Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/19/adobe_creative_cloud_2014_comment/

Adobe Creative Cloud 2014: Progress and pain in the usual places

Enough to soothe the aches of an identity crisis?

By Alistair Dabbs

Posted in Cloud, 19th June 2014 08:01 GMT

Comment Remember when software product upgrades were a big thing? Balloons, keyrings, parties? Today, they’re slipped under the door furtively like a pizza takeaway price list. And so it is with Adobe’s announcement today of what’s new in Creative Cloud: lots of PR singing by email, but no actual dancing seems to be taking place.

When Adobe initially rebundled its disparate creative applications into a suite – Creative Suite, no less – users loved it and it made great PR. Instead of having to spread its many product upgrades incrementally across the year as they become available, the company could hit users with an almighty bang every 18 months.

However, in doing so, Adobe had built a rod for its own back. With Creative Suite, the company had to co-ordinate all its development teams and pre-release programmes to hit precisely the same launch date. It wasn’t just difficult, it was inconvenient and occasionally pointless for some of the applications in the suite that didn’t warrant an upgrade at the same time as the others.

Creative Cloud goes a long way toward solving the challenges of such development logistics. Putting aside the controversial financial aspects of the subscription model for a moment, Creative Cloud makes good sense for users who want the best and latest that Adobe can offer. No longer do users have to wait 18 months for major upgrades and core-code updates nor keep their eyes open for minor bug-fixes to appear on obscure support pages. With Adobe CC, the various fixes, updates and upgrades just turn up whenever they’re ready.

For Adobe, though, CC presents a major marketing challenge. It’s difficult to justify hiring a nightclub to celebrate the fact that your company distributed ad hoc updates across a dozens of products (including all the CS6 versions) at scores of irregular dates throughout the year. So it would be a little unfair to point out that the CC 2014 ‘launch’ appears to be a kludge of new-but-minor product features, a recap of some of the enhancements we already saw earlier this year and some blah about a $200 pen that looks like a party-bag Toblerone.

On the surface, there is nothing new in flagship Photoshop CC or heavyweights such as After Effects and Premiere Pro that would have convinced anyone to invest in a traditional package upgrade. InDesign CC now supports fixed-layout ePub? Well, golly gosh.

What’s really happening is Adobe reminding us what good value Creative Cloud can be if you are a creative multi-media power user. Unfortunately, those who use only a handful of the CC applications – such as the traditional Photoshop + Illustrator + InDesign + Acrobat brigade for whom the old Creative Suite was ideal – will find it very difficult to justify the subscription cost.

More worrying still is Adobe’s insistence on implementing much of CC’s newest features as cloud services. Yes, it’s in the name but Adobe spectacularly demonstrated a month ago how badly cloud-based services can go wrong by locking everyone out of their Adobe IDs. This is a problem when all of Adobe’s products depend upon users being able to sign in online merely to make their desktop applications run.

Adobe’s dismissal of the nightmare, in which they threw users out for some 36 hours in mid-May, as a “minor incident” is shameful. So, too, is the utter contempt in which they apparently hold their own customers: one Adobe evangelist at the recent CC pre-launch press briefing suggested that it was the users’ own fault for logging out of their Adobe IDs when they experienced sign-in issues instead of following a convoluted workaround that no-one except Adobe knew about.

War stories

One of the UK’s national daily newspapers had being relying on Adobe’s cloud services to publish its digital edition. Because of Adobe’s ID database glitch, the newspaper did not publish that day and published late the following day too. In doing so, Adobe had succeeded in doing what Zeppelins and the Blitz failed to achieve throughout two world wars. What a striking reputation Adobe has earned for itself: more damaging to the newspaper industry than the Kaiser and Hitler combined.

The block of flats at Coronation Avenue, seen after the bombing

Devastation caused after Photoshop CS6 failed to load

This particular newspaper no longer uses Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite) to publish its digital edition.

Even when it’s up and running, the CC implementation of cloud sign-in is a constant hassle for multi-user installations, from large enterprises to small training centres. Visiting these sites, I hear the same complaints and indeed the same emotive word to describe Creative Cloud installation: “ball-ache”.

One training centre I visited actually held back from promoting CC courses until quite recently because it felt the authentication hassles in getting the applications to relaunch every time a trainee accidentally quit didn’t justify the “ball-ache”. CC and CS6 were described to me again as “ball-ache” a week ago by an IT support minion at a vast multi-seat, multi-site enterprise. These users are on the phone to IT support practically every morning with a sign-in issue, he claimed.

This is compounded by scatterings of isolated users of certain Adobe products that refuse to run within the strict confines of some corporate networks. When users complained on Adobe forums that while Muse CC worked fine at home but could not be launched on any computers at their workplaces, they were told to change their firewall.

Oh yes, just wander upstairs to the CIO and tell him to tone down the corporate firewall to comply with Adobe’s implementation of cloud authentication in Muse CC. Good luck with that.

Even during the aforementioned CC press briefing, some of the new cloud-based functions the evangelist was demonstrating took a minute or more to complete, apparently because “the internet connection here is not very good”. This will not put many minds at rest hoping that Adobe had learnt from last month’s slavish over-reliance on connectivity just to make stuff happen on your desktop.

To its credit, Adobe has said that CC 2014 will introduce “improvements” to the way in which multi-user installations are managed in corporate and education environments. I have asked for someone at Adobe to clarify what these improvements are but have not received an answer.

Taking the optimistic view, if site licence management becomes less of a “ball-ache”, it will be a good thing. And if this metaphoric soothing of testes leads to positive corporate user feedback, we may eventually be able to look forward to some easing of Adobe’s nightly bombing raids over the rest of us.

Taking a pessimistic view, well… let’s not do that. Corporate gonads couldn’t take it. ®