Adobe's future plans for Creative Cloud: new ways to sell your work and maybe different subscription bundles

It will be obvious to most long term users of Photoshop, Illustrator or After Effects, but Adobe has changed. The company is no longer a mere developer of products, but a major creative services provider. And now it wants you to be one too.

That's right - it seems that Adobe wants you to create content to sell on Creative Cloud. And it doesn't matter if you create it in all in Illustrator, Photoshop or a Creative Cloud Connected third-party app.

Thanks to the integration of services like TypeKitBehance and now the recently acquired Fotalia, members will be able to create, upload, share and soon sell content on the Creative Cloud. You'll search for and buy content and apps made by other Creative Cloud members or third party developers, as well as look for talent, jobs and training and tips, all on the hosted service. And if you're an enterprise-level subscriber to Adobe's Marketing Cloud, you can track how your content is performing, thanks to tighter integration with assets produced in Creative Cloud.

Such were the messages implicit in a fairly high-level press conference this week, in which Mala Sharma, vice president creative cloud product marketing and business strategy at Adobe took questions fromDigital Arts and others.

During a session that sometimes had us reaching for the bizspeak translator, certain other facts became apparent: the Creative Cloud membership drive is working; the strategy is focussing on how and why content is being creating and how it is being delivered; and Adobe is rather relaxed about any competition for its products.

Subscription rules

The money Adobe is making from Creative Cloud, as well as the uptake in paying subscribers, would suggest that the strategy has been a massive success. “In less than two years we've gone from practically no Creative Cloud members to over 3.4 million paying [subscribers],” said Sharma. “If you look at that from a revenue perspective it's almost $2 billion by the end of the last quarter of 2014.”

“This growth is staggering and unprecedented in the industry and it's expected to continue. For the 2015 financial year we expect to reach 5.9 million paying members and $3billion in revenue.”

So while some might baulk at having to pay a not-insignificant fee every month to use products that they used to be able to buy a perpetual licence for, with those figures Adobe isn't likely to want to switch back.

You are free to complain about it though - it seemed to work for the very vocal photography community who now have a specialised membership plan - and Sharma seemed to indicate during a Q&A that further subscriber segmentation might be on the cards.

“In our interviews with photographers we recognised that they had different needs,” she explained. “They were not just looking for desktop applications like Photoshop and Lightroom, but also systems that would connect them to a mobile device, that would enable them to share their content with products like Adobe Voice.”

“Creating a fine-tuned offering for individual customer segments is what Creative Cloud enables,” she continued. “Our platform allows us to learn very quickly what applications and services are most relevant to our customers. As we find opportunities, we will keep tuning and delivering very focussed solutions - that's absolutely the intention.”

Healthy competition

You also have the choice to not sign up to Creative Cloud at all and switch to another brand completely, perhaps some of the alternatives we featured earlier this year.

When we put this in a question to Mala Sharma, that high-quality competitor products to Creative Cloud applications were on the increase, with their developers making a big deal about the fact they are offered on a perpetual licence, she seemed unperturbed.

“Competition is not new to Adobe,” Sharma replied. “We've had a lot of small and very large corporations who have competed with us in a very healthy way. Philosophically we welcome competition because it pushes us to want to innovate. We have a great track record of innovation over the past twenty-five years and we have an incredibly agile platform that allows us to get that innovation rapidly to our customers. But that's not all Creative Cloud is about.”

Sharma continued, “What Creative Cloud is really about is creating a connected network.  Not about a single point offering or a single service, but how all of that connects to bring a [sense] of frictionless creativity. It's about being able to grab a colour on your mobile when you're on the train and bring that colour into your creative process when you get back to your desktop. It's about being able to get fonts from our font service and use them respectively on your mobile app or website."

"The hidden sauce in all this is the assets and the frictionless way in which they can travel across mobile, tablet, and desktop applications," she said "It's about the integration of your mobile and your desktop applications, so that you can continue the creative process wherever you desire. So this platform that we are building is where the difference [to competitors] lies.”

Sharma added that with the Creative SDK, released last year, Adobe was in fact giving away its technology. “We are saying what is more important is that there's a connected creative process here. If you find our solutions are less than positive, have at it. Take our innovation of the last 25 years and build your offering on top of Creative Cloud, because that's where the creative economy wins and that's where our customers win.”

Market trends

Mobile has obviously been the big driver for change in the content creation market, and in a look at trends, Sharma said it was creating a massive shift and impact on the way consumers interact with and engage with content.

“What that means for companies and creative professionals is that they have to transform themselves to change the ways that they deliver content, and the kind of content that they have to deliver, “ she added. “Every company is vying with each other to create content and engage with their users. 'Content velocity' has become a significant trend and an imperative for companies that are in the space of engaging customers and driving their business through engagement."

Sharma also discussed opportunities from an enterprise-level perspective, following Adobe moves towards bringing Creative Cloud and the Adobe Marketing Cloud together. She explained that technologies in the Marketing Cloud are able to track where assets created in Creative Cloud are being delivered and how effectively they are performing.

Another trend Sharma focussed on was the 'sharing economy'. “This has gone from nothing three or four years ago to a $10billion industry today,” she explained. “It's all about how creative individuals can use their spare time, spare skill sets or spare capacity to make more money and drive the economy towards individual contributions.”

“It's a new trend which we're extremely excited about being part of,” she added. “We're attempting to drive the trend as part of a creative perspective. It's where the Fotalia acquisition comes into play.”

"Take our innovation of the last 25 years and build your offering on top of Creative Cloud, because that's where the creative economy wins and that's where our customers win.”

A key driver in Creative Cloud strategy has been customer focus, explained Sharma, namely through the introduction of the Creative Profile and the incorporation of online portfolio network Behance.

"The Creative Profile should be thought of as the representation of your creativity within the world," said Sharma. "This is about what you created - your public profile, your private collection and having all of that accessible to you where you work."

“Behance enables Creative Cloud members to gain feedback from the community, learn from the community and frankly be discovered within the community and find opportunities,” she stated. “The Fotalia and TypeKit acquisitions in conjunction with the Behance platform all come together to enable creatives to access content to enrich what they are creating, but more to the point, they change their relationship with us by becoming both buyers and suppliers of this content."

She added, “This is probably the most valuable shift, the one I feel most excited about from the Creative Cloud platform perspective. It's not just about innovation, it's about changing our relationship and helping infuse the creative economy.”

Opportunity shared

As for the future development of its own applications, Sharma was rather less forthcoming on details, only promising that users will continue to see innovations where Adobe identifies opportunities. “I think you will see a lot of innovation from us on mobile platforms, particularly where desktop and mobile come together,” she said.

Sharma added, “What I'm personally most excited about is what we'll bring with the integration of Fotalia into the Creative Cloud. Stay tuned, as we finalise our plans. There is an opportunity for us to enable our customers to improve the creative process, to make it frictionless, having content at your fingertips, available wherever you work.”

“In the context of the sharing economy, this will really start changing our relationship with our customers, where they can participate in the Creative Cloud by contributing to it and benefitting as a result.”

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