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Adobe's Strange Software Giveaway: Goof, Or Clever Marketing? 385

Posted by timothy
from the all-leaks-look-like-plants dept.
dryriver writes "Yesterday, Adobe put up a mysterious webpage from which its now seven-year-old CS2 line of products (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Premiere and others) could be freely downloaded by anyone. The page even included valid serial numbers that will unlock the CS2 apps for anyone who wants to. This strange 'giveaways' page at Adobe.com quickly went viral on the internet after a few tech bloggers reported on it. An Adobe spokesman said initially that the CS2 downloads are for existing owners of Adobe CS2 software only, who may not be able to activate their software anymore, due to the CS2 activation servers having been shut down by Adobe. But the internet at large took this webpage as meaning 'Free Adobe CS2 Software for Everyone,' which was probably not what Adobe had in mind. It seems that at this point, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded their 'free' CS2 products and installed them, and started using them. So Adobe is in a bit of a PR pinch now because of this — Do you tell all the thousands of people who have downloaded CS2 products in the last 48 hours that 'you cannot use these products without paying us'? Or do you accept that hundreds of thousands of people now have free access to seven year old Adobe CS2 products, and try to encourage some of them to 'upgrade to the new CS6 products'?"
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Adobe's Strange Software Giveaway: Goof, Or Clever Marketing?

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  • If they are smart... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaemonDan (2773445) <dan@demonarchives.com> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:09PM (#42520393) Homepage
    They'll try to turn it into a marketing strategy, with constant reminders to update to a newer version every time you open your "free" version.
    • by pbhj (607776) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:12PM (#42520433) Homepage Journal

      I don't actually find a problem with that; if someone gives me a piece of free-gratis software and it has a simply click-through nag screen then that seems reasonable to me.

      Surely that would be the only point to such a promotion for a corporation, give people chance to become accustomed to Adobe products and encourage them to upgrade to a paid install.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      The binaries are already out there. I've already downloaded mine. It doesn't contact an activation server. How would it prompt me?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:49PM (#42520999) Journal

      They'll try to turn it into a marketing strategy, with constant reminders to update to a newer version every time you open your "free" version.

      I suspect that their problem is that CS2 is more than adequate for most people who haven't already upgraded to CS5 or 6(in particular, it should curb-stomp any version of "Photoshop Elements" which Adobe doesn't exactly give away...

      Adobe does add some interesting features with each new revision(their software engineering people are exactly as good as you'd expect, given the sordid histories of things like Flash and Acrobat Reader; but they have some genuinely interesting machine vision/image processing people); but a lot of the core tools don't change too much, both because there isn't too much to change and because the Pro users get touchy.

      It probably won't hit existing CS5/6 customers hard; but allowing free CS2 into the wild will murder 'Elements' and make upselling harder.

      • by dhalsim2 (626618) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:30PM (#42521729)

        I've been following the events closely and was trying to figure out how this will affect the industry. What has gone down is clearly a goof, not a marketing plan. Some say that it will help sales of CS5/6; others say it will hurt them. My best estimate is that the net effect on CS5/6 sales will be close to zero. However, as parent stated, if Adobe doesn't walk back their "permission" to use CS2, they have effectively killed off Elements. PS has the much higher price tag, but I'm sure that Adobe makes much more money off of Elements due to volume.

        Elements: dead
        Paint.net: dead
        GIMP: dead on Windows
        any other photo-editing software already struggling to survive: dead

        Aside from PS, the other big release was Acrobat 8 Pro. This is really bad for Adobe, too, as there are no free, _usable_ tools for creating PDFs. Acrobat 8 Pro has everything most people would need to create PDFs, so this particular goof will definitely hurts sales of the modern version.

        Adobe is between a rock and a hard spot: kill major sources of revenue or take on a PR nightmare. If I were them, I think I'd take on the PR nightmare instead of losing Elements and Acrobat. Let's see how this plays out.

        • by filthpickle (1199927) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:45PM (#42521989)
          I think that the niche that Paint.net fills is still there...even if PS cs2 is free (still up in the air). I could have warez'd photoshop whenever I wanted before this...it just wasn't worth it. Paint.net does everything I need a photo editor to do. I am sure there are plenty of people that it doesn't work for...I am also sure that there are plenty that are the same as I am.
          • It's a bit lightweight, and weirdly noncompliant with certain UI conventions of Windows; but I've always been impressed by how fast Paint.net is. Not quite as fast as paint; but far faster than Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or GIMP. If you just need to pop an image open and do a quick fix, that really matters.

          • I have paint.net on my work computer. It's rare that I need to do that kind of stuff at work, but when it is necessary, paint.net is a perfect tool and I never find myself actually wishing I had PS.

            I also suggest/install paint.net for people who need to do some image editing. It's a great tool that does everything most people need, has a TINY file size compared to the mammoth of PS, is 100% free, and is easy for people to understand because they think it is just an upgraded version of Paint.

            I just wish

          • by mysidia (191772)

            I could have warez'd photoshop whenever I wanted before this...it just wasn't worth it.

            Not worth it, because of the difficulty of doing it, or not worth doing something illegal and unethical?

            The value prop changes a bit, if Adobe is making it available.

        • by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:55PM (#42522157)

          Paint.net and GIMP dead? HUH?

          • by Vreejack (68778)

            This was my response. GIMP works great for me and has an update every time I check. Why is he calling it dead?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              The most recent GIMP release lacks important high-end photography features that even ancient CS2 has: native high bit depths, layer groups, and proper blending modes. Full GEGL support will bring these features to GIMP 2.10, but GIMP developers have a habit of rarely communicating their release schedules to the public, and also a habit of missing release dates. I'd be very surprised if 2.10 is released this year.

              • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @05:26PM (#42524263)

                > The most recent GIMP release lacks important high-end photography features that even ancient CS2 has:

                I concur 100%! I have a .PSD file I created back in ~2006 and sadly GIMP 2.8 _still_ can't open it properly. Every year it gets a little closer though!

                GIMP 2.8 is still incomplete / broken WRT:

                * nested layer groups is partially broken - doesn't show Layer Effects as sub-groups
                * no native Layer Styles (FX Blend Modes) - they still don't properly work when loading a .PSD file that uses them
                    see: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/photoshop/cs/using/WSfd1234e1c4b69f30ea53e41001031ab64-789ba.html [adobe.com]
                * no native option to set the default hotkeys to Photoshop
                * stupid English name

                Note: While GIMP has a layer blend modes that PS lacks, namely: Subtraction, Grain Merge, Grain Extract, Value) that is not the same as the Layer Styles.

                Basically this page lists all the ways that GIMP functionality is lacking compared to PS.
                http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/03/8-handy-tweaks-to-make-gimp-replace-photoshop/ [smashingmagazine.com]

                The fact that you GIMP doesn't work out-of-the-box the same way PS does and you need half a dozen plugins to get the equivalent functionality already built into PS CS2 tells me that GIMP is still immature.

                Hoping one day GIMP will become a viable PS replacement.

                References:
                Blending Modes supported in PS and GIMP
                * http://emptyeasel.com/2008/10/31/explaining-blending-modes-in-photoshop-and-gimp-multiply-divide-overlay-screen/ [emptyeasel.com]

    • if we're smart, we download and save them, before they disapear.

      Adobe Audition is what Cool Edit became.

      Cool Edit 2.0 is still very usable software 12 years later, and so is the classic cool edit 96
  • The latter. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:12PM (#42520439) Homepage Journal
    Adobe's creative suite has always had high piracy rates due to their high prices. Like Office, poor version compatibility and deliberately breaking file formats is standard operating procedure; otherwise no one would ever upgrade Illustrator or Photoshop, and the company would be out of business already.
    • Poor version compatibility? Sure, like many, many other software titles (not just Office), but Photoshop's default when saving is to maximize compatibility. I bought the Production Premium Suite when it first came out (and have used Photoshop since version 3 back in the 90s) and have continued to update as they added features that would enhance my workflow.
    • Re:The latter. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kimgkimg (957949) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:25PM (#42520647)
      It's like what Bill Gates said:

      "And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

      Seemed like a good move considering they're having to deal with market erosion from things like Paint.NET and GIMP.

      • Re:The latter. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brett Buck (811747) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @03:31PM (#42522689)

        the only good thing about GIMP is that it's free. Otherwise it's torturous to use. No way is it a real competition to photoshop (which is slightly less torturous) Yes, I know I could go in and help fix it but my first step would be to delete all the code.

                Brett

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jest3r (458429)

      I'd say they have high piracy because after you purchase your first upgrade you realize Adobe's ripping you off ... and you don't want to keep giving them money for new version which basically amount to bug fixes.

      - I remember Photoshop CS ... mostly how buggy it was ...
      - Then getting excited about upgrading to CS2 ...
      - After upgrading to CS2 realizing it did not offer anything new really ... smart objects but not much else compared to CS ...
      - Mucho money spent over multiple version with only minor increment

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Admiral Llama (2826)

        Says you. Adobe Lightroom is easily worth every penny.

      • Adobe has run out of compelling new features to add their main line of products. Sure, there are new bells and whistles in every new release of Photoshop and Illustrator, but the CS2 versions (and even a couple versions back from that) will let you achieve the same results as the CS6 results, just maybe with a little more work. It's not their fault, really; it's the quandary of having a mature set of products. So pretty the main reason anyone upgrades these apps anymore is because they no longer work (or

      • Re:The latter. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:10PM (#42521393) Homepage Journal
        I think it was CS4 (or maybe CS5?) when Adobe added progress bars for every possible operation. That was pretty welcome from my perspective when it comes to working with really large or complex documents, although CS4 also stamped out any semblance of a standard UI and replaced everything with its weird hybrid iTunes-menu-titlebar/Vista nonsense. CS6 has finally made this new UI at least usable (you can adjust its brightness), although bizarrely Illustrator CS5 supported that, too, revealing how fractured the Adobe development teams really are when you get under the hood.
    • Re:The latter. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by war4peace (1628283) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:38PM (#42520839)

      I'd say the target for Adobe isn't the regular user, and never was. The target is comprised of companies which are involved in graphical design, artists and the like. It's pretty easy to cross-check an artist's name (publicly displayed) with whether they have bought an Adobe license and then engage them to see how can they go legal in case they are using Adobe products.
      My gut feeling is that Adobe messed up. It wasn't intentional.

      • That's a pretty solid point too, and one I considered making. Adobe views the typical small-time private user as (more or less) a loss; that's why they have Photoshop Elements as a whole separate product. Corporate-scale piracy has never been a very good idea.
      • Re:The latter. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:23PM (#42521615) Homepage

        "It's pretty easy to cross-check an artist's name (publicly displayed) with whether they have bought an Adobe license and then engage them to see how can they go legal in case they are using Adobe products."

        You're assuming that licenses are registered using the same name the artist uses professionally. A freelancer might use the name of the LLC that they formed for tax/liability purposes. The non-creative tech guy for a large firm might put his own name in. For that matter, you're assuming that artists consistently have their name legibly attached to all of their published work; if it's freelance work-for-hire (a huge portion of Adobe's user base), that's actually pretty unlikely.

    • Re:The latter. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:53PM (#42521057) Homepage

      Even if I had the money to burn I wouldn't install it because of the terrible system-invading DRM. Another case of the Pirate Bay version being better quality than the official release.

    • When it comes to the Creative Suite (especially Photoshop and Illustrator), Adobe has been really good about actually giving you value for your money. Sure they break compatibility, but that's because they give you new features that you actually use all the time. The bad thing about these features is that techniques that retouchers used to charge $100/hour for and work on a photo for 14 hours now takes someone who has zero experience 20 minutes to accomplish, so it's ruining the industry... but at the same

      • Actually, the Office formats have been changing in ways not entirely different from the Adobe formats. 2007 introduced a lot of style features for objects like transparency, shadows, and blurring, which are rendered on the fly like Photoshop layer effects, and those have undergone enhancements in 2010 and 2013. There's very little appreciation for how powerful Office is as a composition engine. (And despite how awful OOXML is as a format, at least it's in XML and not a cruddy binary any more, so as a matter
  • Goof. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bieeanda (961632) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:13PM (#42520443)
    http://forums.adobe.com/message/4974662#4974662 [adobe.com]

    It's 'free' for people with currently active subscriptions to the product, not every Tom, Dale, and Hates the Gimp, alas.

    • Re:Goof. (Score:5, Informative)

      by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:51PM (#42521023) Homepage

      From the EULA:
      "2. Software License. If you obtained the Software from Adobe or one of its authorized licensees and as long as you comply with the terms of this agreement, Adobe grants you a non-exclusive license to use the Software in the manner and for the purposes described in the Documentation, as further set forth below."

      There was an official Adobe download page that also lists all the serial numbers, and makes no mention of any other terms on that page. I'd say that satisfies the above term.

      And now, you don't even need an Adobe ID to download - they've since removed even that restriction.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Their online discussion now says:
        "36. Community Admin,
        Jan 7, 2013 5:52 PM
        Effective December 13, Adobe disabled the activation server for CS2 products and Acrobat 7 because of a technical glitch. These products were released over 7 years ago and do not run on many modern operating systems. But to ensure that any customers activating those old versions can continue to use their software, we issued a serial number directly to those customers. While this might be interpreted as Adobe giving away software for f

      • Re:Goof. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:20PM (#42521541)

        Except that they have official statements on the forum stating that you are NOT legally entitled to use the software unless you had previously purchased it from them.

        "found a download on their site" isnt "obtained a license".

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      It's 'free' for people with currently active subscriptions to the product, not every Tom, Dale, and Hates the Gimp, alas.

      From further down on that same message board, from the "Community Admin" staff account:

      Effective December 13, Adobe disabled the activation server for CS2 products and Acrobat 7 because of a technical glitch. These products were released over 7 years ago and do not run on many modern operating systems. But to ensure that any customers activating those old versions can continue to use t

  • Reality check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:16PM (#42520495) Homepage

    Millions of people are already illegally using more recent versions of the CS suite.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:16PM (#42520499)

    Adobe has been used practically as a case study of the side-effects of piracy to ensure their lock-in. Students pirate Photoshop/CS because they can't afford it, and when they get into the workforce employers suddenly have legions of employees who know how to use Photoshop/CS, making it an attractive choice for licensing because nobody has to be trained. Thus Photoshop/CS continues its reign as the de facto standard, and Adobe gets to set their rates to target the businesses with money without having to worry about the hobbyist market (which is notoriously fickle on legal purchasing of software anyway).

    The higher-ups (or the middle-ups) probably saw that the time was right to spike that userbase a bit, that's all.

    • That is how all big ticket item software should be. It is not a lost sale when a 99% of the people can't afford it.
    • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:04PM (#42521269)

      Adobe has been used practically as a case study of the side-effects of piracy to ensure their lock-in. Students pirate Photoshop/CS because they can't afford it, and when they get into the workforce employers suddenly have legions of employees who know how to use Photoshop/CS, making it an attractive choice for licensing because nobody has to be trained. Thus Photoshop/CS continues its reign as the de facto standard, and Adobe gets to set their rates to target the businesses with money without having to worry about the hobbyist market (which is notoriously fickle on legal purchasing of software anyway).

      The higher-ups (or the middle-ups) probably saw that the time was right to spike that userbase a bit, that's all.

      The fact that adobe's products are usually superior to their competition (such as GIMP or paint.net vs photoshop) has nothing to do with it, right?

      If your theory were correct, then Pro Tools would not rule the audio world - Adobe Audition or some other free or less expensive software would. Pro Tools has much greater copy protection mechanisms and is not frequently pirated while (as you have pointed out) CS is. Yet somehow Pro Tools is still the de facto standard. If you search for comparisons of the two you will find many comments from professionals even indicating that protools is inferior yet is the one to use. Just as photoshop is a de facto standard for image editing despite high prices, so is Pro Tools for audio. In both cases I would submit that it is because each was vastly superior to their competition for a very long time. In both cases, as time has gone on the competing software has come close to matching the capabilities of the leader.

      My point is that your assertion that Adobe leads image editing due to high rates of piracy is not accurate. There are other far more obvious reasons for things to be the way they are.

      Cheers to adobe for supporting customers who previously paid for a product and still want to use it rather than forcing those customers to upgrade. Other software firms could take a lesson in this regard.

  • Not on modern Macs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtseng (4054) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:21PM (#42520575)

    It's made for PowerPC Macs, so the rest of us using Intel Macs are out of luck. :(

    • by dfn5 (524972)

      It's made for PowerPC Macs, so the rest of us using Intel Macs are out of luck. :(

      You're only out of luck if you want to pirate it natively on your Mac as a Mac App. One still has the option of running it on a pirated Windows XP under a pirated VMWare Fusion.

    • by Kenja (541830)
      Well... you CAN run these on a modern mac so long as you use an older version of OSX that still has the PPC emulation layer in it.
      • by kthreadd (1558445)
        A Mac can not run a version of the OS older than the latest and greatest version which was available when the Mac was announced. If it came with 10.7 then most likely 10.6 will not run on it.
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Unless you use a version of OS X with Rosetta installed. CS2 worked fairly OK, albeit a bit slow in that setup.

    • by gravis777 (123605)

      Simply download the PC version and run it in Parallels.

  • I don't get it. If the serial numbers unlock the applications what is the relevance of the activation servers being off? When someone downloads this stuff and uses those SN do they get a fully working copy of an obsolete version of Adobe software or not?

    • by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:54PM (#42521077) Homepage

      They turned off the activation servers, and had to release an activation-free copy of the software to continue supporting original purchasers of CS2. The proper thing to do. It's just that they accidentally made the download links available to everyone.

  • Damn, Framemaker isn't there :(

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:36PM (#42520799)

    What is this Adobe thing on my computer? I see updates for it more than I use it!

  • It'll be interesting to see if they've introduced enough new features since cs2 to make people want to upgrade and what those costs will be, an upgrade is A LOT cheaper than a full version, but... they'd be losing money upgrading from free cs2 to upgrade version of cs5.

    I'm thinking only advanced users can really benefit from the upgrade as I remember cs2 and it had most of the basic features found in today's cs5.
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      You wouldn't qualify for an upgrade from CS2. With the activation servers off, they can't even validate your license to CS2, and you don't have a valid activate-able product key anyway. There's no such thing as an upgrade install that doesn't verify your eligibility (unlike Windows).

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        In fact, I'm not even sure if I can use my CS3 upgrade media anymore, since there's no way to validate it as an upgrade. Probably have to do a phone activation - if they can even manually override it. They need the activation servers to verify the CS2 key over the phone, too.

  • Windows 7 64bit (Score:4, Informative)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:46PM (#42520957)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:10PM (#42521381)

    If it was a real problem, they would have at least pulled the download links. However, a day later, you can still download everything. Obviously, not a mistake.

  • by jeti (105266) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:33PM (#42521793) Homepage

    If you need some legal photo editing software at your company, but it's not justifiable to buy Photoshop, you can now use this old version for free. That kills the competition with cheaper products. And if at some point you need something more powerful than this old version, you're probably going to buy a new version of PhotoShop instead of learning to use a new software.

    • by Scorpinox (479613)

      I'm in exactly this situation right now. I was trained in Adobe Creative Suite at my old job, and started a new job this week at a ~8 person company that has no licenses for expensive software like this. I've been worrying about asking them to spend so much on a license just so I can be comfortable, but if this pans out, I'll be able to use an old version until I can justify to the new company that we should spend the money on the latest version.

      I'm still going to hold off until I'm sure it's legal to use

  • by rs1n (1867908) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @03:22PM (#42522539)
    As of 2:00pm EST it seems the links are still available. I even downloaded and installed the programs to see if they actually work, and they do (only tested Acrobat Pro). Anyway, I have uninstalled it seeing as how I only use Adobe's products to read PDF files, and there are newer versions with security updates via their free Reader.

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