This was first posted on ChiGarden a month or so ago, before my redesign and wipe of old posts. I’m putting it back up again because I think there isn’t much information about the reality of using the subscription edition of Adobe software out there, and I want other people to read my experience before deciding to go with it. I’ve also just received my copy of CS5, and will be writing about that soon!
I’ve been using the subscription edition of Adobe CS4 since I started freelancing at the beginning of 2009. The subscription edition was a new payment model which was (still is, I believe) only available in Australia, presumably to test the idea out. With it you get the Design Premium bundle of software, which usually costs several thousand dollars upfront, for a monthly fee. The software itself is the same – you even get the box and DVDs – but the payment and verification methods are different.
What’s the benefit? First of all, not having to pay several thousands of dollars upfront – which anyone starting a new business knows is pretty difficult thing to do. The other major benefit is that Adobe currently releases a new version of their software roughly every 18 months, and since the subscribers are supposed to receive upgrades free of charge it works out slightly more cost effective than paying upfront and for these upgrades. It all seemed pretty sound to me to me so I went ahead and signed up for a 12 month contract.
There are, however, a lot of problems. These are the ones that I’ve encountered. I haven’t been able to find much information online at all so perhaps I’m one of few having these issues, but I’m putting them up here in case someone finds them useful.
The serial number wasn’t included on/in the box, which led to a large amount of searching and trying random codes from the box before giving up and calling support. Who took a long, long time to figure out the issue, for something so simple.
The subscription manager checks with their server as soon as you start your computer. This is to verify that your subscription is still active. Normally this isn’t an issue. It is when you’ve just moved into your new apartment, don’t have DSL set up and have to dial in with mobile broadband. By the time I was connected to the internet, the subscription manager had already decided that I wasn’t subscribed and that was it. I have no idea how people without a permanent internet connection are supposed to use it. This issue resulted in many, many phonecalls to support, with most of the people I spoke to clueless about the issue. In the end I figured it out, when our internet was set up.
There are no error messages. If there is anything at all wrong with your subscription, it doesn’t tell you. The applications simply won’t open. There are no error messages, no emails, no record on their end either of what the issue is. This makes problems very difficult to diagnose.
Extra costs were charged to my account for no apparent reason – for a while I was paying double at different times in the month, until I figured things out. This was possibly due to the messing around for the above two issues, which had me uninstalling, reinstalling and resubscribing several times. It took a while to get customer support to understand the issue and refund the money.
Spontaneous cancellation. Just a few days ago, my Adobe software stopped working. No error messages, as noted previously. No email notification. When I checked my account, it said that my subscription had expired. I figured that perhaps I had reached the end of my twelve month contract and somehow it stopped automatically renewing, but that contract actually finished in February. Customer service haven’t been able to answer why my subscription was spontaneously cancelled, or answer whether I should just resubscribe on another 12 month contract. I did it anyway as I kind of need to work, but I still have no idea why this is happening.
Customer service is clueless. They don’t know anything about the subscription edition or the many issues with it, and have a hard time understanding the issues when I explain it to them. They’re clearly instructed to stick to a script and aren’t able to verify things or suggest anything other than the obvious solutions. When it inevitably becomes obvious they have no idea how to help you, they ‘escalate’ the case and promise someone will get back to you within the next 24 – 48 hours. Often this followup results in another followup and 24 – 48 hour wait, which easily adds up to days of work not being able to be done. Adobe is, of course, not responsible for any loss of income during this time, and refuse to offer refunds for it (yup, I tried). It’s incredibly frustrating.
Where’s my free upgrade? CS5 was released a few weeks ago now – this is one of the few benefits of this subscription plan, and I want it! Asking customer service for information was frustrating as usual, and my case has been ‘escalated’. Who knows when I’ll receive it and what new issues it will bring?
If you’re thinking of going with the subscription edition of Adobe, I’d say rethink it. It’s fairly new, so there’s a lot of incredibly frustrating issues that no one seems to know how to deal with yet. For me it’s resulted in days of lost work, hours on the phone to various clueless customer service representatives, and a whole lot of stress. I’m incredibly disappointed that I’m paying such ridiculous amounts of money to Adobe for such shoddy service.
Unless you really, absolutely can’t afford to pay for the software upfront, seriously don’t bother.