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Technology Analysis: Adobe Creative Suite

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By hrhegnauer
Words 3614
Pages 15
Technology Analysis Paper:
Adobe Creative Cloud

University of Denver
IT Strategies
HR Hegnauer
November 9, 2015

Introduction As the industry standard for anything related to digital imaging, layout, or design, the software programs from Adobe Systems Incorporated have lead the way for over three decades. Now headquartered in San Jose, California, Adobe employs roughly 12,500 people nation wide, had sales of $4.22 billion in 2014, and was ranked #74 by Forbes on their list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies (Forbes, 2015). Adobe is most famous for its program Photoshop, which helps it to drive industries in three major business segments: “Digital Media, Digital Marketing, and Print & Publishing” (Forbes, 2015). In the following paper, I will focus on the core Adobe programs for the print and publishing industry, which include Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign. Photoshop. Business and investing author and scholar, Peter F. Drucker said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old” (Shore, 2014). In 1987, Thomas Knoll was an engineering PhD student the University of Michigan and wanted to process his photographs on his newly purchased Apple Macintosh Plus to help him with his PhD work. Unfortunately, his Mac computer was unable to translate his images into a grey-scale display, and so, needing something new, Knoll went to work on making something new. As a software engineer, Knoll wrote a program he called Display to properly render his images on the screen. With his brother Thomas’s help and encouragement, Display turned into a program called ImagePro, which had the ability to manipulate digital images similarly to how a photographer would manipulate prints in a darkroom (dodge and burn, contrast, hue, etc). Within a year, the brothers packaged their software program and licensed it to Adobe in 1988, and in 1990 Adobe released Photoshop version 1.0. In 1995, Adobe purchased Photoshop outright from the Knoll brothers, but they continued to stay on to help develop the program (Creative Bloq). Illustrator. At the time of this Photoshop acquisition, Adobe was a young and quickly growing company in an even more quickly growing computer and technology industry. Adobe was founded in 1982 by John Warnock and Charles Geschke, and it began as a digital type foundry, producing PostScript and TrueType fonts, which were licensed to Microsoft. Its first product available directly to the consumer was Illustrator, a drawing and illustrating program, which is vector-based (Adobe Fast Facts, 2015). All of these original developments were built specifically for the Macintosh platform, and although Adobe products are currently available for both Macs and PCs, Macs still boast their high-level graphics and creative capabilities. Indesign. In 1994, Adobe acquired Aldus — including the software PageMaker — for $438 million (Thomson Financial). Aldus had been developing PageMaker since 1985, and it was one of the biggest desktop publishing software programs on the market. However, its rival, Quark, was quickly gaining majority market share because it had many more features than PageMaker. Once Adobe purchased PageMaker and made it its core desktop publishing software, the company went to work on re-building it into a strong competitor against Quark. Quark tried to buy out Adobe and PageMaker, but Adobe would not cave to their requests, and in 1999, the company released Indesign, the re-envisioned version of PageMaker internally known as the “Quark killer.” And as the nickname suggests, it did exactly that. At its height, Quark enjoyed over 95% market share, but since 2003, their numbers have drastically declined, and in 2010, Quark’s market share was estimated to be below 25% (Barrett, 2010). Evolution of Technology
Creative Suite (CS). Since the introduction of Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign, Adobe has persistently and incrementally evolved its products. While in accordance with industry standards, some would argue that this has been slow and cost consuming. Beginning in October 2003, Adobe started releasing their products grouped together in what it called the Creative Suite. Different combinations of Suites were available. For example, in the standard design suite, the main programs were Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and Acrobat — the perfect combination for a print designer. For the following ten years, Adobe released a new version every 18-24 months. Each version had significant upgrades within each program. In the last Creative Suite version 6 upgrade for Photoshop, Adobe include support for 3D painting and drawing, upgraded font support including character and paragraph styles, and overhauled vector tools, along with many other upgrades (Adobe Creative Suite…). For an evolution of Photoshop icons that went along with each version release, please see Appendix I.
Creative Cloud (CC). During the summer of 2013, Adobe completely changed their strategy for releasing new versions. No longer releasing physical copies of their programs, all releases going forward would only be available through an online subscription model. Therefore, instead of the user purchasing the program or Suite in one up-front purchase, the user must subscribe to a monthly or annual plan. If the user stops subscribing, they will no longer have access to the programs, and furthermore, any program-specific files — such as an Indesign file — can no longer be opened. I’ll speak more about the pricing differences of the two models in the following section, but at this point, it’s important to understand the reasoning and benefits to why Adobe would make this significant change. Since making this shift 28 months ago, Adobe has released major upgrades every 6 months (Adobe Photoshop Version History). While the upgrades to each CC version are less involved, the user does not need to purchase a new version of the product, nor do they need to wait two years to hopefully get an upgrade. Competitive Strategy
Porter’s Three Generic Strategies create a simple blueprint to help any business understand how they can be competitive within their industry. Broken into three categories (Differentiation, Cost Leadership, and Focused Strategies), a company can choose to focus their energies with one strategy or dabble in each. But according to the theory, the most successful companies will focus on one aspect. For a visual graphic on this strategy, please see Appendix II. Adobe has focused most on Differentiation; however, they’ve also pursued important parts of the other two strategies as well.
Differentiation. Differentiation is Adobe’s strongest competitive asset. For years, the company has enjoyed their spot as the industry standard for creative software. While there are other desktop publishing programs such as Quark, and there are many image editing programs, there are essentially no substantial competitors to Adobe’s Indesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator. Photoshop is Adobe’s biggest program, and the depth and complexities seriously limit any real competition. Furthermore, the name itself has become a verb: to photoshop something. “Photoshop is widely used as a verb, both colloquially and academically, to refer to retouching, compositing (or splicing), and color balancing carried out in the course of graphic design, commercial publishing, and image editing” (Ward). One free alternative to Photoshop is an open-source program called GIMP. However, even with 4.2 million downloads from www.download.com, GIMP is by no means a household name or its own verb. A key part of Adobe’s differentiation strategy is its integrated suite approach. The programs all work together and link to one another. For example, if creating a layout in Indesign that includes photographs, the photographs are technically “linked” in the Indesign file. They are not embedded such as they are in a Word or Powerpoint document. One thing this means is that the Indesign file is smaller, but what is mainly important here is that the user can click the image in Indesign and force it to open in Photoshop, make any adjustments to the image, and the image will automatically update in the Indesign layout. The relationship between the programs is a unique and important aspect of the Adobe model. The user is more likely to own multiple programs in order to fully appreciate this relationship rather than own Indesign and GIMP, which do not talk to one another.
Cost Leadership. While Adobe is not known for their inexpensive products, they have made some important initiatives in this area. For example, their rates for educators, students, and school administrators are available with a 60% discount for $19.99 per month. The standard rate for this same plan is $49.99 per month, which includes over 20 programs, premium fonts, a personal portfolio website, and 20 GB of cloud storage. Alternatively, the standard user can purchase one program for $19.99 per month (Discover…). While these plans are simple and easy, where Adobe falls flat and is missing potential customers would be in smaller combination plans. For example, in the Creative Suite releases, users could purchase the smaller Design Standard Suite plan as mentioned above for $1,299. The Master Collection Creative Suite, which would be equivalent to the $49.99 per month plan mentioned above, used to cost $2,599 (Adobe Creative Suite…) What this means is that it would take the user 4.3 years on the subscription model to reach the cost of the physical Master Collection. So on the subscription model, the user gets a much better deal in comparison; however, Adobe retains the user for a much longer period than one or two purchases of the physical product. When Adobe shifted to this Creative Cloud subscription-based model, they did away with any mid-level plans. Ideally for the user, Adobe should offer mid-level subscription plans for $35 per month, which would include a small suite of programs. However, many of the potential customers for this mid-level plan might come from the high-end plan, hurting Adobe’s bottom line. Therefore, it is unlikely that this will become an option unless users greatly protest.
Focused Strategies. During the 10-year period of the Creative Suite model (2002 – 2012), Adobe lead the way with the Suite concept. Their programs all worked in tandem with one another. For example, if designing a poster in Indesign, the typical user would also rely on Photoshop for any images and Illustrator for any vector-based graphics such as logos. Therefore, it is imperative that the user purchase the Suite of products and not just one product. Now with the Creative Cloud subscription, Adobe has lost some of this focus. As mentioned above, the user is forced to either purchase the entire collection of more than 20 programs (while 4-8 programs would be ideal) or to purchase one program individually, which would be ineffective most cases.
Criticism of Creative Cloud. When Adobe announced that it was entirely changing to a subscription-based model, the company received significant criticism from their users. Within just a couple weeks of their original announcement, a petition on Change.org had received over 15,500 signatures asking Adobe to stop this change (Jones, 2013). Most of this blowback came from freelancers, small businesses, and individual artists who complained that the subscription was too expensive, and that they would rather purchase the programs fully upfront, and use them for more than one version cycle.
Disruptive Opportunities
Clayton Christian coined the term “disruptive innovation” in which a new product or company enters the market and progresses to the top of the market share (or holds a significant share), knocking out the established product (Christiansen). When Indesign entered the market, Quark held 95% market share for desktop publishing programs. Indesign’s rapid rise to replace Quark is a classic story of how this process happens.
While understanding that Adobe now holds 43% of the creative software industry market share, it is important to hark back to Quark and their demise (Trefis). One could easily be confident in Adobe’s overwhelming market share, yet so was Quark in the mid-1990s. It is hugely important for Adobe to continue their integrated program approach while also being open to professional user responses. For example, when many professionals were seeking a new way to package InDesign files that included PDF exports, the package should automatically include this. In version CS6, this was not included, but in the CC ongoing version, this has now been included. This is a simple, yet imperative step that Adobe needs to continue to make to support its professional users. Quark, on the other hand, was notorious for not listening to their users, and even suggesting that they find a different product if they didn’t like what Quark had to offer. In 2002, Quark had a growing number of Windows users compared to Mac users, and CEO Fred Ebrahimi stated that “The Macintosh platform is shrinking,” and anyone who was dissatisfied with Quark's Mac program should "switch to something else” (Girard, 2014). With the newly released Indesign, people switched.
All of this is to say that even though Adobe enjoys very strong market share and little relevant competition, they still need to work to maintain their industry leading brand position. In fact, when Adobe made the switch from CS to CC, there were many online articles and recommendations for unhappy users to switch to alternative programs. However, none of those programs posed realistic risks to the company, and these stories turned out to be mostly anecdotal and not the overall trend. In fact when Adobe first made the transition from CS to CC, they allowed users to chose which product they wanted. At that time, Adobe stated that “more than 80 percent of customers who bought products from Adobe's website picked CC over CS” (Shankland, 2013).
Another thing that would prevent disruptors from entering this market in a competitive manner is the way that the file structures are associated with each program. Some files are generic and can be opened in different programs such as a jpg file, but many Adobe files are specific to that program, and they may only be opened in that program. For example, files created in Indesign must be opened in Indesign, and furthermore, they may only be opened in the same or newer version of Indesign. This encourages users to stay up-to-date when in CS or now to migrate to the CC version. Likewise, layered Photoshop files must be opened in Photoshop in order to edit the layers.
Business Implementation
One of the big benefits to Adobe’s products is that they are used in a wide-range of industries as well as in educational settings. Nearly every company would benefit from owning a copy of Photoshop, at the very least. According to Adobe, their users include companies from the following diverse industries: Advertising, Broadcasting, Digital Publishing, Education, Financial Services, Gaming, Government, Healthcare, High Tech, Manufacturing, Retail, and Telecommunications (Customer Showcase).
Adobe is also well-known for its collaboration with educational institutions. As mentioned above, Adobe offers generous educational discounts. Adobe also offers official conferences to teach their programs, introduce updates, and provide support for users. Beyond this, there are countless online support tutorials and videos to help understand how to use their products, as well as unofficial classes taught in university, high school, and junior high classes. Personally, I teach a course at Johnson & Wales University called “Imaging for Digital Media,” which is essentially a full-quarter long Photoshop course.
Adobe is also very good at partnering with high schools and junior high schools. While it’s important for students to learn these programs, this also has the added benefit of Adobe being able to acquire young customers and retain them through educational institutions. Adobe products are used extensively in high school journalism and yearbook classes. In April 2015, Adobe announced a collaboration with Jostens, the world’s largest yearbook publishing company. “The partnership, called Monarch, allows Jostens to provide its yearbook customers Indesign and Photoshop in a browser, with the software being updated each year” (JostensInc). This new integration is another example of how Adobe is consistently trying to upgrade and improve their products while also engaging in key collaborations.
Risks and Challenges
The risk of a competitor such as GIMP to take any serious market share away from Photoshop is very slim. However, with the programs now being subscription-only as opposed to the user being able to buy the program outright, this may allow for some freeware to disrupt novice or hobby users, but it would be very difficult to cut into the professional customer market.
According to Adobe, one of the benefits for switching to the subscription model was to help curtail the piracy of Adobe products. Photoshop was one of the most pirated software programs. However, just one day after Adobe launched the CC platform, it was hacked, and all of the programs were made available to the public for free. After quickly correcting the hack, Adobe’s response to this seemed to miss the mark: “We believe in fighting piracy of software by making the right software for the right people at the right price” (Andy). As previously stated, the software is not necessarily more affordable; it is just easier for more people to pay incrementally.
Finally, while Adobe claims that CC works while users are also offline, the company had a major internal glitch in May 2014 that crashed all of its programs for 24 hours, leaving “over a million designers, graphic artists, and developers who rely daily on Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite” completely locked out (Chayka, 2014). Even for just one day, this left millions questioning their reliance on a cloud-based service. “Whether Adobe’s CCS survives or not largely depends on how well it avoids annoying its users,” stated Kyla Chayka at The Daily Beast.
Conclusion
As a young technology company in the 1980s and 90s, Adobe made some major acquisitions and developments to build its brand from a fledgling creative company to the overwhelming industry standard giant. Throughout the first decade of the 2000s Adobe solidified its presence by taking a holistic approach to creative design. The concept of a suite of programs working in tandem was both a genius move for the company and its growth, as well as creating a new fundamental way for designers and artists to manage projects. Since 2013 with Adobe’s shift to a cloud-based subscription model, there were initial major upsets including customer backlash, hacking, and internal glitches. However, because of Adobe’s dominance in the industry and far superior products, a new disruptor has not been able to gain significant market share. Now a couple years into the Creative Cloud model, Adobe would do well to continue to listen to its customers as they did so strongly during early 2000s to aid in its product development. While it seems that the worst CC glitches are behind them, and perhaps were to be expected in the first year of such a major shift, it is vital that Adobe continues to closely track the progression of its products over the next couple years, especially monitoring for any growing competition.

Appendix I: Evolution of Photoshop logo icons

Appendix II: Porter’s Three Generic Strategies

Works Cited Adobe Creative Suite 6 Now Available. 2012 May 7. Retrieved from http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/201205/050712AdobeCS6Ship.html Adobe Fast Facts. 2015. Retrieved from http://wwwimages.adobe.com/content/dam/acom/en/fast-facts/pdfs/fast-facts.pdf Adobe Photoshop Version History. Wikipedia Entry. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Photoshop_version_history Andy. 2013 May 9. “Adobe: Photoshop Pirates aren’t bad people who like to steal things.” Torrent Freak. Retrieved from http://torrentfreak.com/adobe-photoshop-pirates-arent-bad-people-who-like-to-steal-things-130509/ Barrett, A. 2010 April 05. “Can Quark Turn the Corner?” Inc Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100401/can-quark-turn-the-corner.html Chayka, K. 2014 May 15. “Adobe’s Creative Cloud Goes Down and Takes a Million Designers with it.” The Daily Beast. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/15/adobe-s-creative-cloud-goes-offline-and-takes-a-million-designers-with-it.html Christiansen, C. “Disruptive Innovation.” Retrieved from http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/ Creative Bloq. 2005 December 13. “The History of Photoshop.” Retrieved from http://www.creativebloq.com/adobe/history-photoshop-12052724#disqus_thread Customer Showcase. Adobe. Retrieved from http://www.adobe.com/customershowcase/stories.edu.html Discover the Creative Cloud 2015 Experience. Adobe Creative Cloud. Retrieved from http://creative.adobe.com/plans?promoid=P3KMQZ9Y&mv=other Forbes. 2015 May. “The World’s Most Innovative Companies.” Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/companies/adobe-systems/ Girard, D. 2014 January 13. “How QuarkXPress became a mere afterthought in publishing.” Ars Technica. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/01/quarkxpress-the-demise-of-a-design-desk-darling/ Jones, S. 2013 May 17. “Some Artists Give Adobe’s Cloud Switch a Critical Review.” ADVFN. Retrieved from http://www.advfn.com/news_Some-Artists-Give-Adobes-Cloud-Switch-a-Critical-R_57631410.html JostensInc. 2015 April 22. “Monarch by Jostens.” YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD2MUoEXU44 Shankland, S. 2013 May 28. “Dislike Adobe’s Creative Cloud Subscriptions? Tough Beans.” CNET. Retireved from http://www.cnet.com/news/dislike-adobes-creative-cloud-subscriptions-tough-beans/ Shore, J. 2014 September 16. “These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World.” Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237484 Thomson Financial. 2008 October 03. “Adobe Systems Inc Aquires Aldus Corp”. Retrieved from http://www.alacrastore.com/storecontent/Thomson_M&A/Adobe_Systems_Inc_acquires_Aldus_Corp-395638020
Trefis. 2011 February 8. “Adobe's Creative Software Market Share Will Continue to be Volatile.” NASDAQ. Retrieved from http://www.nasdaq.com/article/adobes-creative-software-market-share-will-continue-to-be-volatile-cm56794
Ward, M. “One Unexplored Reason Why Photoshop Won’t Be Dethroned Anytime Soon.” My Ink Blog: A Resource for all Things Design. Retrieved from http://www.myinkblog.com/one-unexplored-reason-why-photoshop-wont-be-dethroned-anytime-soon/#disqus_thread…...

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...Creative spark talk Analusis Rodrigo Botello PHL/458 April 23, 2015 DOUGLAS PETRIKAT TED known to many as Technology, Entertainment and design is a website that has videos that encourages new ideas and new ways of thinking to user. This website is nonprofit design to spread ideas by short and encouraging talks (TED, 2015) some of the greatest minds of our time such as leaders, Teachers and the greatest thinkers of our time have videos for viewing on this website. While browsing the website I came across a title names Taking Imagination Seriously that was recorded in June of 2011 by creator and Artist Janet Echelman. Janet Echelman is a true inspiration to all the view this video, she saw art in the form of fishnets and made her creations to life. She Mentions in the video that she herself never thought of herself as being an artist in her life. After she has been reject from 7 different art schools she began to paint ten years later on her own. One day she was offer a Fulbright in India where she had the opportunity to have an exhibition of her paintings. When she arrived in India to show off her art in her exhibition she ran into a slight dilemma, her paintings never arrived with her. While trying to come up with a solution to her problem, she stayed in a fishing village that was famous for sculptures. While observing the local she tried to create a bronze casting but realized that creating a sculpture out of bronze would be too costly and heavy to create. One...

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...Creative Spark Talk Analysis PHL 458 August 26, 2014 Creative Spark Talk Analysis In the 2011 TED talks video, “Taking Imagination Seriously,” artist Janet Echelman speaks to a TED audience in Long Beach, California about taking imagination seriously. She relayed her experience about how she creatively came up with an unusual art material after some of her paints disappeared on Fulbright a trip to India. According to G. Walles, a forerunner in creativity theory (Jens, 2010), there are four stages of creativity: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. In the video, Janet illustrates some of the stages of creativity. After arriving in Mahabalipurma, India and discovering her paintings did not make it, Janet was forced to come up with a solution to her problem. Mahabalipurma is well known for their famous sculptures, and in an attempt to resolve the dilemma, Janet demonstrates illumination when she attempts to try bronze casting. However, after realizing that making large forms would be too heavy and expensive, she sought out a different approach. She came up with the idea of using fish nets as a new method to sculpture. The idea came to her while walking on the beach and seeing village fishermen bundle their nets into mounds of sand (Echelman, 2011). She collaborated with the fishermen to make her first sculpture titled “Wide Hips.” Janet utilizes preparation by studying craft traditions and collaborating with artists in Lithuania. She came up with......

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