I like naval analogies, like “sea change”.  There’s an air of romanticism that goes along with the analogy, even if we say that the project went down like the Titanic – there’s still a mental image of Jack and Rose clinging to a plank.  Plus, I get to use words like “seafaring”, “keelhauling”, and “yaw”.

I know I should have gone with a title like “You’re all going to jail forever”, or “Nano-robotics will eliminate electricity” but, alas, that ship has sailed.

A sea change just means a significant change or difference to the norm; something transformational.  And with Adobe’s announcement yesterday, we are certainly on the cusp of that.  Adobe announced that Creative Suite 6 (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc) – will be the last version that is sold normally – i.e., you buy it, you own it.  Going forward (from June), all future versions will be subscription based only.  You still download the software, you still install it as normal, but every month, it goes to the Mother Ship in San Jose and asks “are they all paid up” and if not, it shuts down.

So once you’re in, you’re locked in.  $600 a year for the suite, or $240 a year for individual apps.  Which is *double* the $199 you used to pay for two years of upgrade protection.  And there’s really no stocking the box on a shelf somewhere and forgetting about it until you need it; you pay every month whether you use it or not.

If Adobe is even *marginally* successful at this – then watch out.  Microsoft is inching there via their Office 365 offering, and I can guarantee you that they’re thinking about how to do Exchange, Server and SQL on the same model.  AutoDesk is a near-certainty to go their, given their love of their existing subscription model; AutoDesk resellers have been hinting for over a year that AD would go to an all-subscription model shortly.

So what does it really mean?  It means in the good old days, you had wiggle room.  If you were networked for 70 copies of AutoCAD, but had two loaner laptops and put standalone versions on them, it wasn’t a big deal.  Or if you had 5 Windows Server licenses and brought up a sixth for testing purposes, it didn’t really matter.  Organizations (on the whole) were fairly happy with being 90-95% compliant with licensing.

No more.  Now you’re be 100% compliant, like it or not.  That internet – the great internet that has given you Google and Facebook and Nyan Cat – now it means that there’s really no excuse not to be tethered to Adobe.  The ubiquity of connectivity works against the consumer, as well as for.

If you think about all the things that we fudge on here and there – now imagine them in a 100% connected world.  Don’t have car insurance? Your car won’t start.  Say that you gave $500 to charity on your taxes? Not without an e-receipt.  It’s all just a reminder that this binary mode of yes/no off/on good/bad that the internet brings into our lives can have some far-reaching implications, well beyond software licensing.

And for y’all literary types:

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange

Strange for us, rich for Adobe.