Apple creatives -- are you ready for the Adobe CS upgrade price rise?

Apple [AAPL] has long been established in the creative markets, and while the company has stretched loyalties there on strength of the long, long delay since it last upgraded its Mac Pro, creative users should probably take a moment to prepare for another unbidden tax on their business: Adobe’s Creative Suite upgrade cost rise.

Adobe raises Creative Suite upgrade prices

Adobe's upgrade tax

What’s this? 

In brief it’s timely to remind professionals in the creative space that if they use older versions of Creative Suite, they only have a few weeks left in which upgrade to the current version before prices rise. That’s because if you use Adobe’s older Creative Suite (CS) products, the clock’s ticking on cut-price upgrades.

These rises are significant, even a single application such as Photoshop CS7 will see a dramatic price rise, at present you can upgrade to this version for from $199. Miss the upgrade deadline and it set you back $699 or more.

What’s happening is that from December 31, Adobe will only offer discounted software upgrade prices to those using the previous main versions of CS. 

This means that if you’re not on the most current edition by that date you’ll see upgrade prices rise dramatically as you’ll need to invest in full new versions of the software once Adobe withdraws upgrade prices.

Adobe’s extensive range of design tools are sold in numerous different versions, so to check the impact of these new prices on you and the applications you need to use, please check Adobe’s website. The difference can be over $1,000 in some cases.

[ABOVE: A perhaps appropriate track by the Beatles Band.]

Upgrade now or get locked out

There’s a second sting in the tail: the decision means creative users who don’t upgrade to the current edition in the next few weeks won’t be eligible for the upgrade discount to CS 7 when it hits stores next year.

It would be easy to accuse Adobe of placing an unwarranted tax on customers whose businesses are already feeling the impact of the fractured global economy. 

To be fair, the software company revealed its plans to change its upgrade pricing structure in November last year, but that doesn’t make the Holiday season timing of the deal any better.

After all, most creative users are small shops, run on shoestring budgets. These users like to get the most out of their equipment investment, and it is by no means unusual to find some of the most cutting-edge creative work coming from creatives using older Macs and old versions of Adobe’s creative software.

In a sense by implementing the new pricing matrix, Adobe is moving to force change in that image of cash-strapped designers tweaking the best they can out of what they have.

The company has another agenda, of course: Creative Cloud. This subscription-based service offers users access to all the apps (including features not yet made available in retail boxed sets of these applications), document sharing and publishing features for $49.99 per month.

Heading to the Creative Cloud

That it’s slightly cheaper (potentially) to use Creative Cloud than to purchase boxed sets (and software licenses) for your Mac hasn’t escaped the notice of many creative users. That’s partially why the company was able to generate 200,000 paid subscribers within four months of launching the service, as revealed during its financial call last September.

That’s fine for those creative shops using one or two Macs, but for larger installations the cost benefits analysis looks a little more shaky. Such users won’t be able to make a firm decision as to which way (subscription or software investment) makes most sense until later this month when the company introduces a version of the service for teams; but even that step leaves the largest teams in a state of uncertainty:

“Next year, we will deliver an enterprise version of Creative Cloud targeted at companies who wish to deploy and provision Creative Cloud across large organizations with a scale similar to the enterprise license agreements we have for Creative Suite today.”

That latter statement means that Adobe’s biggest creative users are truly on the firing line: 

Do they upgrade their existing installations now in order to benefit from the reduced pricing available under the soon-to-expire scheme? 

Or do they take a risk and stick with their existing versions in hopes the enterprise deal isn’t overly punitive when it is announced next year?

Lest ye forget

Either way, it’s extremely likely that most Photoshop, Illustrator and other CS apps users have already forgotten that the upgrade deal is at an end, as it was announced a year ago.

That’s probably why while Adobe is aiming to attract 800,000 users to its service in the next few years, it currently has just 200,000. 

This implies up to 600,000 CS users may need to take steps to ensure they have put a future upgrade path in place, or face the risk of watching future upgrade costs spiral out of control. Or at the least be required to subscribe to the Creative Cloud plan.

This means that my message of the day for any creative Apple or Windows user out there is that if you depend on Adobe’s products for your business, you may have to spring for an upgrade to the latest CS version today, or you’ll be paying a lot more to upgrade in future as Adobe puts in place what could be seen as its special one-off creative industry tax.

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