Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

A cloud-centric software licence

Posted on 25 July 2011 19 comments

Article illustration for A cloud-centric software licence

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a cloud-centric Mac set-up, spurred on by the rumours that suggested new Apple hardware was on its way. The new iMacs appeared soon after and finally, last Wednesday, so did the new MacBook Airs. (I say ‘finally’ because if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know how much I’ve been tweeting links to just about every new Air rumour there is!) This morning, I put in my order for the new gear.

As I wrote in the aforementioned blog post, the principle at the core of this two-machine set-up is having almost everything synced in the cloud via Dropbox. (Many people have asked me if I still have faith in Dropbox after last month’s authentication bug, but yes, I do. There’s nothing stored in my Dropbox that’s particularly sensitive.) However, one thing that is going to be a bit of a pain is the Adobe Creative Suite software licence, which only allows CS to be installed on two machines. With Sam using CS on her 13" MBP, our two-machine limit has already been reached.

Some would argue that if I’m using CS on three machines, then I should rightfully buy an additional licence, but the trouble with that is that my new iMac-and-Air set-up is still essentially only one machine; I would never be using both at the same time.

And this is why Adobe simply don’t get — or want to get — software licences in the cloud-aware age. Compare that to Apple, whose App Store model allows the software to travel across devices with the user.

When the Mac App Store first came out, I was a little underwhelmed. ‘Yeah, yeah, more apps,’ I thought. But having bought several apps over the last few months and having been able to install them on other machines with just my App Store login, the real power of such a model has become clear: the software licence doesn’t care about the physical machine; it only cares about the user.

Adobe need to adopt this stance. Every software manufacturer needs to adopt this stance. It’s 2011.


  1. Thomas Sausen

    Thomas Sausen

    25 July 2011 @ 11:06AM #

    Your absolutely right. First I was underwhelmed by MAS too, but now I’m truly enjoying it. Which MacBook Air did you order? I ordered a MacBook Air 13’’ i5 256GB this morning, because I will use it often for design-stuff and so I think I need 13’’. i5 will just work fine for my needs (coding, Illustrator CS5, and just little video editing for my own Blog/Youtube-channel

  2. Damien Buckley

    Damien Buckley

    25 July 2011 @ 11:24AM #

    Spot on. We share the same problem with Adobe. My Wife & I have Mac Pro’s as main machines and due to the limit, don’t have CS on our laptop. Annoying and greedily non-customer focused policies – like their $10/second tech support. One can only hope Apple buys Adobe out at some stage and installs some common sense…

  3. Christopher Imrie

    Christopher Imrie

    25 July 2011 @ 11:46AM #

    I totally agree.

    Similar problem in our household. We have an iMac and two laptops, and already the AppStore model has shown its power – especially with the Lion launch.

    Adobe will unlikely update its license/revenue model though, since they even play nasty in areas you wouldnt expect.


    I was an Adobe Certified Instructor up until March of this year, and I would travel the country teaching people how to use and get the best from Adobe’s software suite for Print & Web. Regardless of this “Adobe certified” role, Adobe still saw fit to charge me full price for every new CS release, but also required me to do so within 90 days of release. I also had to pay an extra €40 to resit exams for each program I wanted to be remain an Adobe Certified Instructor in.

    Now thats playing hard ball.

  4. Jayman Pandya

    Jayman Pandya

    25 July 2011 @ 11:57AM #

    You are right. Adobe and other companies should also adopt the MAS model.

  5. Thomas Sausen

    Thomas Sausen

    25 July 2011 @ 12:21PM #

    Dropbox still a good choice? http://www.net-security.org/article.php?id=1612

    I meant… WTF:

    “We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission”

  6. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    25 July 2011 @ 12:26PM #

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    @ Christopher: That’s terrible! As if they didn’t overcharge for their software as it is!

    @ Thomas: I wouldn’t worry: blog.dropbox.com/?p=867.

  7. Thomas Sausen

    Thomas Sausen

    25 July 2011 @ 12:58PM #

    Thanks Elliot. Now a cloud-based setup is even more interesting to me. So please Adobe, think about your policy. But wait, it’s Adobe, right? We’re all doomed ;)

  8. Stijn Mertens

    Stijn Mertens

    25 July 2011 @ 01:35PM #

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always assumed Adobe CS licenses are per user and not per machine.
    I might be dotting the i here but wouldn’t it be illegal to share a license with your significant other?

  9. Michael


    25 July 2011 @ 02:11PM #

    Hmmm. Elliott, you might like to re-familiarise yourself with the terms of Adobe’s licensing.

    Allowing you to install the software on two machines covers exactly the scenario which you’re envisaging.

  10. Rory


    25 July 2011 @ 04:17PM #

    How many users are you and Sam?

    If Adobe had a user-centric licensing scheme (and, to be honest, as Stijn points out: perhaps they already do), then you would still need to buy a copy for you and a copy for Sam.

    On the whole, though, I definitely agree that the MAS is a huge leap forward for software distribution. Once sandboxing is mandated this fall, MAS-approved apps will have a significant security advantage as well. Personally, I don’t use my mac for work, and because of that I can be choosy about what software I install. I will be buying a new computer later this year and plan to exclusively install software from the MAS. If Adobe (and, more saliently for me, Microsoft) do not get on board then I simply won’t buy their products.

  11. Jeremy Howard

    Jeremy Howard

    26 July 2011 @ 07:43AM #

    Adobe has a strange licensing policy. But who cares, you may try to share your license with your wife. :)

  12. Simon


    26 July 2011 @ 09:52AM #

    Yes unfortunately as Michael points out above, Adobe’s EULA states:

    Can I use my software on two computers?

    If you own, or are the primary user of, a single-user or volume license Adobe product that is installed on a computer at work, you can also install and use the software on one secondary computer of the same platform at home or on a portable computer. However, you may not run the software simultaneously on both the primary and secondary computers.

    No more than one user can use a single-user license Adobe product.

    So in essence, the fact you have it on your Mac and your partner has it on her Mac and uses simultaneously is already a breach of the license. I certainly think Adobe’s license should be less restrictive given the comparatively high cost of the tools but it looks like they have already consider your scenario – but not that of letting a 2nd user benefit from the license at a reasonable cost.

  13. Web 2.0 Design

    Web 2.0 Design

    26 July 2011 @ 10:57AM #

    Even I bought many Apps and was having issues with the License.I too thing that adobe should go for MAc model.

  14. Betty london

    Betty london

    26 July 2011 @ 12:46PM #

    I also consider that Dropbox is reliable!

  15. Albin Stööp

    Albin Stööp

    28 July 2011 @ 10:23PM #

    I always use Dropbox for cloud services. I’m very satisfied with it :-)

  16. Lora Moves

    Lora Moves

    26 July 2011 @ 02:13PM #

    Dropbox is absolutely reliable.And I have to agree that Adobe has a strange licensing policy.

  17. Zingus


    03 August 2011 @ 02:49AM #

    Only it’s not the Mac Apple Store™ model, it’s the Valve’s Steam™ model.

    Or, if you wish, the “iTunes should have always done that and never actually did it correctly” model.

  18. Greg Mover

    Greg Mover

    10 August 2011 @ 09:17AM #

    Now a cloud-based setup is even more interesting to me.The picture is really great.

  19. Petter


    12 August 2011 @ 10:00AM #

    Dropbox is my choice!
    I used it for some time now and its working ok I think.

    Thanx for a good website!

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