Photographer and writer Thom Hogan's Web site, with extensive information on Nikon equipment and support for all of Thom's books.
http://www.bythom.com/ - May 18, 2013 7:01:47 AM - Nov 30, 2004 2:19:11 PM
It's Not the Software, It's the Person Moving the MouseMay 17, 2013 (commentary)--One reader reminded me of something else I've been writing for years: it's not the camera, it's the photographer that makes the photo. The better I get, the more I want out of my tools, yes. But the better I get the more I can extract out of any tool, even basic ones.
This is definetely something to remember with sofware as well as cameras and lenses. As much as I like Photoshop--and yes, I do like Photoshop--and as much as I'm intrigued by some upcoming features in Photoshop CC, the tool itself isn't the end result, it's the knowledge, skill, and work that the tool user puts in that creates the final result. If Photoshop disappeared tomorrow, would I stop being able to put final touches on my images? Would my images get worse? No. I might be less productive (especially until I fully mastered another tool), but I would get by just fine, I think.
I wrote about the "risk" of sofware in the next article. There's also the "reward." Many of us picked Photoshop over the years mostly because of the rewards. It made a lot of tasks easier, allowed us to do new things that we couldn't before, it took advantage of advances in computers, and much more.
Still, Photoshop is just another tool. A great tool, true, but just a tool nonetheless. So don't get too caught up in the tool itself; make sure that you're advancing your knowledge and skills, and pick tools that you feel have the right risk/reward balance.
Another Last Comment ;~)May 15, 2013 (commentary)--Choosing software is always a risk. You're balancing what the software product does for you against the cost and against how long the software is likely to be able to do that work for you.
The thing about high tech--and in digital photography both our cameras and our computer darkrooms are high tech--is that it produces a constant stream of transitions. Hardware changes. Operating systems change. UI changes. Underlying technologies (CPU, ports, etc.) changes. The one thing you know for sure will happen is that something will change. And many of those changes impact software developers.
We have very few software companies left that have weathered the constant storms of tech changes. Consider word processing. I started with Electric Pencil, moved to WordStar, eventually moved to Word, and now use Nisus Writer Pro. Each change in my software choice was precipitated by hardware and OS changes, sometimes because a vendor didn't weather the change themselves.
When you choose a software program, you're committing your work (and often data) to a product and process. If things go well, you chose wisely and have (relatively) pain-free transitions as the underlying hardware and OS change. This has been the reason why I've withdrawn my recommendation for Nikon Capture NX2, by the way: historically it doesn't weather changes very well, and it now has an oddball UI that doesn't match our underlying systems (try touch with Capture NX2).
Eventually every company stumbles in tech. Some, like Apple, manage to dust themselves off and get back on a good track. With others, like Microsoft or Dell right now, it isn't clear whether they'll get back on track. Some, like Sun, get absorbed into another organization. Still others, like Digital Research and CP/M, disappear.
For Photoshop, we've had an almost 25-year run (most people don't remember that it was originally bundled with the Barneyscan and was revolutionary at the time for its advanced color management). There have been some rough patches in that history where tech delayed and almost derailed it (64-bit and the change in the OS X library support that caused a rewrite to the product, for example).
The problem, as I point out below, is that Adobe's business decisions have caused a massive user re-evaluation. The user perception is that the risk of continuing to use Photoshop (and the other Creative Suite apps) has risen due to the chance for file lock-in and requiring a current subscription to even access your data and work, let alone make changes to it.
Whether that perception is accurate or not is not the problem here. Sometimes you get these chicken-and-egg issues where it doesn't really matter what the issue is, only that there is an issue. The real problem for Adobe is how badly they marketed and managed this transition. They did so poorly at it that they actually may have jeopardized sales, and that in turn then just makes users evaluate the risk as higher. Like I wrote, chicken-and-egg.
Even the solution that some users are choosing--buying CS6 and not subscribing to CC--is risky. CS6 will work until the hardware or OS changes enough that it needs a fix. Whether Adobe would make that fix is now questionable, given their comments about "one code base."
In short, there's no simple answer. All three possible solutions--going with CC, stopping at CS6, finding an alternative product--have risk. Twenty years from now, it's possible that all three solutions will have turned out to be dead ends and we had to move on.
A number of folk have questioned my workflow. I always save and rename raw files into a file structure heirarchy first. Then and only then do I import into Lightroom or Aperture. Why? Because I can find any file in my structure without relying upon a software product with a proprietary database that some day may no longer make it through a tech transition. In other words, I evaluated the risk of committing to a proprietary solution and then did something to mitigate that risk in the future. In looking back, I now wish I had done that with more of my data and work: I've found a few things that had rocky transitions for me because I didn't do enough mitigation early on.
For example: NEF+JPEG. I think I may have been a little too harsh on this option in some of my comments in retrospect. While a NEF has an embedded JPEG you can extract, it's not as high in quality as you can record separately. What I really want is NEF+TIFF. Maybe I should have built an automatic Create TIFF into my ingest workflow.
So the real story here isn't about Adobe, it's about your photos. I'm going to have to do some more thinking about this subject, but once I have, I'll try to give you some further ideas about how you can take as much risk as possible out of your choices.
One Last Comment (I hope)May 14, 2013 (commentary)--Adobe's dramatic change to their suite products heading to subscription-only has had one simple impact that I'm not sure Adobe fully anticipated. Every--and I mean every--Adobe product user I've talked to or corresponded with has come to the same conclusion: "I need to reevaluate my product choices and my commitment to Adobe." Every last one.
This is not something you usually want to trigger in your customer base, because some number of them will come to the conclusion that it is time to move on. I mentioned Universities in the next story, and I've already received notice from one that they are indeed doing the evaluation I suggested they'd need to, and that they have tentatively decided to pull Photoshop from the lower-end curriculum.
Those of us who have CS6 and haven't been tempted by any of the CC features announced so far have some time to do our re-evaluation. But we're all re-evaluating, which I don't think is what Adobe wanted us to do.
The Future's So Dim I Have to Take Off My Shades
May 13, 2013 (commentary)--One problem for Adobe is that the more people think deeply about the change to the Creative Suite with the (faux) cloud offering, the more they discover some substantive underlying issues.
Let's just say for a moment that I'm at a University and teaching future media students (this isn't a moot point for me, as I've been approached several times to be an adjunct professor lately). What software do you teach and train students on?
The file lock-in potential on products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, and After Effects now becomes a tangible issue in answering that question. You'd essentially be committing your students to a life of having to pay software fees to access their work. Not a good thing, and not really a decision you can morally justify easily. You do want to train students in products they're likely to encounter in the field, but you don't want to promote lock-in to any particular brand, let alone suggest that, once trained, you'll have to pay a monthly tithe to continue to use those skills. That's especially true if there are alternatives.
A similar thing happened when Apple moved from FCP 7 to FCP X (Final Cut Pro). In that situation, the product changed incredibly overnight (which would change what and how you teach), features disappeared, and while the pricing went down, the way in which licenses were handled changed. This caused every department teaching video production to rethink it's commitment to FCP. Some switched. The same thing will now happen with Adobe, I think. It's difficult to predict how it will play out, as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign don't have great teaching alternatives at the moment. But Premiere does.
- Upgrade from CS6: US$19.99/month (~US$240/year) for first year only
- Upgrade from CS3 or later: US$29.99/month (~US$360 year) for first year only
- Students/Teachers: US$19.99/month (~US240/year) on annual basis, for first year only
- Students/Teachers: US$29.99/month (~US$360/year)
- Teams of 4-10: US$39.99/month (~US$480/year) per team member for first year only
- Teams of 4-10: US$69.99/month (~US$840/year) per team member on annual basis
Here's the On the Adobe pages you can still get upgrades, you have to first click "Buy" then click the pop up of "I want to buy" to "Upgrade." It seems a little silly that I need to write an instruction manual for how to order something, but that seems to reflect the quality of Adobe's marketing at the moment ;~).
Motion. One of the toughest things to do in landscape shooting is to take a static subject and put any sense of motion into it. Glaciers have plagued me on this almost forever. Getting the sense of a "flow" of a glacier--and they are flowing--requires a lot of thinking, work, and luck. The thinking here is where to position the boat, work is trying to get a composition that does justice to the subject, and luck is that light helped me a bit in lighting up the brighter ice that forms the curved line that suggests the flow. I wish I could have shown more of the glacier, as it extends all the way up to the main Patagonia ice cap, but every angle I could find that showed that also diluted the notion of flow. Luck is one reason why we professionals keep going back to the same place, but thinking and working are important too. Because of an incoming storm, I didn't have a lot of time to work this scene. And I've since had more time to think about it and where I might position myself. That's one reason why pros still take pictures on "bad days." We want to be able to go back into our files and see what we have considered and what things looked like. Of course, with glaciers, you'd better go back soon, because these days glaciers are changing their looks pretty dramatically each year.
Let's See If I Can Get This RightMay 12, 2013(news & commentary)--While I noted in an article last week that the real issue wasn't the price of Creative Cloud, Adobe has managed to make a muck of the pricing just enough that I'm finding a lot of people confused. Here's what I think the pricing situation is (warning, complications ahead):
- Creative Cloud Suite (all apps):
- US$49.99/month on annual basis (~US$600/year)
- US$74.99/month on month-to-month basis (~US$960/year)
- Until June 25th: US$19.99/month (~US$240/year) for first year only
- US$19.99/month (~US$240/year) for CS6 upgraders first year only
- Upgrade from CS3 or later after June 25th (technically already in place, but you can get a better deal without upgrading): US$29.99/month (~US$360 year)
- Students/Teachers: US$29.99/month (~US$360/year), but the first year can be had for the same special price listed above
- Teams of 4-10: US$39.99/month (~US$480/year) per team member
- Government/Education without Internet access or needing term licensing have to license a special version of cloud software ;~). Education should inquire about EEA programs, government should inquire about CLP-G programs
- Photoshop only:
- US$19.99/month on annual basis (~US$240/year)
- US$29.99/month on month-to-month basis (~US$360/year)
- Until July 31: US$9.99/month (~US$120/year) for CS3 to CS6 upgraders first year only
- No student/teacher pricing available
- Limited access to services, whatever that means
It currently appears that the NAPP member 15% discount still applies to these purchases at adobe.com, though I haven't been able to verify that yet.
What's particularly galling about Adobe's Web site right now--besides the fact that the above chart doesn't actually seem to appear anywhere ;~)--is that even though Adobe claims that CS6 is still available and it technically is still the current version of the product, try finding the download (or upgrade) information about CS6 anywhere on the Adobe site and you'll run into dead-end after dead-end pointing you to CC. Thus, I'll point out that places like B&H still have limited quantities of Photoshop CS6 that they can sell you (B&H Mac version, B&H Windows version Advertiser Links). If you know of any sources for upgrades to Photoshop CS6 from earlier versions, please let me know and I'll post them here.
Based upon emails I've received, it appears that if you engage the "chat live now" function on their site or phone Adobe, you'll get the upgrade to CC pitch hard sell and only if you persist forcefully will anyone tell you how to upgrade to the actual current version of Photoshop (CS6). What's amusing is that in the CC FAQ Adobe has now added a section about how you can save to CS6 file formats with most of the CC programs should you want to use a perpetual product with the files you create in CC, but they won't help you get a perpetual product without you breaking their arm first. Isn't it in Adobe's interest to sell you CS6 and CC?
Adobe is acting like a ham-fisted monopolist. In doing so, they're pissing off their customer base. They've already pissed me off by breaking Acrobat, never fixing bugs in Dreamweaver, having unstable installers and DRM, and much more. How long creative professionals will stand for that is now a serious question that needs to be entertained.
Nikon Still (Mostly) Defying GravityMay 9, 2013(news & commentary)--Nikon today reported not only their year-end financial results, but also their update to the mid-term management plan. Both are fascinating in their own way.
I use the defy gravity term because Nikon has managed to somehow do a few things that no other camera company did in the last year. Take compact cameras. The market itself lost about 20% in unit volume year-to-year, but Nikon went from 17.37m Coolpix to 17.14m Coolpix, barely over a 1% loss in volume. Put another way, they gained market share in a declining and very competitive market, a tough thing to do. The question, of course, is how many of those cameras are actually in customer's hands at this point, and what was the average selling price to manage that task, but Nikon's numbers don't reveal those answers.
DSLRs (plus the Nikon 1) and lenses both came in slightly down from their previous estimate, though significantly up from last year. Both were a little softer in sales than Nikon anticipated in the first quarter of 2013, but look at these charts and you'll see that that, too defied gravity a bit.
Overall, Nikon turned in a profitable year, though not a hugely profitable one (4.2% net profit margin before taxes). Cameras are now 75% of Nikon's business, and after everything is said and done, basically all of their profits.
The mid-term plan renewal seems aggressive, and it has some assumptions in it that are seriously subject to debate. First, let's talk about those assumptions: a compact camera market that sells 50-60m units in 2015, and an interchangeable lens camera market that is 24-26m units. To put that in perspective, 2012 was 78m compacts and 20.2m interchangeable lens cameras sold. So Nikon is forecasting that compacts will contract no more than 36% more and interchangeables will grow a minimum of 19% from their current rate. I know analysts who'd dispute both those overall market forecasts.
But let's look closer at Nikon's goal within those forecasts: 25-30% of the compact market, 40-45% of the DSLR market, and 25-30% of the remaining interchangeable lens camera market (e.g. mirrorless). At the moment Nikon has 25% of the compact market and 36% of the interchangeable lens camera market. Specifically, Nikon says they want to "strengthen" both the DX and FX cameras "to secure profit," leverage the Nikon 1 to "differentiate" and gain new customers, and tailor the compact lineup to each geographic region.
If all that weren't enough, Nikon continues to think of themselves as a growth company: they anticipate raising overall sales by 29% and profits by 159% in three years. So the pedal is still to the metal at Nikon. They have probably the most confident and aggressive forward forecast of the camera companies. Hopefully time will prove them right.
May 9, 2013(news)--As many of you know, Pennsylvania's attempt at trying to force all companies to collect PA sales tax on Internet sales caused me to be dropped by the B&H affiliate program, one of the key ways I was funding this site. It took some time for me to negotiate and for both B&H and I to do the legal research necessary to create a valid relationship between us that doesn't fall under the change in PA's interpretation of the law (an interpretation I still maintain falls afoul of the Supreme Court's decision in Quill v. North Dakota).
Today I'm happy to announce that I've entered into a deal with B&H as exclusive advertiser for the byThom sites, and you'll see that the Google Adsense presence I had been testing is now replaced by an ad served from B&H. I've done the same over at sansmirror.com, as well. By making this an exclusive deal, I'm hoping to keep the ad clutter and intrusiveness to a minimum, while still providing you direct access to be able to see prices and deals on the equipment that I'm writing about from a vendor that I personally buy from and can vouch for.
With this deal in place, I can now start rolling out some of the things I've been working on over the past year that I hope make for more, better, deeper, and modern sites that cover the full range of my photographic interests. Stay tuned for more on that, hopefully with the first new bits showing up next week. One of my goals in putting together this deal was to fund some part time help, maybe even full time help, to add to and maintain my Web presence. With that now in place, I can begin the process of moving this site to a new platform with new features, look, and organization. Don't expect too much, too soon, but good changes are now locked and loaded and I can start moving towards deploying them. I'll do so as fast as I'm able. I'm pretty sure you'll be pleased with the changes and additions.
Ironically, by the time is all said and done, Congress may have finally passed a bill that forces sales tax collection on almost all Internet sites. Still, I think this new relationship with B&H is the right one for me, for B&H, and for you site readers. I'll be working with B&H to make sure that what appears on the site is relevent to what's being written about. Please join me in welcoming back B&H, and if you find the ad links useful, by all means click on them, which will help B&H know that they've made the right decision here and help me keep the site going full steam ahead.
After all the kerflufal over the Adobe Change this week, I was almost ready to run for the hills and not announce any changes to my own product until the heat died down. Hopefully, I'm making changes that you'll like, though, so there's always that.
Thom's Sine WavesMay 9, 2013(commentary)--It's a little off topic, but Adobe's recent move to Creative Cloud actually represents something that's predictable. I've been involved with personal computers from the beginning and spent much of my career in Silicon Valley. Back in the 1970's I observed something that has remained true from the beginning: that computing (and all the bits and pieces that go along with it, including software), goes through sine waves.
The horizontal axis is time, the vertical access is "centralized" at the top and "decentralized" at the bottom. Mainframes were centralized at the beginning. There was one in a company, and everything went to it and was done by it. Almost perfect centralization. Step forward in time: Minicomputers were distributed computers, and decentralized data and services within companies using them. Suddenly a subsidiary or district office could have it's "own" computing capability. Step forward some more in time: Networking pulled things back towards centralization. Step: Personal computers pulled things back towards decentralization. Step: Local networks, and especially the emergence of the Internet have pulled things back towards centralized. Adobe Creative Cloud is just another pull towards centralization.
But every time you move one direction very far (centralized, decentralized), it increases the pull in the other direction. So while Creative Cloud and Office 365 and Google Docs are all trying to pull you to centralization, the smart software developer is working on something you own, you control, works the way you want it to, and is much more decentralized and keeps your data local and safe. For every customer that values centralization (and social sites like Facebook are another example), there are other customers that value local control and decentralization.
Photography practiced as a hobby isn't really something that is particularly demanding of centralization. Just the opposite: you have lots of individuals who want their own digital darkrooms at their beck and call and completely under their control and customization. Image editing as practiced by, say a large ad agency, has demands to pull things towards centralization: commonality of products and data sharing. Adobe makes most of their money from the latter, not the former, so it's not surprising that they think centralization is the best place for them to go. In doing so, however, they just opened the door for a decentralized solution to emerge. What that will be, I don't know. But if I were still managing software firms, I know where I would have been headed.
It's Not About PriceMay 9, 2013(commentary)--Adobe's change to the cloud has a lot of you complaining about pricing. A company can (and should) try to charge what it feels is fair value for something, and their idea of the "right price" won't always agree with the customer view. We as customers speak about bargains, fair value, and highway larceny about all products. We can debate whether Creative Cloud is a bargain, a fair value, or an overreach by Adobe, but we'd be doing that whether we were talking about CC or CS7 pricing. The price is established and out there, you can choose to not partake because you think it's too high, or you can opt for it because you perceive it to be okay. That's always been your choice as a customer.
The real issue here is the transition from ownership to renting. Ironically, Adobe may have just made your already-purchased older software more valuable, as people will be seeking out "for sale" versions, even used, to make sure that they always have access to their data files. It's called "residual value," and products you buy often have some, while products you lease or rent never have any.
But there's another residual value besides just dollars and cents: the value associated with being able to continue to access your data files. Now, Adobe has in the past done things that helped people keep access to their data files. When they turned off the authorization server for one of their older, non-supported versions of Creative Suite, which stopped people from being able to reinstall, they provided a version that could still be installed. So I think Adobe understands it's not in their interest to cut off customer access to files. The problem is that some people are worried about Adobe itself. If it were no longer around for some reason, then what?
This isn't a moot point. It's actually an important one. OS versions and computers keep changing. But not everyone is on the "update everything all the time" train, nor should they be. Indeed, the group that's hardest hit by Adobe's decision is the older hobbyist, who doesn't have the budget (often in retirement) to be upgrading everything at every iteration, nor the time to learn new interfaces, features, or processes (I'm looking at you Windows 8).
There's always been this delicate balance in a software company: at some point you have to stop supporting older hardware and OS versions. At the same time, you can't assume that every one of your customers will just update everything to keep up with your software. Plenty of companies have been on the wrong side of the "best possible balance" line over the years, and if you get too far from it, you get a heck of a lot of customer negativity in response. That appears to be one of the things that is happening here.
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A Few More Cloudy ThoughtsMay 8, 2013(commentary)--You may remember my Last Camera Syndrome article. There's an intersection here. If you've bought your Last Camera or if you buy your last camera while Photoshop CS6 is still updating ACR for it, just buy Photoshop CS6 and you're done. At least until you need to switch to a newer computer or OS where CS6 doesn't run (still in the future at the moment). True, you won't get any new Photoshop features, but given how many people still manage to do their work with versions of Photoshop dating back to CS3 and before, I don't see that as a big issue. You'll have time to figure out a longer term solution if you need it.
Petitions to Adobe to go back to boxed software aren't likely to work. They've already made the commitment within their organization to go this route. You might get them to continue to sell CS6 for longer, but CS7 ain't going to happen without Adobe undoing all the changes they put in place in their development teams over the last 18-24 months. Going back would send the wrong signal to Wall Street, too. If you want to petition Adobe to do something, it's probably better to petition them to reconsider their pricing for a photographer that just needs Lightroom/Photoshop, and what happens to the software on major change (sale of Adobe to another company, failure of Adobe to survive, etc.). The biggest fear I have is of ending up with a product that needs to dial home but home isn't there any more. I find it amazingly ironic that Adobe, who was pitching DNG as the solution to proprietary and file format lock in camera raw files, is now in the position of potentially locking users into their file formats with no outlet should they fail. So maybe we should start the "make the PSD file format into an open standard" chant? ;~)
One serious thing that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere is the "Adobe bug" problem. With the boxed software, when you updated and encountered a new bug that made something not work right in your workflow, you could just uninstall and reinstall your previous version. I don't think this is going to be the case with the cloud versions. Adobe's history of introducing bugs into new versions that cause we users to go back to an older version isn't exactly perfect.
Much of Adobe's dilemma is their marketing message. Delivered as a fait accompli. Certainly not clear enough, as far too many people associated the "cloud" aspect with always needing Internet access to use the product or that the product code lived in the cloud itself. The pricing is essentially a net price increase to many (if not most) of their loyal users. The benefits of the move that were mentioned most mostly accrue to Adobe, not to users. Even the "more frequent update" message was worded very clumsily, and appeared to be more of an advantage to Adobe's developers than to users (e.g. "we can introduce features more quickly," not "you'll get new features more quickly") Uh, did they say that anywhere: users will get new features faster? Maybe they did, but that's not what people heard based upon the hundreds (and it might be thousands now) of emails I've gotten on this subject.
But here's the big thing I've decided is the real problem here: when you switch from selling something as a product (boxes) to selling it as a service (cloud), you're now in the service business, and you'd damned well be at the top of your game in terms of customer support. Those customers are paying you every month and expect good 24/7 support in return. Adobe needs to turn around their customer service attitude, and fast. If I'm paying money for something every month and get the kinds of answers I've gotten from their customer service that I've received in the past, I'm going to be a little more upset than I was. This big of a change really needs to not only be clearly expressed in the ways it benefits the customer, but it has to be backed by real customer support that goes above and beyond to keep them happy and paying their monthly tithe. This is especially true outside the US, where Adobe appears to be tacking on their usual "user not in US" tax to their pricing.
And finally, sarcasm. The camera industry is hurting. Adobe thinks they're a necessary service. It seems the perfect time to announce: "Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud and get a DSLR for US$199 with your two-year contract*." *Some restrictions apply; DSLR is locked to Adobe software during the term of your contract.
And Here Start the Discounts
May 8, 2013(news & commentary)--Inventory must be piling up on Nikon. The latest offer is a D3100 plus both the 18-55mm and 55-200mm DX lenses for US$499.95 with free next day air shipping from the Nikon Online Store. The free shipping is only available today and tomorrow, but the two-lens kit price is available through June 1st.
The fact that there are plentiful D90, D3100, D5100, and D7000 products still available new means that Nikon miscalculated and built too much inventory for demand. At some point, you have to fire sale these things and get them off your balance sheet. I don't think that's the last we've seen of previous generation sales. The real question is when does the problem become so bad that we start seeing aggressive deals on current generation gear?
- Some are pleased, some aren't. This is part of the problem with making a major disruption like this. The ones that are pleased tend to be users of multiple Creative Suite applications. The more Adobe applications you use, the more you tend to be pleased, mainly because the pricing is essentially "one app = x a month, two or more apps = 2x a month. Adobe's key accounts--businesses, bigger agencies, etc.--are likely to be pleased because the pricing is on the favorable side for them and they can turn "seats" on and off at will, which is great when you have temps, interns, and other folk that come and go in your organization.
- Probably not for most of you, unless you're saving documents into the cloud. The full program(s) is (are) downloaded to your computer. The only Internet need is to check at least once a month for monthly subscribers, once a quarter for yearly subscribers. Adobe does plan to make program updates more frequent now, but I doubt that this is going to be bandwidth hog for most of you. Adobe's announcements and marketing weren't exactly clear on this point unless you read down into the details.
There appears to be a caveat, though: it appears that some features--for example that camera motion remover function they've been showing--require your data to be uploaded into the cloud for big server power to work on and then return to you. I'm a little worried that this will become more the norm for new features rather than an exception, but we'll see. I do wonder what the Department of Defense and some of their contractors are going to do, though, as in some situations those computers are not allowed to be connected to the Internet and use different private networks.[update: while it was demonstrated in the cloud, the product manager tells me that, when deployed, the function will run on the desktop.]
May 8, 2013(commentary)--Having had two long bus rides yesterday staring into the looming clouds, I have a few more words to write about Adobe's move to Creative Cloud applications (see Monday's story, below). I probably got more email on Adobe's change than any other subject in recent history; I'm still digging through it. Thanks for the feedback, it has helped me focus my own thoughts a bit more.
First a clarification/update: Tom Hogardy sent me an email while I was traveling to clarify the ACR/Photoshop CS6 relationship. I had quoted him as saying there would be one more ACR release for CS6 users. He wrote "I intend to provide Camera Raw updates for as long as we continue to sell CS6." Of course, we don't know how long Adobe intends to sell CS6, so this is still a bit of a vague promise, but it's still potentially better than the way I originally wrote it. Thanks, Tom, for the correction.
Now, onto my further thoughts:
- Current pricing -- Some are pleased, some aren't. This is part of the problem with making a major disruption like this. The ones that are pleased tend to be users of multiple Creative Suite applications. The more Adobe applications you use, the more you tend to be pleased, mainly because the pricing is essentially "one app = x a month, two or more apps = 2x a month. Adobe's key accounts--businesses, bigger agencies, etc.--are likely to be pleased because the pricing is on the favorable side for them and they can turn "seats" and and off at will, which is great when you have temps, interns, and other folk that come and go in your organization.
It's really the individual users that are mostly upset with the change, and for quite a few reasons. One is just timing. Before, I could advance or delay my update based upon my cash flow. Now, once you're in the cloud with Adobe, it's "pay every month or we shut you down." That, more than anything, is the bad takeaway that individual users seem to have: they no longer have control over if and when they update, and they've just added YAMP (yet another monthly payment) to their growing stack of those (phone, cable, mobile data, etc.).
Overall, the pricing is at least initially acceptable: US$10/month for Photoshop is US$120/year, or about US$180 for "a typical Adobe upgrade cycle." That's reasonable. But it goes up to US$20/month after your first year. Now we're at US$240/year or about US$360 a previous typical upgrade cycle. That's close to what a lot of people have been paying, more than others have.
- How many? -- Obviously, Adobe must have studied this change to death in order to commit to it. Note that there will certainly be people who value the change from boxed product to cloud. Those people will tend to be multiple product users who need to stay at the forefront of the software categories Adobe includes in the cloud. They're essentially getting a discount, they'll see more frequent updates, they have a predictable "per seat" cost that can be turned on and off as they add or lose employees, and much more. The cloud program has an advantage for multi-platform users, too, as you can switch between Mac and Windows at will. I don't at all question whether or not there will be people that are happy with the change. There will be many.
The real question is how many will be negatively impacted by the change, and what will they do? Given that there aren't a lot of deep, broad replacements for Photoshop, I suspect that most Photoshop users will move to the cloud in order to keep up with the latest features. But Adobe just put a target on their back, and the incentive for an independent software shop to try to pick off those dissatisfied users is now in place. Whether that will happen or not, I don't know. But for the near term, Photoshop is more vulnerable to competition than it has been in the recent past. As I note below, Adobe has slowly lost me as a customer for most of their products, with Lightroom/Photoshop really being the only ones I'm likely to continue using.
- Adobe's legacy -- They invented PDF, but the last several versions of Acrobat not only suck, but they're simply so terrible that suck no longer a strong enough word. They invented Flash (actually they bought it), but it was always a pain, buggy, and never really deployed to mobile devices well. They bought Pagemaker, killed it. They bought Framemaker, killed it. They bought Dreamweaver and managed to not make any substantive changes and it still has legacy bugs that seem to never get fixed. They bought other Web products, as well, killed them. For a long time they dropped Macintosh support for a key product, Premiere, suffered the consequences and were forced to get back on the platform.
About the only product that has had a long, relatively smooth history at Adobe is Photoshop. And now it's taking on some rough water during this transition.
- Teaching -- I've been considering doing a number of workflow videos for the new site (coming Real Soon Now, as Jerry Pournelle would write). But Adobe's change puts a hesitation in my step, and I'm sure others might be thinking the same thing. If enough individual users (my typical site visitor) balk at the change to the cloud, the number of people interested in a Photoshop-centric workflow falls. This is both an opportunity and a curse. It's an opportunity because it opens up the road to start exploring and demonstrating new workflows, and plenty of others will be looking for how they replace Photoshop. But the problem is curse is that there isn't a great replacement for Photoshop that bridges both major OS versions and does all the things a user wants to do.
Scott Kelby's Q&A about the change was mostly supportive, but somewhat subdued (note the answer to "So have you talked to Adobe about all this new pricing stuff?). With 70,000 NAPP members, a magazine devoted to Photoshop, and two PhotoshopWorld expos a year, I'm sure he's at least a little concerned about whether the Adobe change will have impacts on his company and all the Photoshop training products it has.
- This is an opportunity for Nikon. The "opportunity" for Nikon was to make good software in the first place. They tried and failed. They tried again and failed. They tried some more and failed. What makes anyone think that another try will succeed?
Beyond that, Photoshop is not the same product as Capture NX2. Capture is essentially ACR, not Photoshop. ACR is built into Lightroom and Lightroom runs rings around View NX2 and Capture NX2 in design, stability, updates, integration with other software, performance, and feature depth.
Is Nikon happy about Adobe's change? Probably. But Nikon is delusional when it comes to their software ability and quality to start with. There's no new opportunity here for Nikon, just the same one they've had for nearly 20 years now: write good software that solves photography workflow problems.
- The change solves piracy. I doubt it. I'll bet that someone will figure out how to break the "check in" process, and then we'll have people subscribing for a month to get the product, stopping their subscription and running a cracker on the install. And that will eventually end up on Torrents, just like every other cracked piece of software. So I don't think this was a DRM enforcement move, at all. If it was, like all DRM attempts, it will be broken.
- Don't I need lots of bandwidth for this? Probably not for most of you, unless you're saving documents into the cloud. The full program(s) is (are) downloaded to your computer. The only Internet need is to check at least once a month for monthly subscribers, once a quarter for yearly subscribers. Adobe does plan to make program updates more frequent now, but I doubt that this is going to be bandwidth hog for most of you. Adobe's announcements and marketing weren't exactly clear on this point unless you read down into the details. There appears to be a caveat, though: it appears that some features--for example that camera motion remover function they've been showing--require your data to be uploaded into the cloud for big server power to work on and then return to you. I'm a little worried that this will become more the norm for new features rather than an exception, but we'll see. I do wonder what the Department of Defense and some of their contractors are going to do, though, as in some situations those computers are not allowed to be connected to the Internet and use different private networks.
- What will Thom do? Frankly, I don't think I need any updates to InDesign. I'm already moving away from Dreamweaver due to Adobe's neglect. Acrobat isn't part of the Creative Suite, so it doesn't matter in the decision. I don't use Flash. I did use After Effects, but not very often. I stopped using Premiere and went back to Final Cut Pro X once Apple fixed a few things. I don't use Flash or any of the other suite tools. Basically, Adobe is going to lose revenue from me, as I'll simply move from upgrading the suite to subscribing to one product, Photoshop. I'm pretty sure that wasn't Adobe's hope in making this change. They're hoping that people will go the other way: move from updating one product to subscribing to the suite. But there you have it: I'm swimming downstream, and I suspect quite a few others will, too.
- What do I recommend you do? Here's the only pragmatic way I see of looking at it: take Adobe up on the US$10/month price for Photoshop CC. Essentially, you're getting the next update to Photoshop for US$120, which is a bargain. But there's a catch: the product stops working 365 days from when you do that. Essentially you've bought a short term solution on the cheap while you contemplate what to do next. You may decide that it's worth US$240/year moving forward, or you have twelve months to figure out what your new workflow will be. That seems like a reasonable compromise for now.
Personally, I'm wondering what happens when Adobe gets hit with a denial of service hack on the server that checks to see if people are paid for the month. We've already had one instance of a photographer using Creative Cloud who didn't have Internet service (in Antarctica) when the software went to check his status and shut him down.
Of course, if you were just a photographer using Photoshop as an adjunct to Lightroom (which isn't a cloud app and still remains a standalone boxed product) on one computer, you're suddenly burdened with what will be a US$20/month Adobe tax (for a single cloud app) if you want to continue that process. A lot of this group skipped every other update, so their net cost worked out to something under US$17/month.
For the time being, CS6 users don't have to worry. But remember, ACR iterates with the Photoshop version, which in the future will be Photoshop CC (according to Tom Hogarty, the product manager, there will be one more iteration of ACR for Photoshop CS6 users). That means your next Nikon camera might not be able to be used with your current CS6 version of ACR. Of course, Adobe will say that if you just subscribe to the Creative Cloud, you'll be protected from that problem forever...wait, no: as long as you pay your bills and can get to their server.
Update: Several of you have asked me what I'm going to do. Honest answer: I don't know for sure. I've been a suite user, but frankly the latest version of InDesign broke a number of my documents, the latest Dreamweaver still sucks at a lot of things and shows serious signs of neglect, and even Photoshop hasn't delivered many new, useful things to me. My main reason for keeping Photoshop up to date has been ACR, actually. As I did when I abandoned Office, I'll have to think about where I want to go and what I really need moving forward. The natural thing to do is to "just say no" to Adobe and not grace them with any more money. They've already managed to make Acrobat a mess and I stopped upgrading that (the last reasonably decent version was 9.5, and we're on 11).