CS3 and Snow Leopard—Adobe’s lack of testing makes informed decisions re. OS X upgrade difficult

30th August, 2009


The story so far

At the time or writing, Mac OS X 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard, has been generally available for three days. A day or so before it was released, Adobe announced that its Creative Suite v.3 (CS3) apps had not been tested on Snow Leopard and would not be supported. In other words, if Snow Leopard broke CS3, too bad; Adobe would not be providing updates or fixes to correct the issue. The reason given was (and I paraphrase) that CS3 is “old” software (it was released 2.5 years ago and was supplanted by CS4 less than a year ago) and that it would be neither cost effective, nor sensible to provide such support. Many CS3 users (and there are a lot of them) disagreed. Vehemently.

When the Mac-based design community first heard about Adobe’s ‘No CS3 Support’ stance many immediately jumped to the conclusion that it meant that CS3 was broken on Snow Leopard. To be fair, Adobe had said no such thing. It simply said that it had not conducted thorough testing of CS3 on Snow Leopard, and that if anything did break, then too bad, it would not be fixed. In fact, in the process of clarifying/defending the company’s position Adobe’s own John Nack implied that there is a fair chance that nothing will break. It might all be fine. But that’s as far as they’ll go.

Now, I’m not going to get into the whole argument about whether Adobe should or shouldn’t fix CS3 to work with Snow Leopard. It’d be nice if they did, and I think that they probably should, but I also recognise that they probably are not going to. As a short term business decision it probably makes logical sense to somebody at the top. (As a customer relations decision…well, maybe not so smart). But I’m not going to waste space on that now.

The core of the problem

The fact is, however, that I’m a CS3 user. I don’t need/want enough of CS4’s features to justify the considerable expense of that upgrade. I would, however, like to upgrade to Snow Leopard, not just because of its refinements but also because it will grant me access to future Mac OS X security fixes.

I understand, sadly, that Adobe is not going to fix breakages in CS3 caused by the move to Snow Leopard. Okay. But what I don’t understand, given the large proportion of Adobe’s customers who still use CS3 and who, in the current climate, perhaps cannot afford to upgrade even if they want to, is Adobe’s unwillingness to even try and identify what will and will not break.

I would, as I said, like to upgrade to SL. But I dare not do so unless I know, really know that the upgrade is not going to break the CS3 software upon which I (largely) rely to earn a living. Thing is, I don’t know that, because currently the only information available is sketchy, anecdotal and scattered across numerous design blogs and Twitter feeds. It is fragmentary and often contradictory. Meanwhile, Adobe’s position still seems to be “Maybe it’ll be fine. Really. It might be absolutely fine.” Problem is, I can’t gamble my ability to produce work on “Maybe it’ll be fine”.

What’s needed

Adobe, you say you can’t offer CS3 users compatibility fixes, well okay. Pill swallowed. But times are hard for jobbing designers right now, so at least throw us a frickin’ bone and give your CS3 users enough information to allow us to make proper decisions. Fixes are really expensive? Okay. So just do the testing. Really, who is better placed to provide a list of identified breakages (or otherwise)? Your customers are not, on the whole, hobbyists; they are professional designers who run real businesses and need to make real-world business decisions — ie. informed ones, backed up by facts. They pay grown-up prices for your software and deserve to be treated like grown-ups.

The fact of the matter is that I might very well look over an Adobe-provided list of breakages, see that only a few cosmetic details and niche features that I never use anyway are affected, and think “Huh. Okay, I can live with that”. Next stop: Snow Leopard. Hurrah! I would probably feel grateful to Adobe for putting in the effort to provide the information. Result: mass uncertainty, corporate PR crisis and alienation of substantial user-base at least partially averted.

Testing, with the results available for us to use. Is that really beyond the limits of Adobe’s resources? Somehow I think not.


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