Opinion: Adobe the triumph of incompetence or just a beginning?

Adobe-Logo-1Since my return from Switzerland I was planning to work on some images but I got delayed… Here is why.

As much as I appreciate working on my images with Aperture, its lack of layer capabilities makes Photoshop a more adequate choice to save time and indeed I have been using it for quite some time.

Earlier this year there has been quite a bit of ink spilled on Adobe’s change of business model with the launch of Creative Cloud. This might need some clarifications for some: previous to Creative Cloud, users of Adobe’s product would purchase the software and install it on their computers, they could later purchase an update at a reduced price or opt to keep their current version. With Creative Cloud users rent monthly the use of the software which become inoperative the month they stop renting the software. As a business model it offers Adobe with a more stable revenue stream, it reminds of the IBM model of old, and lock in its clients. On paper, it gives users the advantage of always having the latest version of the software but also it strips them the choice of either keeping their version or upgrading. I won’t elaborate further on this as there are many pro and con pieces available on the net, personally though I am not against the principle as long as the company can be trusted, but there are not so many company which can be trusted to work for the benefit of the users always and at all times (asks what some people have thought of Final Cut Pro X when it was released: even Apple cannot be trusted at times).

Now a couple months ago, Adobe was again the object of a controversy, this time a much bigger one: it had suffered from a large security breach. For at least a month, Adobe did not officially admit it and only contacted its clients a couple of months after the breach took place. What looked like a large breach soon became a security failure of massive proportions: the information, including their password, of 150 millions was stolen from the hands of Adobe.

Not only Adobe failed to publicly communicate promptly, to alert its users, it did not take elementary security measures to protect user information and their password (see this thorough piece for more details). There are indications that this breach might lead to a bush fire because, unlike what I recommended here, many users are simply reusing their passwords.

Obviously this did not give much incentive to buy into the new Creative Cloud, still I also suffer from naiveté from time to time, and returning from Switzerland I decided to go for it. The trigger: money, Adobe was offering until December 2nd a “Photography plan” for USD 9.99 per month (it has in the meantime been extended until December 8th). My reasoning was also that now that the blunder was made, it became less likely to occur again soon, also I bet that Adobe is offering low cost plans to convince users like me to register despite its damaged reputation.

But boy, was I wrong.

Friday, November 29th, I bite the bullet and register to the program. Giving a strong and unique password to my Adobe ID, entering my credit card details and after a few clicks I receive a confirmation email: I am in! Next step, installing Photoshop on my computer, signing in with my Adobe ID, everything seems fine. I even go ahead and install it on my laptop. Of course, doing so I also removed the previous version of the software.

Time to work: I edit my first images, published with my last post, but I noticed something photoshop mentions about a “trial version” but I dismiss the message without thinking further. However next time I launch photoshop, it tells me that my “trial” version is expired. Time to get some help.

You may have noticed that most companies are difficult to join, in that respect except Apple which has definitely the best phone support available, in the case of Adobe, I had to dig a bit to find their web chat support. So Friday evening I contact them, explain the problem and they are able to confirm my order and that there is something wrong with my account. I am told to expect an answer and resolution within 2 days: not convenient but better than nothing.

Come Monday: still nothing, no progress at all. I recontact the support, go through the same process of description of the problem and again I am promised that I will get an answer within 48 hours, this time because my ticket is given priority. Again I am told how sorry Adobe is and how much they understand my frustration. Nice to hear but not making thing progress.

A day after, I have not heard anything back and rather that sitting idly, I recontact the support, go again through the same description and confirmation process. I am told this time that my ticket is prioritised much higher and that I should expect an answer within 5 to 6 hours. That’s good news: it means starting the next day I can use what I paid for.

The next day comes, we are now Wednesday and 12 hours after I was online with the support, and no email has been sent nor solution found and my software is still unusable.

I contact the support for the 4th time, Adobe now swears that their expert team has been working on the problem since it was reported, that no solution has yet been found and that they will contact me as soon as they can. Again, very politely, the support rep apologies and understands my frustration but there is nothing more they can do.

At this moment, 5 days after purchasing the plan, I am still unable to use Photoshop and have no indication as to when I will be able to use it, because somewhere on a system an order has been paid by me but it couldn’t be applied to my Adobe ID, from my point of view this is a highly complex problem requiring a team of highly qualified engineers working 24h for 5 days to solve. I’ll admit it, the last sentence is the result of my very real frustration but I can only wonder what sort of problem is Adobe facing with me: is it structural, due to yet another breach or simply the lack of willingness to support a client who has just started to pay only 10 bucks a month?

Or are these the signs that Adobe is losing itself and that creatives must seriously consider opting for alternative software before they realise that their trust and investment in the Creative Program is made in vain?

Opinion: Adobe the triumph of incompetence or just a beginning?Christian C. Berclaz
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9 comments on "Opinion: Adobe the triumph of incompetence or just a beginning?"

  1. Weng-Fai Wong

    Tia Too Seng was complaining to me about the hell he went through installing Photoshop CC after he bought into this deal.

  2. Christian C. Berclaz

    I’m unfortunately not surprised. It actually looks like pirating the software is much easier than installing and using a legitimate version. So ironic!

  3. Florence Bernet

    Gimp is good for me… and free ! work on mac too.

    • I’ve known GIMP since its beginning, but whilst it has improved it still does not compare well. The biggest issue we face at this stage is that there is no alternative which offers both the power and the ecosystem of PS… Free alternatives like GIMP seem to be resilient over time (GIMP is nearly 20 years old) but are evolving only slowly and other paying photo editors are not that much better. Actually most of the successful photo edition softwares have been successful because they do not compete with photoshop: DxO, CaptureOne, AutoPano, etc. The only exception being Aperture but, like Lightroom, it lacks the layer functionality and the powerful content aware features… It’s a catch 22 problem…

  4. As a follow-up, an answer was finally provided by Adobe… Unfortunately not a very smart one.

    Apparently I have two Adobe ID, one with a Hong Kong address, my former account, one with a Singapore address. The SG address was created as I no longer live in Hong Kong and I wish to pay in Singapore dollar. I have made the purchase with the Singapore address obviously.

    Adobe reverted to me informing joyously that they have solved the problem and that I should going forward use my Adobe ID with the Hong Kong address… not even finding it funny that I pay my fee in Singapore Dollar rather than Hong Kong Dollar…

    A hilarious addition: the email sent (which cannot be used to send a reply) indicates:

    If you have any further questions, please update the case or contact us back via Live Chat, by referring your Customer Identification # : XXXXXXX. Below is the URL that you need to contact our Customer Service team.

    URL :

    Your feedback is important to us. Please take a moment to let us know how we’re performing against your expectations by completing our survey.

    Yes you read it well, there is in fact no URL. Either Adobe would rather not be recontacted again or it is yet another example of their poor quality control…

    So there is no solution yet and it is to be continued…

  5. It has been a long battle… After reaching the support a fifth time (it can take hours to reach the Adobe chat support) and about 4 hours of mostly non-productive discussion I was finally able to get Photoshop to run…

    I hardly can believe that it could have been that difficult and I must admit feeling quite exhausted.

    During all that time I got the sense that Adobe account management is simply terrible! While photoshop is developed by engineers, and that is a good thing, their account management has also been developed by engineers, and that’s not a good thing as most of them have never met a client their whole life and don’t know what one looks like… Ultimately I came across what is probably the genius of the block in their support center who could cancel my initial order and I could place a new one… It did not work immediately but a short while after.

    As beyond simple things that can be solved easily, no two problems are the same and there is little specific that can be learned from my experience. There is an interesting fact though. Unlike my previous interaction with the support, things started to change when I refused to leave the chat, previously I was promised an email, and was transferred after awhile to the second level. Of course I had to re-explain my problem fully, as the first level support is always unable to properly pass the word — what is a first level support good for anyway? — and after some more hassling, my issue was resolved.

  6. James Junglejim Eaton

    what an amazing saga! Think I will avoid them, forewarned etcetera. 🙂

  7. Christian C. Berclaz

    This is indeed quite bad for such a high profile company. Maybe another smarter company will take the cue and start competing directly with Adobe. The problem started when Marketing took over Adobe from the Engineers…

  8. Vernon Spike Wakefield

    glad I still using the old version on discs 🙂

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