation and cartooning, so I need After Effects and Premiere as much as Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign.

    Adobe is just sowing the seeds of their own downfall by doing this. By instituting these draconian upgrade policies, they’re irritating their customer base, and the moment a potential competitor smells blood in the water, Adobe will end up getting eaten alive like a cow in a piranha-infested Amazon tributary.

  7. Bearman says:

    I’m only upgrading to 6 if they let me upgrade from Photoshop Elements. hah

  8. Warren says:

    GIMP is meh, eh, so-so. I’ve compared it periodically with ‘professional’ grade programs for more than a decade, and it’s got some nice features, but if you’re used to PS it’ll totally hose your workflow while you relearn the entire UI.

    There are alternatives, depending on your platform; I’m a Macie so here are some I’ve looked at and used:

    Acorn for Mac scores higher than Pixelmator (IMO) for handling Photoshop-flavored stuff. Both work with layers, both load very VERY fast, both have analogous suites of image processing tools. And actually since they each cost something like $10 or $20, there’s no reason not to have both.

    If you’re doing a lot of work in InDesign, check out iStudio Publisher. Pages is tolerable as well, though I wouldn’t want to lay out anything high-end with it. An advantage is that there is a Pages for iPad, but there’s no iStudio Publisher for iPad – it’s desktop only.

    Illustrator might be the hardest to replace. The freeware Inkscape is no more ready for prime time than GIMP. Intaglio has both a desktop and iPad version, if you want to take your vectors on the go; but as I recall it’s a bit spendy. Other programs like TabletDraw and Paintbrush might be worth looking at as well.

    It is possible to do without Adobe if you’re not doing your own full prepress, including exporting camera-ready PDFs in CMYK. It will kink up your workflow a bit, at first, but you’ll be working for a LOT less cash up front.

  9. Gabriel Yeo says:

    One word of advice: Pirated.

    • Warren says:

      That’s … really not a good word of advice to offer to a high-profile, professional artists. You know that, right?

      Do try to be more productive.

  10. Karyl Miller says:

    My old Photoshop didn’t work on my new computer so I had to buy CS6. Signed up for Photoshop class at local Community College, got student body card and got student copy of Photoshop CS6 at students’ store for under $200. I don’t know what the future holds for those with Students or teachers copies of Photoshop.

  11. Garth says:

    They’re further “enticing” you to use the creative cloud by offering exclusive features for members that you can’t get in the regular version. So, if I pay full price (which, thankfully my employer did) for the *MASTER SUITE*, it is still crippled because I’m not a part of their exclusive club. What a rip off.

    I’ve been wanting the “Package” feature since I was forced to leave Freehand. It gathers all the file’s assets (fonts, linked photos, etc) so that you can easily send it to a printer, or another designer. Alas, I still can’t have it because I’m not in their cloud.


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