Subscription vs. Purchase

I just received an offer from Adobe to upgrade from Creative Suite 5 Design Premium to Creative Suite 5.5 for $399 to buy, or $95/month for a year or $139/month, month to month to subscribe. Interesting idea, renting my software, but is it better?

Adobe averages an upgrade about every 1.3 years as best I can figure, some have been faster, like 5 – 5.5 some longer. So if I buy CS5.5 it’s $399, if I subscribe for a year it’s $1140 and if CS6 takes longer than a year to come out it would be more. Obviously if your a designer you know that Adobe Creative Suite is part of what you must have to do your job so subscription really isn’t a benefit. However in some situations subscriptions might be an advantage. I was considering looking into getting an intern and one hang up is a lack of software for them, subscription might be an advantage there.

This deal came in the form of an email. I went to the link and a sales chat popped open and asked if they could help me with my decision. I assume subscription confuses people so Adobe is actively trying to help people with their decision. I went ahead and chatted with them and asked a couple of questions: (This isn’t the whole conversation, just parts that pertain to this post).

Kenton: What does subscription mean?
Adobe: Kenton, purchasing the subscription is like renting the software.
Kenton: So what are the advantages of subscription?
Adobe: If you purchase the monthly subscription you can use it for any number of months and can cancel it when you do not need it.
Kenton: So what is the advantage of owning it?
Adobe: If you own the software, you will be eligible for any future upgrade.
Adobe: Once the latest version is released in future you can just pay the upgrade price and get the latest version.
Adobe: However, if you purchase the subscription, it is not eligible for an upgrade.
Kenton: If I subscribe to to CS5.5 for a year and in 9 Months CS6 comes out, can I subscribe to CS6 at that point and apply the 3 months left on my CS5.5 subscription to CS6?
Adobe: I am sorry, we do not have an option for that.
(Some of the information in this conversation is incorrect, please see the end for a correction from an Adobe Representative)

So it appears if you’re a designer and you must have Adobe Creative Suite to do your job buying it is to your advantage. Your first purchase is a bit painful at over $1000, but once you have it the upgrade prices are easier to take. So keep that in mind when your asking for design school graduation presents.

Subscription based software is a growing phenomenon, I subscribe to the WordPress Theme I use for most of my websites, (iThemes Builder). It will be interesting to see how this changes future of doing business as a designer.


Thanks to Jennifer Kremer from Adobe for posting the correct information in a comment. This makes a lot more sense and makes subscribing much better. Hopefully Jennifer will let the sales support team know there is a little misinformation going out over chat.

Here is some of Jennifer’s comment:
…if you subscribe to CS5.5 now, when CS6 comes out you will automatically get CS6 via your subscription. You can learn more here: