An Open Letter to Adobe About the Adobe Online Store

July 25th, 2012

First of all I should say that I’m a long time Adobe customer. I’ve been a Photoshop and PageMaker user since they were available so I don’t take bad mouthing Adobe lightly but I feel it’s time to speak up. And don’t talk to me about the “Creative Cloud” being a solution to this problem! I find subscription software offensive.

I just got a new MacBook Pro last week and the process of setting up my software on my new laptop has caused me to see the world in a new way. Here is what happened to me:

  1. The 10 or so applications I’ve purchased in the Apple App store took less than 20 minutes to load on the new laptop. The App store knows I’ve purchased these and it will let me install these applications on every machine I own. It literally took one click to load each one. I can load any of these application on any Mac I own up to some limit I haven’t reached yet.
  2. The 4 Adobe applications I need to download and install from the Adobe online store took hours of screwing around with current serial numbers and previous version serial numbers and multistep download and installs. Compared to the Apple App store the Adobe online store is a medieval approach to software retail and distribution! It was state of the art in 2001 when it was started but is hasn’t been improved since.
  3. The final straw was when Photoshop CS6 needed to be activated and insisted that I deactivate Photoshop on one of my existing machines. Adobe thinks Photoshop CS6 is so bloody valuable that I can only have 2 copies of it activated at a time.
I’ve been aware for years that you can only have 2 copies of PS activated at a time for several years and never bothered me until I started getting treated differently at the Apple App store. The concept of being able to load your software on any machine you own is so compelling for me that I don’t want to buy software anywhere but the Apple App store! I expect that the recently announced Microsoft Windows 8 App store will be effectively identical to the Apple App store so this whole subject is not just about Macs, it’s about Windows too.
The user experience at the Apple App store is smooth, effortless and convenient compared to the torture you have to go through at the Adobe online store. I’m finished with the Adobe online store! The only Adobe applications I’ll be purchasing in the future will be through the Apple App store. Any apps Adobe doesn’t have in the Apple app store, I’ll be holding at CS6. By the way, remember that this is how Apple became the biggest music retailer on the planet; they made the process of purchasing music effortless and pleasant.
Is there anyone else that feels this way or am I just getting to be a cranky old man!


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35 Responses to “An Open Letter to Adobe About the Adobe Online Store”

  • Here here!

  • Any company that gets to be big seems to go through this stage. You get so big that you think you’re untouchable, that you can treat your customers however you want and they’ll put up with it. Pride cometh before a fall.

    The big three auto makers discovered to their amazement that they are not untouchable. Their CEO’s still haven’t really learned their lesson yet though.

    Adobe is at that stage around now, eBay also. Apple could also find out that they’re moving closer to being amazed and surprised. Microsoft is at that point, although they’re still waffling around, not quite sure what to do next. Airlines haven’t figured it out yet.

  • who cares about apples. just get a pc for half price that performs much better and it doesn’t have this stupid “app” store issues.

  • Whoops, so busy typing in my rant that I forgot to agree with you Larry. The online store IS archaic, at the moment Apple does make it almost painless to relieve you of money and provide you with software.

  • I agree with you Larry, I think Adobe makes it very difficult to get new software installed. It is also insanely expensive. We have to remember that we are not actually purchasing the software, we are only purchasing a license to use the software and on only 2 computers. At the price they are charging you would think you could use it on any computer that you own. I do understand that there is a black market and people pirate this software all the time but since Adobe has such a watchful eye on how many computers we have their family of products loaded on, I would think they could do a better job at preventing the pirating and allow us unlimited installs as long as we own the computer. The problem is we love adobe products, not necessarily adobe but their products. They know this and will continue to to charge a fortune for install on 2 computers only and we consumers will continue to pay what they charge because their products are that good. Many are going to continue to purchase adobe products regardless of how archaic their online store is or will become.

  • Couldn’t agree more Larry.
    The Apple punch line of “it just works” is not just advertising fluff.
    I am also intrigued to know why Adobe think it acceptable to charge $199 in US to upgrade to CS6 and quote AUD306 for NZ.

    This is a digital download guys. Location should be irrelevant.

    Have to say I am interested to see how Windows 8 goes too.
    I dislike having to re learn software processes unless there is an obvious benefit.
    Windows 7 64 bit had that. Not so sure about 8.

  • Absolutely agree. Absolutely despise when companies, under the guise of licensing, seek to limit the consumer. Adobe isn’t alone at this as I have had to grovel before the Microsoft gods when building out computer with new hard drive and reinstalling programs. Apple has demonstrated that the technology exists to make the customer #1 with the company also benefiting. That is a win-win situation furter supported by Apple’s earnings reports and stock performance for it’s owners.

    My iPad is my first Apple product in decades since my Apple II, as corporate America forced me to IBM. The experience with the iPad has me seriously looking at transitioning as equipment is replaced. Most recently, when purchasing a TV smart box, chose Apple TV over Roku and others despite being at the upper end of price. In Toastmasters, I have used the iPad/AppleTV combo to give presentations, and am developing one for the local photo club that I am giving next month. How liberating not to use a clicker (or head nod) and not have a laptop positioned forward to know what is on the screen behind you, as you hold an iPad and wirelessly transmit to the projector.

    Another example of corporate intrusion is satellite TV charging you $6.99 per room in your own house while cable is unlimited. That just rubs me wrong and I refuse to get satellite.

    Will Adobe (Microsoft and other) learn from history – part of which both are responsible for. Consider word processors. WordStar was the premiere word processor and the first to transition from CPM to this new operating system called DOS. They sat on their laurels as #1 and upstart WordPerfect took them to lunch. History repeated as the 900lb gorilla, Microsoft, quashed WordPerfect with innovation of an office suite and bundling. Adobe makes great programs, there is no doubt about that but history shows you can’t preserve position with corporate intrusion through onesided boilerplate TOU and pricing. Apple is demonstrating that and building it to a competitive edge where Premiere vs Final Cut is a tossup and the price difference helps offset the equipment cost difference. While Photoshop has no real competitor at the current time, it’s closest rival from shareware days is PaintShop – now PaintShop Pro – and probably the reason Adobe had to create Elements AND include advanced features at the lower pricepoint.

    Adobe absolutely need to take a critical look at it’s customer business model and it’s relavence today. Cloud and “one more monthly bill” is not the answer. They don’t own the Cloud and consumers have it’s storage for free through other sources, including Apple. Perhaps giving real meaning to “Customer is #1” rather than a commodity to control might be a good starting point as Apple has demonstrated it can be good business.

  • Or is it “Hear, hear!”

  • Agreed.

  • Just put ALL my apps on my phone in minutes. I don’t even try to download from adobe. It is less stress for me to go to a local reatailer and buy adobe over the counter. We need competition for Photoshop etc to bring humility and customer service plus price reductions. I have the PS app on my iPhone cost 99 cents. Competition is a wonderful thing.

    Yes I agree with you!!!

  • Before we start throwing the Adobe product line out with the bathwater, What’s the alternative? First of all, I totally agree with the issues that you are discussing. The challenge is, finding viable alternatives that work within our workflow. You have adobe tentacles throughout that workflow, it’s tough to root it out.

    I am finding the creative cloud option being a cost effective alternative even if you only use 3 of the programs in the CS suite, looking at it pragmatically.

    Anyway, my 2 cents…

  • Adobe is a really painful company to do business with, I totally agree. Creative Cloud is at least a step in the right direction; we got our subscription last month. Unfortunately even that is a mess. I now have multiple Adobe installers littered across my machine and somehow the CC installer borked a few of my installations and I had to start over several times.

    I am a big fan of the App Store’s buy once, use anywhere. There is potential for abuse of course but it just feels much more fair as a consumer and certainly saves *tons* of time. I get very frustrated when companies disrespect my time, which is how it feels to do practically anything with Adobe.

  • I had a drive die so I couldn’t deactivate CS5 to install it on the new drive. I had to get on the phone with Adobe and get “one-time only special permission” for them to deactivate the dead copy. It took about 20 minutes with them to get it done. Seriously?! Great products but painful process. Hey, at least we don’t need a dongle for it!

  • Good Luck!

  • I have downloaded and installed many programs from both Adobe and Apple. I have found that both work well for their packages.

    But, we are not comparing apple to apple here, at best we are comparing grapes to watermelons. Apple apps are small programs with greatly reduced development costs, fewer features and fundamentally lower coding requirements. Adobe programs are full featured packages that do high level graphic work. They have extensive development requirements and high coding requirements.

    In short, Apple apps have easy share because of their low production cost. If you look at the business side, you will see that the processing of the sales actually cost more than the production costs.

  • I don’t have a Mac, but I do have recent battle scars from trying new Adobe Captivate on my PC. Spent 6-7 hours repeatedly downloading versionsand running test cases that failed. Talked to tech support, watched videos–nothing worked. Finally, had enough and gave up. Sent them a test file and told them not to contact me again until they had run Captivate had a high quality screen capture running my test file. That was a week ago. Have not heard from them yet. Don’t expect to. And I am a software engineer by trade and was a VP of Customer Service at a software company. I know how this is supposed to work. Apples’s got it right, Adobe’s got it wrong. Larry, great post.

  • The Apple App Store – what a great invention.
    Adobe Cloud – great invention and for $29.95 (existing users or educational users) we love it (although I hate that we still are only allowed to use it on two computers and then not at the same time without deactivation.
    The Adobe Store – a nightmare from the new cloud subscriptions to just buying product. That whole activation and previous version licenses thing – who saves that information anyway. We have a sheet that is located on our computer in a word file, in the most recent box of software and in an adobe file in the physical file draw with all of our previous licenses and information on Adobe products.
    I must say though for $29.95/mo or $360/yr we were able to include lightroom, photoshop, indesign and premiere pro, and Acrobat for a lot less than upgrading our Master Collection. We will stay with the cloud. It seems to be the way of the future anyway.
    Great post Larry!

  • @Neal- Sure many Apps in the App Store small but there are also Apps like Final Cut X, Aperture, Lightroom that are every bit as large and sophisticated as Adobe apps. In fact Lightroom 4 is a good comparison. In the Apple App Store you download and install it with one click. With the Adobe online store you download the install file, manually execute the downloaded file, look up your 24 digit serial number and key it in, and if you are installing an update version you have to go look up the 24 digit serial # of the previous version that was updated and key it in. All this foolishness was tolerable and appropriate 11 years ago when the Adobe online store was first put up, but it’s NOT now. Companies that don’t improve their processes disappear and go extinct. Yes, absolutely processing of sales cost more than production costs, and the way a company handles it’s sales is hugely important to it’s success.

    @John Walsh- My belief is that because of what I’ve described, Adobe sooner or later will be forced to 1) Reduce their prices and 2) sell ALL their applications through Microsoft and Apple App stores.

  • I am not an adobe photoshop user and have no experience with that product.
    I wonder if there is no alternative to that product, especially when you use it for real estate images. Is a product like the plugins from Topazlabs good enough to do all the work?
    Maybe you are hanging on too long with photoshop.
    Please accept my apology for asking above questions.

  • A bit of a rant on this topic…

    At the age of 31, I guess I’m old fashioned. I’m not a fan of the digital-only download of software this expensive. I know it’s fast and (sometimes) convenient and the way the world is headed, but I prefer having a physical copy (CD and box with printed manual) of expensive software if I can. If I’m paying the same amount, I’d rather have the real, full product than just the download. I HATE not having printed manuals, and Adobe used to include them when you bought retail versions in a box. PDF is not the same. Maybe I’m weird, but I like a tangible product I can see and hold in my hand.

    I’m the same with music, I like buying a real CD vs. buying an entire album from itunes. I can rip at whatever quality I want and still have an original ‘master disc’ at higher quality than any MP3. And if I don’t like the music a CD at least has resale value. I’ve got CDs 20+ years old and will sound as good as the day I bought them for another 20+ years, not sure I can say the same for itunes files.

    Rant over.

  • Larry,

    Some things about the Apple App Store are not so peachy (pun intended)

    1. Upgrades are forced. If you use version 2.3 of program XX and there is a version upgrade to 3.0 that not free, then if you were rebuilding your software install via the app store you would be faced to pay for the upgrade. Prior versions are not available. Note that this holds true for older versions compatible with earlier versions of OS X and non Intel Macs you may be using as a print server or some other purpose.

    2. Although I have not tested it impericlally, I believe you have a 5 computer limit for Authorized Computers via the Mac App Store, versus 2 at Adobe. It’s or unlimited.

    3. Some software, like some of the OS X upgrades are supposedly limited to specific computers, but it’s a fairly easy workaround to a avoid that limitation if you are intent on stealing the software.

    4. Did you originally buy a non-app store version of Aperture like me? If so, then you are stuck with essentially the same install and upgrade routine as Adobe has. The ONLY way to get Aperture into the app store groove is to rebuy it in the app store or wait until there is a full version release and buy that in the app store instead of a cd-based upgrade.

    3. Most try before you buy trials for app store apps have disappeared. It’s buy it, try it, hate it, you’re stuck with it forever in your account. If you are 25 now young have 2-3000 apps associated with your ID when you are 45. Can’t delete them,
    athough there is a “hide them” process–clunky. Need a refund? Theoretically possible-tried twice and failed both times.

    4. Customer support is drying up for app store apps. You are Apple’s customer and they share nothing with the software company that wrote the app. The software company never even knows if you are a Registered User. My guess is that the money spent paying a commission to the Apple app store will come from customer service budgets.

    There’s lots more not to like about the app store and I find it a
    little hystrionic to post an open letter to Adobe (let’s face it, you’re not Scott Kelby and PFRE is not the AIPP) and pitch a personal boycott of the Adobe Store.

    All that being said, I am generally a fan of the app store and agree with most of your Adobe store criticisms. But yeah, you’re just being cranky.

    Cheers. JD (forgive typos-no morning coffee yet and I am tapping this out on my iPhone in a hotel room.)

  • you’re a cranky old man!
    and for having apple products, some might even say silly as well.

  • Great timing. Two days ago I received my new superbly pimped out MacBook Pro Retina and had EXACTLY the same experience!

    I spent over an hour with Adobe on the phone trying to square away all of my Adobe software… deactivating it on one computer so I can activate on another, etc. Total B.S. It’s honestly the one thing I was dreading when I got this new machine was dealing with ADOBE and their archaic security crap. It’s ALWAYS an issue every time I get a new computer. I use three computers for work, and I always have to “choose” which computers host which Adobe programs, because I’m not allowed to have them on all three.

    I love Adobe products, but I hate Adobe and hate dealing with them. I’m switching from Final Cut Studio to either Final Cut X or Premiere Pro… I’ve been playing with both. But I’m leading towards Final Cut X mostly because I’m just tired of dealing with the Adobe issues.

  • @Fred Light- Great! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only cranky old man that has this issue with the Adobe online store.

    @John Driggers – “hystrionic” Awesome word! Wikipedia says, “Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriately seductive behavior, usually beginning in early adulthood. You made my day John. Actually my HPD started very late in life and it is definitely aggravated by dealing with Adobe:)

    Actually, John here’s the deal, I considered trying to contact someone at Adobe to discuss this with, and I also considered just calling the support line and unloading on some poor support person but neither seemed effective. However, by writing a open letter to Adobe here on PFRE with a carefully worded title that has “Adobe online store” in it and tweeting the title, Adobe marketing people will see it for sure as well as a min of 50,000 PFRE readers this month… much more effective than just talking to one person at Adobe… Plus I found out I’m not just an isolated cranky crackpot that feels this way… many others have spoken up (like Fred Light just above) and said they feel the same way. Feels like success to me!

  • I am thinking that folks aren’t aware that you can look up ALL your past serial numbers on Adobe’s website after logging in with your registered email address and password. Having this information at the ready at upgrade/hardware replacement time is a huge help in this process.

    Once you log in look for “My Products and Services” and click on “My Products”. This will show you a list of all registered purchases (with serial numbers) you have made at Adobe.

    Adobe isn’t perfect, but they do make some awesome products that we all enjoy. Their Tech Support can be um a challenge for sure. The good news is there is a ton of awesome help online both on their website and well beyond. Have you checked out all the videos for doing almost anything on YouTube lately??!! Amazing!!

    We live in an awesome time for sure!!

  • @ Larry…Well, Mountain Lion is out and if you want to do a clean install (I do), then you just get to start over like me. And like you, I just wiped and re-did my Macbook Pro too (mostly cause I couldn’t get PS CS6 upgrade to install because of remnants of PS CS3 and and PS CS5 screwed up the CS6 upgrade serial number recognition. But this time I’m backing up all 8000 songs I have in iTunes instead of re-downloading them from iCloud (took a week in the background). And yeah, Adobe makes me crazy too, but not to the point of boycott just yet. 🙂

    Cheers JD

  • Generally, this forum is in FAVOR of strong copyright protection, and higher quality products…but this discussion seems to be going the other way.
    I don’t let my clients just do whatever they want in as many places as they want, with my images. Adobe doesn’t allow that with their software, either. The more you use it (e.g. multiple workstations) the more you pay. I’m not saying I wear a big smile when I send money to Adobe, but I have to say their business practices don’t seem unfair to me, either. Just because Apple pursues a business model based on high volume/few restrictions, doesn’t mean Adobe should. It’s not clear to me that it would make sense for them. The overall market for Photoshop, or Premiere, etc. is WAY smaller than the market for “Angry Birds”. And I sure wouldn’t want Photoshop to go the way of Final Cut, getting dumbed down to the point that it no longer works for professional artists.

    Yeah, Photoshop is expensive. But my business would not exist without it. Just for the sake of comparison, in my camera case, there is only one item of consequence that cost less than Photoshop. It’s absolutely fundamental to any serious photographer. I want it to be robust and reliable.

    The App store is pretty cool, but but singling out Adobe for not emulating it, and for not loosening their licensing terms……not sure I’m on board with that. Why aren’t you upset with Microsoft, Intuit, etc. etc. etc.?

  • @Scott – For me the main issue is not Adobe is charging too much. The point is that I expect more inovation from a company that is in the software business. Adobe is innovative in their software but not in their customer support. I’m saying that for the amount one pays to use Adobe software doing business with them too painful. I didn’t even notice the pain until I witnessed how it could be done. Adobe has not improved their software distribution practices for the last 20 years (except their creative cloud approach) it still works like it did when you purchased CDs.

    Other companies are facing this same problem. Microsoft for example is moving towards a more modern App store distribution mechanism.

  • I guess I’m playing devil’s advocate. My premise is that Adobe software (at least their higher-end stuff) is not like the 99-cent software that is Apple’s mainstay. You can’t expect a Thomas Keller 5-star meal to be delivered in a paper bag via a drive-through window, just like a Quarter Pounder from McDonald’s.

    I haven’t had any real problems dealing with Adobe. When I switched platforms (back) from Windows to Mac a few years ago, I just called them up, told them what I was doing, and they authorized fresh downloads for my new machine. I had to confirm that I had deleted my Windows versions off of my old machine. That seemed fair, to me. When my laptop needed a new “motherboard” a couple of years ago, and it came back from the repair center with a new serial number, none of my software would work, because it was like I had added a brand-new machine to my roster. Again, one quick phone call to Adobe resolved the issue. I always dread those phone calls, because I go in with the assumption that it’s going to be a long haul against an enormous, faceless bureaucracy, but the reality is it hasn’t been that way, for me.

    One last thing: I’m not sure I see a functional difference between “subscription” software, a la Adobe, and the App Store. Both push updates to your computer, assuring you have the most recent version, both assume that a lower entry price point will serve as an incentive to go legit and not pirate the product.

  • I’m with you. I absolutely agree 100%!!!
    Apple haters don’t belong here. Or haters in general. I appreciate this website very much and all that Larry is doing to help and share useful information with us. I use both Apple and PC and can see the benefits of both. I am personally an Apple fan for my home use and side business use.
    Adobe…get over yourself. Bloody monopolizer$. I love Adobe’s products but they are HORRIBLY overpriced. And when necessary software is horribly overpriced guess where people turn to get it? P2P sites. So they’re screwing themselves by pricing so many out of the game I think.

  • Yes, agree. I have a love hate relationship with Adobe. Every time I have to interact with them it’s painful. On the other hand, I love Apple and although I was raised on PCs I’ll always buy Apple products now. Great idea you have – if it isn’t in the Apple store, don’t buy Adobe!

  • Dave,

    Not sure I agree it’s overpriced. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s also professional level software geared towards professional users. Photoshop is not software designed as a casual hobbyist’s play-toy. If you buy upgrades it’s only expensive once. $199 for an upgrade is cheap, and they let you upgrade from several generations ago.

    Compared to many professional softwares Photoshop is cheap. At my dayjob I’m using a workstation with an Autodesk suite for architecture…about $3K per year.

  • I don’t disagree with your protest, entirely. However…
    I’ve never been a fan of a subscription model. But it is everywhere. My gym membership, Sirus/XM, Tivo (though I bought a lifetime subscription that pays for itself in 3 years – just about the time I want to upgrade my Tivo machine).

    Creative Cloud is $30/month for 1 year and $50/month thereafter. The upgrade from a previous version CS3 MasterSuite to CS6 would have cost me $1,400. Again, roughly 3 years – just enough time ’til I’ll need to spend another $1,500 for CS8?

    Yes, the use on one machine limitation is a bit of a PITA, but what software license agreement allows universal install & use. This is the professional’s choice of software. There are really no substitutes for the entire package. There are plenty of free of cheap alternatives that do not have copy protection. But they do not include Premiere, AE, SpeedGrade, Audition, Prelude, Encore, Dreamweaver, Muse & Edge inDesign, Lightroom, Acrobat, Illustrator and Photoshop (I won’t mention Flash & Fireworks). For $30/month? That’s crazy cheap.

    I say, you are being more than a little grumpy. I’d say they finally found a way to stop us from using it on every machine we own and we don’t like that. That’s the change. It’s not the license, that hasn’t changed. Initially, it raised my blood pressure. Then I had to stop and realize, this is the real difference.

    I’d like Adobe to give it all to me for 1 low fee and train me to use the finest collection of software on the market – for free too. But that would be silly for me to think I could have. Ferrari? or skateboard? both will get you somewhere. which one would you like?
    – Just my 2¢ –
    Mink in Tucson

  • oh, great site! Thank you for the ongoing think tank of ideas. Inspiring!

  • I bought Adobe CS 5.5 during the offer of a free upgrade to CS6. This was April of 2012. I registered for the upgrade immediately and the response from Adobe support was that CS6 is not available, and I can get my free upgrade after it is released. I work a full time job and I am also going to school to obtain a Certificate in Web Design and Development at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. By the time I thought about getting my upgrade again, it was early September. I went on the Adobe site provided all the requested information along with my proof of purchase information. The response I got was that the offer had expired and they are very sorry, but I am not entitled to get the free upgrade any longer. I’m thinking… “but I registered for the upgrade in April??? Why didn’t you send it to me once it was available?”. Why do I have to do all the work and with-in a certain time frame that was never mentioned to me until after I missed the deadline? I called support and was told by the support person that she was very sorry, but the upgrade offer had expired and was no longer available. I asked to speak to her supervisor, but he was too busy to talk to me, so she is escalating the issue. I asked her to please tell her supervisor and the escalation team that i consider this to be consumer fraud. We will see at what level of integrity Adobe operates.

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