A question on the After Effects mailing list finally compelled me to jot down a few lines. Please accept that due to restrictions I’m not allowed to share a lot of information, so you may still be as confused after reading this article as you were before, but I’ll try my best.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: In their announcements about the Creative Cloud, their swing to HTML (5) and their upgrade policy for CS6 they messed up. Why did they mess up? They dropped this info more or less incidentally in some statements aimed at their investors and shareholders without ever talking to you and me – that is their customers and users. Additionally, they did so at a time where many people still struggle with the aftermath of the economic crises of the last years (or whatever current crisis you wanna blame) without giving so much as a blink as a warning. As a result, people got pissed because they feel pressured into upgrading their products without knowing what will come next on a very tight deadline and, which is what gets most people, having to make a double investment within a few months, now that presumably CS6 is only a few months away. This, no matter how you wanna see it, simply comes across as Adobe trying to skim people for their money. Now I have my own opinion on why or why not people should keep their software current, but it’s no doubt a problem not to be underestimated.
So what are they going to do about it? As a start, and that’s not a minor thing for a big company like Adobe, they acknowledge that they have fucked up. Sure, they are fully within their own domain and are free to run their business as they choose, but nobody wants to lose customers, even the ones that only upgrade every 3 years. Does that mean they will change their policies regarding CS6? Perhaps, perhaps not. Whatever steps they take is very much in the dark and at this point anything from scrapping that strategy entirely to extending grace periods to the end of the century to extra discounts for people who now have bought CS5.5 under the gun is thinkable and as the usual business blurb goes "We are considering all options.".
This still could mean you will have to upgrade to CS5.5, but contrary to common belief, you do not have to do so by the end of the year. The only reason to spend your Christmas money is if you are interested in the current 20% discount. If you’re not in a rush and have enough money on your account, then you can put off that decision. And who knows, there may be other discounts in spring or you may just be lucky enough to get a free CS6 upgrade when you hit the grace period.
Also consider other options: There is, after all, now such a thing as subscription. Depending on what programs you actually use, this may be more cost-effective. On the other hand, it could be more expensive just as well. I guess the fine line here is that it is expensive to only license Photoshop or any other single programs, but it may just be right if you’re a heavy hitter and really use all programs in a Creative Suite almost daily. And guess what? Adobe is aware of this seriously skewed imbalance, too. You should not expect this to change over night, though. If at all, I would expect some new pricing models only with the release of the new version plus the Creative Cloud being ready…