Adobe LogoYou won’t get your next copy of Photoshop on a CD or via download. Adobe has announced that its popular suite of editing apps, including such graphic design workhorses as Illustrator and Dreamweaver, will be sold by subscription only.

Adobe Creative Suite Going Subscription-Only – Slashdot

“According to CNET and various other sources, CS6 will be the last version of Adobe’s Creative Suite that will be sold in the traditional manner. All future versions will be available by subscription only, through Adobe’s so-called ‘Creative Cloud’ service. This means that before too long, anyone who wants an up-to-date version of Photoshop won’t be able to buy it–they will have to pay $50 per month (minimum subscription term: one year). Can Adobe complete the switch to subscription-only, or will the backlash be too great? Will this finally spur the creation of a real competitor to Photoshop?”

On the upside, subscriptions might offer users more flexibility, so that a graphic designer who always uses Illustrator will only need to “add on” Dreamweaver when working on Web projects. But it sure doesn’t sound like it from the “50 bucks a month for a year” terms quoted in related news stories.

Of course, Adobe has an economic incentive to rent its software: it helps fight software piracy, and forces users to pay the equivalent of full price every couple of years–unfortunately without the option to spend less by buying the older version. Adobe may also be trying to emulate the speedy upgrade model of browsers like Firefox and Chrome, which are now up to version 20.

The question is how many of Adobe’s users will jump ship.

Adobe now clearly expects that all its users will have Internet. But could Adobe also be signaling that it expects the future of media applications to live online? We’ve already seen examples of techniques that used to require Final Cut or Photoshop happening in the browser thanks to HTML 5. CSS now supports blend modes so you can combine or tint photos on the fly. And JavaScript plus canvas can use to create chroma-key green screen effects in real time.

Adobe isn’t the only media juggernaut looking for subscription-based revenue:

YouTube Is Said to Plan a Subscription Option – NYTimes.com

This week YouTube, the world’s largest video Web site, will announce a plan to let some video makers charge a monthly subscription to their channels. There will be paid channels for children’s programming, entertainment, music….Some of the channels — there will be several dozen at the outset — will cost as little as $1.99 a month.

If the subscription option catches on, it could herald a huge change for the online video industry, which has subsisted almost entirely on advertising revenue.

Microsoft has been the first software giant to propose “rent-a-software” with its Office 365. Given that Microsoft’s Azure cloud crashed dramatically last February, however, the future for legacy desktop applications from Adobe and Microsoft may be cloudy in more ways than one.

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