Thursday, 25 July 2013

Acrobat Plus

Today Adobe announces Acrobat Plus - a subscription bundle for Acrobat Pro XI and some of the Acrobat.com services. You're forgiven for not noticing, as it's a soft release - no big splash on the Adobe.com homepage or the Acrobat product pages, just on Acrobat.com.

Big headline stuff before you start making crayzeeee assumptions:


  1. It's a subscription bundle - there's no new software in it
  2. This absolutely positively IS NOT a new version of Acrobat.
  3. It's also nothing to do with Acrobat.com Plus (which still exists in theory, more on that in a moment).
  4. This has NOTHING to do with Creative Cloud.

Acrobat Plus offers the following, for a monthly subscription of $19.95 US:
  • Acrobat XI Pro
  • CreatePDF
  • ExportPDF
  • FormsCentral
  • 100GB storage on files.acrobat.com
  • Adobe Reader*
There's a bunch of caveats to think about:
  • It's initially only available on Windows (can't get the subscription system for OS X to work - that will hopefully follow very soon).
  • It's only for customers in the US, UK and Canada right now. More to follow, no timescales announced, no idea why.
  • Only the English version of Acrobat XI Pro is supplied, sorry to French Canadians and the Welsh.
  • * I have no idea why Adobe claim that Reader is part of the subscription, it's not. IT'S FREE TO EVERYONE. Akin to saying "rent this car for only $19.95 including the air inside the glove compartment".

Delving a little deeper, this bundle of Acrobat/com services may not make sense to existing Acrobat users (and indeed it's not intended for you, so move along now...), equally if you have the full Creative Cloud it makes very little sense to get this too. There is a target customer, but I'm not entirely sure if you exist.

CreatePDF and ExportPDF were invented for Adobe Reader users who wanted to convert documents to and from PDF but who didn't have Acrobat available. They are no substitute for Acrobat and both the formats they can ingest and the results of the conversion are often poorer - so it seems strange for Adobe to be offering them in the bundle. The argument, apparently, is for those rare occasions when you're stuck on someone else's computer without access to any software of any meaningful use, and absolutely have to convert a file to or from PDF. Remember, these subscriptions are for the desktop/browser version of the service, not the mobile apps.

The old "Workspaces" system on acrobat.com is not included in the plan. Workspaces are very powerful, but have been sidelined by Adobe. Now in the past, people who used Workspaces a lot (and I'm one of them) could subscribe to the 'Acrobat.com Plus' plan and get 100GB of storage for $32.50/month. That subscription still exists, but you won't find anyone inside Adobe HQ talking about it anymore - not least because I've just confused the hell out of you with two services, both containing the words "Acrobat" and "Plus". Don't buy Acrobat.com Plus from that link - just don't. I'm not saying it'll be killed off, but I'm not not. Capiche?

EchoSign and SendNow are not included either, despite Adobe's frantic push to get everyone using EchoSign, the infrastructure to rent it as part of a bundle isn't there. SendNow isn't included because... well just because.

There's much talk about subscribers to Adobe products getting access to 'upgrades and updates'. Let's get this clear - Acrobat is not part of the Creative business unit, it remains on the perpetual 18-month-ish release cycle and there will not be a special version for subscribers. Yes, customers who rent via Creative Cloud or Acrobat Plus will get Acrobat XII automatically when it's released, but that's a long way off. Updates (patches and bug fixes) are provided free to every customer, period. You are not jumping the queue by renting Acrobat, you're just gambling that the subscription fees will be less than the upgrade cost for a perpetual license.

So is it good value?

Compared to the current US prices for each service in isolation, where they exist:

ServiceMonthly feeAnnual fee
Acrobat XI Pro(1)$ 29.99$ 239.88
FormsCentral$ 14.99(2)$ 198.96(3)
CreatePDF$ 9.99$ 90.00
ExportPDF$ 1.66(4)$ 19.99

(1) Yes, you can already rent Acrobat, outside of Creative Cloud - in any language and on Windows or Mac. However in the countries where Acrobat Plus is released, the ability to rent Acrobat in isolation outside of CC will be removed.
(2) Basic plan, monthly contract only
(3) Plus plan, annual contract only
(4) There is no monthly plan because it's so cheap

The free version of files.acrobat.com (available to anyone who registers) has 2GB of storage. Many other cloud hosting services are available (e.g. 100GB on SkyDrive costs $4.20/month). Bear in mind that the ethos behind files.acrobat.com was to transfer PDF documents between Acrobat and Reader on the desktop, and the Adobe Reader Mobile app. Yes you can upload a couple of other things, but it's NOT a general purpose cloud storage solution. If you have 100GB of PDF files in your personal collection that you need constant access to on your iPhone (and they have to be yours, as Acrobat Plus isn't available for teams) then I'd love to meet you and the unicorn you ride to work.

In contrast...what do you get via Creative Cloud?
Acrobat XI Pro through Adobe Creative Cloud (single app personal license) is $19.95 per month. None of the Acrobat.com services are available through CC, but you get 20GB of storage on creative.adobe.com, and the free flavors of the acrobat.com services are open to anyone with an AdobeID. Acrobat is not available on the new Creative Cloud for Teams plan, that's restricted to the genuine CC applications.


So, if you want to rent Acrobat and don't want any of the Creative Cloud bundled features (Behance, etc) or you're really wedded to FormsCentral, it's worth going for Acrobat Plus as you'll in effect be getting FormsCentral for free. You'll never need 100GB of space and probably won't use CreatePDF and ExportPDF enough to warrant paying for them, but hey - you're getting them free too.

Or don't rent. Acrobat remains available as a perpetually-licensed product outside of any subscription plan, and it's staying that way.

2 comments:

  1. So, I realize this is an old post, but I am curious about your statement, "Acrobat remains available as a perpetually-licensed product outside of any subscription plan, and it's staying that way. " I hope so--I called Adobe to ask them this very question, and they implied otherwise (granted, the people I talked with didn't seem particularly knowledgeable). I'm actually trying to figure out whether to spring for Acrobat now or wait for Acrobat 12 (I have it at work, but it would be convenient to have it at home). Anyway, if Acrobat 12 is going to be perpetually licensed, I'll wait--can you tell us why you are so confident about Acrobat licensing?

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  2. Acrobat may be included within the Creative Cloud subscription package but it's not managed by the CC business unit within Adobe. As with other non-CC products (such as Lightroom and the Elements range) a large number of customers cannot or will not follow a subscription model - for example large corporate or government Acrobat users whose machines are not connected to the Internet - and so it has to remain available as a perpetually-licensed product as well as through subscriptions. Will that situation still be true in 20 years? Nobody can say. Is it true today? Yes.

    As to the next version of Acrobat, whether you should wait or not depends entirely on the features you use now, and if the new version offers something that you think is worth the investment. Naturally I can't say anything specific about what may or may not be coming in the next product cycle, but bear in mind that the target customer for the Acrobat Family is nervous about major changes (costs of staff retraining, etc.) so looking at the past couple of versions you can see that the evolution is gradual.

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