Changes to Lightroom Licensing: Adobe’s Other Shoe Drops

Lightroom Classic-1.jpg

Adobe created a tempest in a teapot when they announced the subscription plans for most Adobe applications. Due to the heavy resistance amongst photographers, they crafted a special plan, at a very tempting rate, that offered just Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for $9.99 per month. That was enough to mollify many photogs, and over time, some of those who dragged their feet initially have joined this custom subscription plan. Life moved on.

However, I still run into photographers, ones who think nothing of buying the latest premium lens or camera body, who are still in the “I want to buy it, and own it forever” camp. Forever isn’t actually forever, but the sentiment is still the same. One very advanced photographer/videographer recently told me that he’s fine with his now-outdated purchased copy of Lightroom, and that it seems Adobe is going to continue supporting new cameras for it, so that’s all he needs.

Enter AdobeMAX 2017. Amongst the spectacle and the visual fireworks, came the announcement of this year’s product lineup, which contained a few fireworks of its own. The for-purchase version of Lightroom will no longer be updated, and at some point in the near future will not longer be sold. Anyone paying attention would have realized that this other shoe was bound to drop before much longer, so in that sense, this is not surprising.

On the other hand, it is inevitable that those who have been making do with the now outdated standalone software would be upset, and a second hullabaloo would ensue. I’m sure Adobe has been expecting it, though certainly not looking forward to it, just as they were well prepared for the initial explosion when the subscription model was introduced. I can envision their experts warning them to hunker down, weather it, not respond to incendiary posts, and all would be for the best in the long run.

I’ve read my share of those incendiary posts, and they have been educational, both in expressing other views on the process, and in highlighting the pain-points in the transition.

One thing that came into focus while reading them was that there was a similar sea-change made, not that long ago; not by Adobe, but by Apple. Remember when Final Cut turned into Final Cut X, with an interface borrowed from Apple’s consumer product, iMovie? And a number of critical features were suddenly missing? Well, that’s not so different from Adobe’s new version of Lightroom CC, which is simplified, offers some web advantages, and has been provided with a much larger cloud storage limit, but which has many limitations not present in the previous version of Lightroom CC.

If the Final Cut model is followed, eventually some of those features will be reinstituted, but its important to think about why both these companies made changes that they were aware would upset their user-base. In both cases, a larger audience was developing, one outside the current professional base; one that needed an easier interface and other simplifications. And the answer, in both cases, was a new, simpler to use application.

But what of the old user-base? In Apple’s case, some hung on, and regained needed feature over time, but many migrated upsteam, to Adobe’s products, to differentiate themselves from the new amateur users. In the case of Lightroom CC, there is no crisis here, the previous application has not (at least at this point in time) been discontinued; it has simply been renamed.

We could ponder the psychology of the quick switch Adobe has pulled: a new, reduced feature, cloud-centric app with the name of the old app: Lightroom CC. And a new, less than flattering name, for the previous app: Lightroom Classic. We’ll hope that the new Lightroom CC will not suffer the fate of the New Coke, but that example is not without value, because Coca-Cola’s method of walking back the failure of New Coke was to introduce a product… wait for it… called: Coke Classic.

Clearly Adobe needed the full strength of the plain, unadjusted Lightroom CC name for the new product. And just as clearly they needed to create a perception that the previous product, with its more advanced feature set, was not an innately superior option, so could not be called Lightroom Plus, Lightroom Pro, or anything else that implied a lack in the new cloud-based version. So, the professional photographers, in addition to all the other indignities they have suffered in the declining pro photo market, were saddled with Lightroom Classic. I can almost envision a tag line to go with it “Lightrooom Classic, for the Good Old Boys.”

So what does this all mean to the good old boys? Those currently paying their $9.99 subscription price each month can pretty much ignore the new Lightroom CC, continue using The Real Lightroom, as well as Photoshop, store their huge hoard of images locally, take care of their own remote backups, and in general, do what they have been doing for the last few years. It will all work the same way it always has… at least until Adobe drops the next shoe.

Those using older, purchased, versions of Lightroom will hear the loud ticking of the clock; they are already missing some nice, recent tools, and soon they won’t have new camera support, so things will break at some point. Forcing them to join the $9.99 subscription program (still a bargain), and use what will now be called “Lightroom Classic”, which will work with all their libraries and images, and offer a few new tools. Not such a huge trauma, after all.

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