The smart folks at Abobe have decided that only urban creatives in rich countries deserve attention. Adobe is an international software company that sells the key programs used to create most of what we see in the information age. Their software makes it easy to work with photos, edit video, handle page layout for everything from magazines and newspapers to posters and to produce websites. Many of the world’s designers, photographers, web and video creatives use some or all of the Abobe programs. Most everyone else has used free company products to open pdfs (Adobe Acrobat) and watch online videos (Adobe Flash).
But starting today everything is changing for professional Adobe users. From now on, instead of selling packages of software to install on a computer, Abobe is hoisting everything into the cloud. In London the company released all 15 of its Creative Cloud (CC) apps which will only be available online and through a monthly subscription fee. To access any of the programs means connecting to the internet and logging in to start work.
The company has several reasons for why this is a good change. Users will always have access to the latest technology and they can work on their projects on all sorts of devices from computers to cell phones and tablets. Subscribers can find files anywhere since they are stored in the cloud which also makes collaboration easier. Another key reason for the shift is to combat the use of unlicensed software, which Adobe says was widespread. When you don’t have software disks and have to pay a monthly fee to get at the programs it’s much hard to pirate the stuff.
But CC apps only work if you have high speed, consistent access to the internet otherwise the cloud remains forever beyond reach. And in Canada consistent high speed internet access is only available in urban areas. Outside of cities where connecting to the internet means using a stick, tethering to a cell phone, dialing a server or pleading for an over-hyped and underwhelming satellite connection to work it can take a minute or longer to simply load a Facebook page. Opening and working with online documents or video projects with rural connection speeds would be a joke. As it soars to the clouds with this change Adobe is only taking certain creatives along for the ride.
They are leaving behind rural folks in rich countries but they are also abandoning all sorts of creatives in developing nations. This spring I was in south Asia where it took five minutes to upload a small (60KB) photo in Mandalay. In Dhaka the internet connection was too slow for Skype chats (text not video or sound) and in Darjeeling it took more than four hours to download a small podcast (audio file about 9MB). In these places the cloud remains something that blocks the sun or drops rain; it is not the destination for creative work. Now the key tools of the information age are beyond reach.
The promise of the internet and the benefits of the cloud are generally limited to small numbers of people living in rich countries and that seems to be an exclusion Adobe can live with. To quote their own advertising, they are the “creative class” who can “change everything” with their “creative fingerprint”. But don’t let the grubby fingers of those outside of major western cities soil the work.
Creatives who don’t have cloud access have options, notably QuarkXpress a program that plans to continue selling its software on disk and a range of Apple products and third party apps that can handle many of the same tasks as the CC software. But for the flagship company to push everyone except urban users from the creative class means in this case the forecast is for dark clouds and stormy weather.