Many Microsoft Office users are concerned that Microsoft might ultimately follow Adobe’s lead into subscription-only pricing, even though Microsoft has announced that it won’t do so in the near future. Meanwhile, Adobe customers are already up in the arms that they will no longer be able to buy Photoshop and other Creative Suite (CS) products as packaged software.
After Adobe announced plans last week to abandon development of the packaged edition of CS, a Microsoft official went on record to say that Microsoft will continue to give Office users a choice between Office 365 and the boxed version of the office suite — for some time, at least.
“Like Adobe, we think subscription software-as-a-service is the future,” wrote Microsoft’s Clint Patterson, in a blog post. “However, unlike Adobe, we think people’s shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time. Within a decade, we think everyone will choose to subscribe because the benefits are undeniable. In the meantime, we are committed to offering a choice — premier software sold as a package and powerful services sold as a subscription. “
The controversy started last week, when Adobe announced that Creative Suite (CS) and the high-end content creation applications included in the suite — Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Premiere, InDesign, and others — will no longer be available as packaged software past CS6. From now on, subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud (CC) service will be the only means of upgrading the software.
Photoshop CS6 is list priced at $699, and the Master Collection of the suite at $2,599. Subscriptions to CC run at $50 a month with a one-year commitment, or $75 month to month, although Adobe also throws in 20GB of cloud storage, plus all of its Edge services. Subscriptions to a single product are priced at $19.99 monthly each. Discounts are also available. Adobe is offering users of CS versions 3 to 5.5 a reduced rate of $30 per month for the first year. Current CS6 users are able to subscribe for $20 for the first year.
While Adobe’s pricing has been very steep for subscriptions and packaged software alike, subscriptions to CC can be financially advantageous under certain circumstances. Some Adobe users actually prefer the subscription model.
“Personally, I’m slightly ok with the subscription thing. [It] means a lot of money overall but at least it’s affordable. No way I could have ever bought a full suite outright, I’ve only once had that much money in my bank account,” wrote a user named October, on the bit-tech.net forum.
Adobe Users: Subscription-Only Pricing Unfair
Yet Adobe’s move has kicked off consternation among many customers that the lack of a packaged software option is unfair to consumers, students, small businesses, and anyone who either doesn’t need to update often or who uses the software only once in a while.
“I’m hit by this. At home I still use Photoshop CS3 for a number of reasons. Not only is Photoshop expensive, but I haven’t had a need to upgrade to a newer version. I’m one of the people who upgrades very infrequently, so in my case a perpetual subscription model would make Photoshop more costly in the long term. The next time I look for new tools, I may take a harder look at some of the cheaper alternatives,” said supermonkey, in the same forum.
“The Adobe subscription model in this case would seem to be targeted towards ‘frequent usage.’ If a company wants to capture ‘infrequent’ users, it uses the ‘by the minute’ model. A charge of $50/month isn’t going to attract much casual usage,” wrote Paul in a Google Groups forum.
Microsoft released Office 2013 in late January, at the same time as the subscription-based Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365. Since then, more than 25 percent of consumers buying Office have chosen Office 365, according to Patterson. However, this also means that close to 75 percent are opting for Office 2013.
Microsoft User: ‘Subscriptions Are a Hassle’
“I don’t like subscriptions, because they’re a hassle. I have about a dozen applications I use regularly. If I had to pay a subscription for each one of them, it would drive me crazy,” acknowledged paulej, in responding to Patterson’s blog post.
“I also don’t like subscriptions because there are times when I just don’t want to get new versions of the software. That might be due to the fact I don’t want to continue using a particular product any longer or it might be due to the fact that my budget is a bit tight. When buying software, I can upgrade on my own schedule and I can manage my expenses.”
Subscriptions to Office 365 can also be financially advantageous, under some circumstances. List priced at $139.99, Microsoft Office 2013, Home & Student Edition, includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It runs on Windows 7 and Windows 8 only. Priced at $8.95 per month for up to five PCs or Macs, Office 365 Home Premium adds Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync. It also comes with Office Web Apps, editions of these same programs with somewhat limited functionality. The Web Apps can be used from remote locations — such as while a user is on the road — without any need to download software.
Many Microsoft Office users, though, are still using earlier editions of the suite.
‘NO WAY That I’m Joining the Pay Monthly Club’
“There’s NO WAY that Office 365 paid for monthly (or even annually) is cheaper than Office 2007 — which I got (and 2010 too) via a Use at Home type of program and the Office 2007 Home and Student editions were very cheap and allowed use on 3 computers,” wrote Coke Robert, on the Windows 8 Forum.
“I have more than enough software (and hardware) to last me for YEARS yet — assuming I live that long — so there is NO WAY AT ALL that I’m going to join the ‘Pay Monthly’ Club.”
Adobe hasn’t yet announced a move to subscription-only pricing for other products in its lineup, such as the consumer-oriented Adobe Photoshop Elements & Adobe Premiere Elements.
A move like that, though, could spark defections to any of a number of competing photo editing and video editing software packages, including Corel PaintShop Pro and VideoStudio Pro.
Microsoft Office, on the other hand, faces few rivals on the packaged office suite side. However, beyond sticking with older versions of Office, consumers can opt instead for free online office suites such as Google Docs.