In a move that should surprise no one, Adobe has announced sweeping changes to its Creative Suite software line and year-old Creative Cloud subscription service. Subscription-only sales were announced as company launches updates to all of its Creative Suite tools from Photoshop to Dreamweaver to After Effects.

Adobe is to stop selling 'full' versions of Creative Suite – and its professional creative products will be available in subscription form only through Creative Cloud. At the same time, Adobe has launched upgrades to the products in the Creative Suite — with a new CC suffix, for Creative Cloud. These upgrades to all the current Creative Suite 6 applications are coming on June 17, but they will be available only by subscription to Creative Cloud, not traditional software licenses – effectively marking the end of Creative Suite as a product.

There are some exciting new features in the new tools, though most have been shown previously in a series of sneak peeks earlier this year,

Read our previews of Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC and InDesign CC, After Effects CC and Premiere Pro CC, and Dreamweaver CC and Flash Pro CC.

Ten years after Adobe corralled its disparate creative apps into a cohesive interoperable suite with a common launch date, the company is propelling those apps into its Creative Cloud subscription service. With updated versions of 15 professional creative applications – for photographers, graphic and Web designers, and video and motion graphic artists – Adobe announced the rebranding at its Max 2013 Creativity Conference keynote.

“This is the decision of our company – to focus on Creative Cloud – and it is huge,” said Scott Morris, Adobe's senior marketing director. “It’s an even bigger decision than when we moved to Creative Suite years ago." And it is sure to be controversial. However, Adobe considers the response to its Creative Cloud strategy more than respectable so far, expects some pushback from customers, and is prepared to deal with the fallout.

"In the same way [as Creative Suite], there will be customers who have a hard time with it at first. But today our customers are on Creative Suite – they got over it; they saw the benefit of it; and that’s exactly the type of transition we’re going through.”

Adobe says Creative Cloud has more than half a million paid members, and more than 2 million total members since it launched in April 2012.

With this update, you can store, sync, and share files via Creative Cloud, on the Mac OS, Windows, iOS, and Android platforms and on Behance, an online creative community Adobe purchased last year that is now integrated with Creative Cloud. Behance lets users exhibit work, get feedback, and generate exposure. With Creative Cloud, Adobe seeks to tame chaotic creative workflows and direct communication conduits away from email and Dropbox toward Behance.

This move comes on the heels of Adobe's recent acknowledgement that it will cease selling shrinkwrapped boxes of its creative apps.

You say CS, we say CC

The new software carries a new name. Instead of Photoshop CS and a version number (CS6, for example), it will be Photoshop CC in the new subs-only version. It's unclear at this point whether future updates will adopt a new numbered version system. Apart from the subscription sales system, Adobe Creative Cloud is the same lineup of professional creative art, design, and photography apps that it’s always been – except the subscription adds a significant number of software services designed to transform the Creative Cloud into a creative community.

Adobe spent the last year constructing a detailed road map of its transition from a traditional software company to a collaborative, cloud-based software behemoth serving individual designers, small shops, and enterprise businesses. Adhering to that plan, it rolled out cloud-based updates to various desktop creative software packages, introduced the Web-oriented Edge suite of Tools & Services, and more.

The new lineup also includes some subscription-only desktop apps, such as Muse, plus some companion mobile apps, such as an updated Kuler colour utility. It also includes the Lightroom photo management app — the only Creative Cloud offering that will continue as both a perpetual license and cloud subscription.

Why is Lightroom a special case? Because Adobe makes the distinction between professionals using software for their livelihood and enthusiasts who use it for fun.  “Lightroom is tricky because it falls in between," said Scott. "Lots of consumers use Lightroom, but it’s also used by pro photographers. So we’re treating it both ways."

License phase-out

With this transition, Adobe will quit selling perpetual licenses to new creative suite software packages, but will continue to support Creative Suite 6 for compatibility through the next major upgrades of both Mac and Windows operating systems. Adobe will also continue to make CS6 available as a perpetual software license for an unspecified time, and will provide bug fixes and security updates as necessary.

All CS6 suites and individual products continue to be available via download from the company’s site and select retailers and volume licensing is also available through Adobe authorized resellers. However there will be no further feature development for that version. “We have no plans at this time to update CS6, but for folks who are not ready to give up their perpetual licenses, CS6 and all of its component apps will continue to be available just as they are today. For the forseeable future we have no plans to discontinue them," Morris said.

Adobe is the first company in the creative arena to go the all-cloud route – compared with peers like Autodesk and Quark (though Autodesk's maintenance system means that its products have effecticely been subs-only for a few years).

“Adobe is the sole company that says this is going to be the focus for our traditional desktop tools, and is going full-on cloud,” Scott says.

Cloud-only features

Adobe offers a number of features with its Cloud subscription, such as Sync Fonts, Sync Colors, and Sync Settings, online collaboration, 20GB of cloud storage, Behance, and new training resources that link its cloud services.

With Creative Cloud, Adobe has gone to great lengths to open its software shelf for new users and to introduce new software to larger groups. At one time, it would have been impossible – short of spending hundreds of pounds or camping out at a friend or colleague’s desk – to learn InDesign or Illustrator if users did not own it. With a Creative Cloud subscription, users can download any software package you want. As long as you subscribe, you have the software, which gets updated with new fixes and features automatically. It's no surprise that Adobe emphasizes the educational and collaborative aspects of the subscription to build that kind of interest.

One quick note: just because it's called Creative Cloud does not mean that it operates from the cloud. With a subscription, users download the software to their desktops and install and use it the same way they would an electronic download or boxed purchase.

The deal

Creative Cloud costs £38.12 plus VAT/US$50 per month for individuals based on an annual membership; existing customers who own CS3 through CS5.5 get the first year of Creative Cloud at a discounted £22.22/$30 per month — the same rate as for students and teachers. Promotional pricing is available for some customers, including CS6 users, who can sign up for Creative Cloud for £15.88/$20 a month for the first year. For single-app subscriptions, users can sign up for $10 per month for the first year.

For teams, the Creative Cloud subscription for £53.20/$70 per month per seat includes everything individual members receive plus 100GB of storage and centralized deployment and administration capabilities. Existing customers with a volume license of CS3 or later get the first year for teams at a discount of £38.12/$40 per month per seat if they sign up before the end of August. Single application membership plans for Photoshop CC, are available for $20 per month (UK pricing for this has yet to be confirmed).

Adobe is ready to accommodate customers who may want to use Adobe’s cloud services, but are prohibited for various reasons — mainly government, educational, and enterprise customers who have security or workflow issues. “Along withlaunching all the new products we are also introducing a set of new buying programs for those types of customers. It allows government agencies, large enterprises, and educational institutions to get their hands on all of this new stuff, all the new tools in a ways that’s appropriate for them,” Morris says.

More details about Adobe's Creative Cloud for enterprise and special licensing programs for educational institutions and government are available on Adobe's site.

Additional reporting by Neil Bennett.