Licensing for education3 min read


I’ve been talking with @mwclarkson and @dagza about the out of touch way software companies are gouging schools for licensing fees (I studied at the Daily Mail school of impartiality, I did). The general feeling is that if our kids leave school competent in (for example) Photoshop, Fireworks & Dreamweaver, that surely has to be a big win for Adobe. Okay, they’re the market leader anyway, but with Open Source alternatives slowly eating into their market share, doesn’t it make sense to reevaluate the pricing of products for education?

My school has a site license (~100 computers) for Adobe CS3. In that, we get Acrobat, After Effects, Bridge, Contribute, Dreamweaver, Encore, Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere & Soundbooth. Great. Except we’re missing Captivate and Presenter – possibly the two Adobe products best suited to education (screencasting & quiz presentation), and of the ones we have, we only use Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator & Photoshop in any significant way.

When a school is going to spend thousands of pounds on software, why should we have to fit with the standard packages released for personal & business use? What would make more sense is for Adobe to release an education Master Collection, including the most commonly-used Adobe products for education. Hell, what would be better would be a mix & match approach – it’s 2009, after all, why shouldn’t schools get to choose the products they want rather than simply what’s on offer?

Maybe it’s too much to hope that the “freemium” business model would spill over into education (okay, bad example – I don’t want adverts in my classroom), but I’d have hoped things would be more flexible than they appear to be right now.

Adobe Presenter is a nifty plugin for Microsoft PowerPoint that allows presentations to be exported as a Flash movie (iSpring does this for free – thanks to @twowhizzy for the link), but the big plus is that it allows for the creation of interactive quizzes, the answers to which can be exported into a spreadsheet for analysis & review. I know I could use it in my teaching to good effect.

Yet in January at the excellent BETT show at the London Olympia, we were wowed by a comprehensive, well-prepared, well-targeted presentation that showed off the features of this handy little app, then when we asked “how much?”, the otherwise very helpful Adobe staff were struck dumb. Nobody knew. After about 45 minutes of hanging around, we were told we could get it as a bundle with Acrobat 9 Pro Extended for £125 per computer (including education & bulk discount)- remember I said we have 100, earlier on… remember also that we have Acrobat 8 Pro.

Seriously, Adobe, get with it. I’d love to use this, and I’m the kind of person who would spread the word about it, but if I went to the bursar with a request for £12,500 for a really nifty little program, I’d get laughed out of the room. In fact, knowing The One Who Holds The Purse Strings as I do, I’d probably have a shoe thrown at me.

It’s time for a rethink of education licensing… in getting your software into schools you’re preparing a workforce to use them. I don’t particularly care whether I’m pumping yet more money into the hands of big corporations, I want my kids to be prepared to use industry-standard software. I want to know that I’m using the best possible tool for the job, and you want that tool to be yours – so stop making it so bloody difficult to get your software into the classroom.

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  • Jeff Keltner of Google Apps for Education: “We think that if we give this away to schools we’ll build a lot of life long customers, and we know how to monetize that.” Thus the difference between companies that “get it” – which actually includes Microsoft to a degree, and companies which don’t.

  • Makes sense, doesn’t it? I appreciate that small, education only software companies can hardly afford to think long-term like that, but Adobe? Surely putting together a long-term strategy like getting their software into schools at a price they can afford will pay off hugely in the long-term – building life long customers isn’t easily done, otherwise!

    I ought to point out that I’m not singling out Adobe with this – there are plenty of software companies that work in exactly the same way, they’re just one among many that we’re frustrated by at my school.

  • Unfortuantely for us, Adobe have got there selves a nice little monopoly going on there – no one else touches them on the creative front and it’s the consumer that pays a premium for the priveledge.

    Remember before the merger? It was Adobe that swollowed up Macromedia. Adobe had photoshop & AE and the web side of things belonged to Macromedia. I guess this merger did the consumer no good and now we have bundles instead of individual pieces of software.

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