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Cause and (plug-in developer) effect of the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem

Lesa Snider | July 3, 2015
If there's one constant in the universe, it's that nothing stays the same. Everything changes at some point--call it progress, evolution, devolution or whatever you want. The problem is that change is scary, especially when it affects your livelihood.

Unfortunately, if a customer's perception is that they receive Adobe upgrades "for free," then they have a tough time understanding why they have to pay to upgrade a plug-in that worked perfectly fine with the previous version of the app. Using FontExplorer X Pro as an example, version 4 played nicely with the initial Creative Cloud apps up through Creative Cloud 2014. Linotype even released free updates to their FontExplorer plug-ins for the affected apps as Adobe updated them. But after many years of working for free, Linotype now requires customers to upgrade to FontExplorer 5 in order to get plug-ins for Creative Cloud 2015 apps and QuarkXPress 2015.

QuarkXPress customers aren't complaining much at all because Quark still uses perpetual licensing--you pay to upgrade when you're ready for a new version of QuarkXPress. It's a conscious, in-your-face (or wallet) decision. Therefore, their customers aren't shocked when they need to cough up a few bucks for plug-in upgrades. In contrast, many Adobe customers are confused and some are outraged.

What's the solution?

It's possible that Adobe is assuming plug-in developers will (eventually) join them and switch to a subscription-based model. Perhaps Adobe is "leading by example"--only time will tell. But for now, plug-in developers are faced with the difficult (and costly) decision to either change to a subscription-based fee structure or continue selling perpetual licenses, and hope their customers don't get too upset when they're forced to upgrade.

And if developers make the move to a subscription-based model, how much can they expect to charge per month? A product such as one of the aforementioned font managers costs less than $100 with an upgrade cost of $50 every two years or so. Simple arithmetic shows that if the developer gets $200 over six years for the initial purchase plus two upgrades, they get less than $3 per month, per user. The overhead involved in processing these payments would probably boost the price a little--which may be totally acceptable to customers. Or it may be the final straw that breaks the metaphorical camel's back, both for the customer (who refuses to pay the rental fee) and for the developer (who may no longer receive enough income to continue the product). But again, only time will tell.

In the meantime, gentle Creative Cloud users, please try to understand and have compassion for the hard-working plug-in developers who make your creative life so much more efficient (or in some cases, possible at all). And always remember that when Adobe upgrades your software, you may need to pay a few bucks to support the rest of your Creative Cloud ecosystem--including sending a few dollars to your friendly neighborhood plug-in developer.


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