The Software Tax

Anyone seriously engaged in digital photography knows all too well the cost of the tools involved in downloading, optimizing, outputting, and archiving those precious image files.  Whoever suggested digital imaging was cheaper or easier than using film probably didn’t have a very good understanding of the process, but that’s where we are, and going back would be quite impractical.

The last three years of chaotic economic turmoil here in the US and around the world haven’t helped either.  A lot of prior assumptions have been turned upside down (like the revised premise that corporations have the same rights as people…really???) and business models for companies large and small have been reassessed, revamped, and remodeled in pursuit of more efficiency, effectiveness, and higher profits.  Sometimes these changes turn out to be good for business enticing customers to buy even more product, and sometimes they seem more like a stick in the eye.  At first blush, Adobe’s recent announcement of a major change to their Photoshop/Creative Suite upgrade policy feels like the latter.

Few dispute that Adobe Photoshop is still the most powerful and feature-rich pixel-level image editing software program on the market.  [Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture are also very popular,  but they take a very different (parametric) approach to the process and aren’t direct substitutes for Photoshop.]  But it’s very expensive, and a lot of folks who do make the commitment to own and use it sometimes skip an upgrade now and then to save a few dollars without losing significant capability.  Of course this reduces Adobe’s profit and to rectify that they and are moving inexorably toward a software subscription model or a pricing plan that simulates one.  Specifically, Adobe has declared that in the future, an upgrade at a reduced price to the latest version (6.0 is next) will only be allowed from the most recent previous full-point version (5.x at present); if you own any previous versions 4.0 or 3.0 you’ll need to pony up the full price for 6.0 (see synopsis here).

A number of pretty heavy hitters are taking exception to this policy change, not altogether based on the policy change itself (companies can more or less price their products as they like, after all), but with the timing—Photoshop 6.0 isn’t that far off, and under the new policy you’d have to upgrade to 5.x now to get the 6.0 upgrade price when that version arrives next year.  Scott Kelby, Photoshop trainer, author, and president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) has written an open letter to Adobe voicing concern about the policy change and making a plea to modify, or at least postpone, the new policy.

No doubt this is all part of the not-so-gradual move to cloud computing and new methods of software distribution (see more in-depth discussion here).  One thing for sure, if you live long enough you’ll see a lot of your personal time-tested methods and practices (like those beautiful slides on your light table) go the way of the buggy whip and you’ll be forced to either change how you do things or seek other endeavors.  Looks like this may be happening for Photoshop devotees.  As a side note, there are legitimate discounts available on at least some Adobe products through membership in organizations like NAPP and ASMP (and no doubt others as well).

One way or another, we have much to look forward to in the coming year.

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