Adobe CS5.5

Today’s big announcement is that Adobe is going to release CS 5.5 as a paid upgrade, and offer a subscription model as an alternative to paying $399 every 18-24 months for the latest version of InDesign and some other half-assed crap. (Bear in mind that probably the only really innovative piece of desktop software coming out of Adobe these days is Lighroom, which stands on its own legs — it doesn’t even come bundled in the ridiculously expensive Master Suite.)

Does this mean Adobe Illustrator will finally support translucent colors the way Freehand did ten years ago? Hahahahaha don’t make me laugh. Actually, Photoshop and Illustrator aren’t even being revved, just Dreamweaver (apparently some people still use it), Flash (and Flash-related stuff), InDesign, After Effects, and Premiere. In essence you’re paying a full upgrade fee for Adobe’s latest web export stuff. (And then, even Contribute and Fireworks aren’t getting any love.)

The good news, I suppose, is that Photoshop and Illustrator CS5 will probably be fixed to run under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, rather than treating the new OS as an excuse to screw an upgrade fee out of CS5 users. (Not that I am saying it doesn’t work perfectly right now under DP2, since that would violate an NDA or something. It may or may not work under 10.7 DP2. I’m just saying that Adobe might have treated bug fixes and incompatibilities as a way of forcing users to upgrade in the past, and we wouldn’t want to have that happen again. Clear? Oh crap, Photoshop just crashed on me again. I’ll be right back.)

All this begs the question as to whether Adobe plans to penalize users who elect to skip this upgrade on the grounds that the program they actually use the most (Photoshop say) isn’t getting updated.

Adobe is also offering subscriptions, for frogs who prefer to be boiled gradually. There are some isolated cases where I can imagine someone preferring to pay $195 for a month’s worth of CS5 Web Premium, but I’m hardly in the middle of Adobe’s target market these days, so maybe it makes more sense to other people. E.g. I read some comments on articles about the new options suggesting that designers could simply pass the cost of Adobe “rentals” on to customers — which would be particularly attractive if you can bill multiple customers for the same rental, and/or if you’re “cost plus”, like a lot of advertising companies.

Certainly, releasing paid upgrades — especially half-assed upgrades — this rapidly is not going to make Adobe lots of friends (well, perhaps its investors will be thrilled). Perhaps Adobe needs to switch to the Autodesk model of simply calling the current version of Photoshop, Photoshop 2011, regardless of whether it’s better than or even different from Photoshop 2010. CS5 certainly seems to have been a hit — perhaps Adobe believes that some people will buy 5.5 for its specific new features (e.g. publishing magazines as iPad apps), and some people simply upgrade compulsively (I know I used to), and some people may be waiting to buy the “next version” (e.g. if they’re using CS2 or CS3) and this might tempt them to upgrade — so where’s the damage?

I’m actually a little curious to see what Adobe is up to in the mobile space (especially after their interesting attempt to allow Flash to target the App Store, which I thought Apple had essentially caved in to) but I don’t think I’m interested enough to pay for an upgrade so soon after buying CS5. I suspect a lot of people will feel the same way and I think that’s the damage.