Adobe’s New Vision: Away with The Box and Into the Cloud

[Cross-Posted from Beneath the Brand.]

As a sometime graphic designer, I’ve been a loyal user of Adobe products for many years. I’ve followed the company through their branding and packaging changes, from their unveiling of the Creative Suite in 2003 to the acquisition of Macromedia Flash in 2005, to the launching of the Creative Cloud subscription model last year. Now, it seems Adobe has decided to change yet again: they are tossing out the traditional retail box, and are switching to exclusively selling Creative Cloud subscriptions.

The decision to change to a completely subscription-based pricing model is a bold one, to be sure. Many customers enjoyed the Creative Suite and won’t be happy with completely digital software and subscription-based pricing. Adobe has let these customers know that Creative Suite 6 is still available for purchase, albeit without future updates, but they also emphasize that there will never be a Creative Suite 7. Adobe maintains that they have listened to their customers over the years, and that this change is the result of careful consideration of their customers’ demands.

There are a number of changes coming with the Creative Cloud. For starters, Adobe is eliminating material packaging altogether. This not only saves on production and shipping costs, but it also aligns the brand with “greener” technology. Additionally, it makes it more accessible — once you have a subscription, you can then download the programs onto any supported devices, which is an absolute necessity given the prominence of tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices in today’s world.

Further, Adobe is rebranding the former Creative Suite applications (or “CS”) as “CC” products. This includes Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, Dreamweaver CC, Premiere Pro CC, and InDesign CC. The programs are intended to be upgradable utilizing cloud technology: Once a customer has a subscription, they have access to updates as often as they are released, as long as the customer’s subscription is still active. This means that problems such as bugs or OS compatibility issues can be addressed as they come up, and updates will be released much more frequently. And of course, because this is all done through Creative Cloud, you won’t have to pay extra for hotfixes or upgrades.

The pricing models vary depending on your history with the company. For subscribers like myself, if you’ve purchased a CS 3 or later product, you can get the first year at $29.99 per month. Others who own earlier versions of the product can snag the complete version for $49.99 a month. Or you have the option to purchase a single-product license for $19.99 per month. For teams and companies who require special packages, Adobe has other options.

But what does all this mean for the brand? Well, for Adobe, this means regular revenue. Rather than the sporadic income they would receive with CS releases every year or two years, they now receive a monthly influx of revenue. This means they can spend more time addressing existing issues, developing better add-ons for the applications, and fighting the ongoing battle of software piracy.

And for Adobe users, this means they can have access to expensive software at a reasonable monthly rate. They’ll get better customer service and a better product in the long run due to regular maintenance. Another bonus? The more Adobe products you use, the better the deal becomes.

Obviously, I am a fan of this model. It’s green, it’s sleek and convenient, and for me, it’s a great investment. What do you think of Adobe’s changes?

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Netflix and Hasbro’s New Deal: A Solution to Kid-Targeted Advertising?

Cross-posted from [Beneath the Brand].

In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission made the decision to remove the limitations that had long been in place for children’s advertising — what kinds of commercials could be viewed during children’s programming, for example, or how many minutes per hour could be dedicated to advertising aimed at young kids — stating that the marketplace would determine what programming was best for children. Fast-forward nearly 30 years and there is still a dialogue going on about what actually is best for children.

Children’s advertising has been blamed in the UK last week for everything from rising rates of childhood obesity to excessive drug usage and teen pregnancy. In America, we’ve seen a similar correlation drawn between media consumption (particularly “superfluous” content such as advertisements) and childhood obesity.

Needless to say, people are nervous about — and perhaps even fed up with — the effects of aggressive advertising on younger children.

So what’s a brand to do without targeted advertising? Netflix thinks they might have the answer in a tactic that’s a little more… subversive.

Everyone knows why Netflix can, at times, be preferable to cable television — there are no advertisements; much of its content is on-demand, streaming media; and full seasons of shows are ready to be watched all on one lazy weekend afternoon, whenever and wherever you like. And they already had a large selection of kid’s media to choose from: in 2012 alone, over 12 billion hours of children’s content was streamed through the popular media hub.

As of April 11, Netflix announced that they were teaming up with Hasbro to offer even more streaming kids’ content, adding shows such as “Littlest Pet Shop” and “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.” They wanted to create an atmosphere where kids could stream content “unencumbered by aggressive advertisements or inappropriate material.”

But is it really uninhibited and “free” from advertising? With virtually unlimited hours of television right at their fingertips, children are easily able to cherry-pick what they deem most interesting to watch. Long gone are the days of waking up early on Saturday morning to catch a few hours of carefully packaged cartoons with the intermittent advertisement for Rock-Em-Sock-Em-Robots or a Skip It. Now, you can have whatever content you want, whenever you want it — as long as mom and dad still have a subscription to Netflix. And the shows certainly put activities and material items in them that kids will want to emulate or obtain for themselves.

So really, aren’t the brands themselves doing all the advertising? Hasbro is the classic staple for children’s entertainment, Netflix has become a monolith in on-demand entertainment, and your child can select their favorite shows with just the click of a button, learning of their desires through their favorite shows.

What do you think? Does this count as unwelcome advertising, or is Netflix on the right track?

It’s not for girls, because you see, it is a robot.

Prime example of marketing based on exclusion.  Girly stuff is inferior.  Let this robot manhandle your life.

I wrote about the new Droid phone just before it came out, and about how excited I was about it. I’m never the biggest fan of picking a company and pitting yourself against them (though it’s hard to avoid with the mega-popularity the iPhone has), but picking something that “represents” half the world’s population and saying that if it represents women, then it’s pretty much useless, then my friends, that is so infuriating to people like me.

I nearly wrote a review on the Droid. Backstory: My boyfriend purchased one and I had to show him how to set it up, how to customize it, and how to download and use applications. He was very reluctant at first, because he’s never owned a smartphone and thought it was too complicated.  But guess what?  Now that he’s had time to get to learn it (with a bit of help to get started) he loves it! And he knows I love it, too. The only reason I decided against writing a review was because I felt I only got started on it, and I don’t want to do a half-assed job.

Now I feel compelled to write a review, and record myself putting unicorn backgrounds on the phone, customizing it with Rainbow Brite ringtones, shopping online for shoes, purses, and a new haircut, and of course talking on it hands free about my latest girls’ night out.

Oh, Droid does, indeed.

droid does…?

I admit, I’ve been a fan of pretty much every smartphone as they’ve been released.  I don’t know which phone is certifiably the “original” smartphone, as the definition is rather fluid, but the first I remember was waaay back in roughly 2002 when I heard about the email-savvy Blackberry.  Pretty soon, photos of celebrities glued to their super phones started surfacing, and everyone was trying to get their hands on one of the addictive gadgets.

The capabilities of these mini-computers seems to have exponentially increased: Want to take a picture?  Why don’t you snap a high-quality photo with your 5 megapixel camera and upload it directly to flickr?  Want directions to the nearest shopping center?  Okay, use this built-in GPS, and why don’t you plan for traffic while you’re at it.   Download mp3s and select a different ringtone for each of your friends, or go on Pandora and just stream some radio while you’re working.

But with all the new functionality comes a price.  The OS on smartphones can be buggy, or the browser is laggy.  Many phones, especially those with tactile-sensitive screens, experience lag when loading images, or flipping the screen when turned on its side (omg Blackberry Storm, NO).   Sometimes the GPS is… well, slow, and not so effective.  Some phones, despite their amazing app-finding abilities, still couldn’t send pictures to other phones (*ahem*).  But that still doesn’t take away from the fact that phones are much more than simple, mobile phones these days.  They’re mini-computers that double as phones.

After getting my Blackberry Storm this spring, I was very excited.  I had previously owned a LG flip phone, which was just OMGWTFBBQ awesome when it came out, being able to play mp3 files instead of those pre-programmed midi Mozart files, and it took pictures and video, and it did have internet capabilities, though it was a crude representation of the worldwide web, for sure .  Like, omg, wow.   When I traded it in, I got laughed at for having such an outdated phone, and I was just adamant about getting something flashy and cool, without severing my contract with Verizon.  iPhone for Verizon? Yes, that must be the Blackberry Storm.  Bought and fully paid for in less than fifteen minutes.

I can’t even describe some of the problems this phone had at first.  It was like waiting for a dial-up modem to load a 30-second Youtube clip.  People would call and the phone would just sit there and “think”.  It would ring, but I couldn’t answer it because it was “thinking.”   Screen lag would cause the phone to freeze and restart, which took about 7 minutes to complete.  I am a texting maniac, and the touch-screen buttons were not only slow, but unwieldy.  It had issues saving the video it took, one of the main reasons I wanted the phone — it surprised me that existing smartphones so few had video capabilities.  I became frustrated and stopped taking video, only to find my camera was so laggy that I’d miss any action shot, and for still shots, I’d often find myself waiting so long that I would turn the phone to see if it was actually taking a picture, only to have a picture snapped while I was turning it.  In short, it couldn’t keep up with me.  I was super bummed.

A patch was released shortly after the launch of the Blackberry Storm, which was supposed to fix the issues the phone had in terms of lag and OS instability.  It did help a bit, but the phone still has problems if I don’t restart it every day.  It was, in my opinion, too rushed to compete with the iPhone, and guess what?  I fell for it.  Well, I won’t do that again.

Or will I?

Ever since I’ve seen that droiddoes commercial, I’ve been wanting one.  I’ve visited the website and read up on it.  If you’re interested in droid, visit the website and take a peek.  So far I’ve heard that it will retail for $199 after a $100 mail-in rebate (and I am so not a fan of mail-in rebates), but that phone just seems….sexy.  Yeah.  I want one.  Free, built-in Google Maps GPS, background-running apps, flash support (though I’m also not a fan of flash-based sites, but hey, maybe I can finally play Cafeworld on my phone… oops, I mean, uh, do important-like things! Yes!), shop for mp3s on Amazon, and you know, take pictures in the dark.  Mmm.

Anyone want a free Blackberry Storm?

Marketing for Women and Girls: Just make it pink!

Justify it however you want.  The studies show, the numbers prove, it just sells.  Marketing people seem to think that women and girls respond en masse to pink displays.   While I know of quite a few little girls who enjoy princesses and sparkly, singing popstars, I also know of quite a few who enjoy doing puzzles, solving mysteries, wielding a fearsome weapon, and beating the crap out of their on-screen opponent. I am just so damn sick of seeing these sad attempts at including the wimminz in what was considered just a few short years ago to be a sort of “boys’ club.”  Take it from just one of the many, many female gamers out there: You’re embarrassing and annoying us.  Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve played games since I figured out what Frogger was, and that I could play it on my family’s Commodore 64.  My sister and I worked feverishly to raise that daunting $70 to put toward our very own Super Nintendo (we weren’t allowed to have a Nintendo system when they were cool; don’t you know you burn out your retinas and turn into a degenerate who can’t read when you play such filth as DuckHunt??), and we played the hell out of that system.  We scoured pawn shops for discontinued games, for new systems (or old, crappy ones, as it were) to add to our gaming console collection, or for quirky posters or other paraphernalia that was distributed with games back in the 80s. (Full dungeon map for Final Fantasy? Oh yes, I think so.)  You get it?  Do I need to go on?  Back when this was considered to be for guys only, my sister and I, without the help of anything pink, sparkly, or itsy-bitsy in size, were drawn to games.  Gender segmentation of video games wasn’t even an idea that had formed in my head.

So, when I was made aware that there was such a thing as a  “Gameboy”, I became perplexed.  Why is it a GameBOY?  What is it about this thing that implies it’s for boys?  For the first time, I actually thought about the fact that nearly all my friends had brothers who owned a gaming console, and most treated it like a prized possession that noooooo one else could touch, particularly their sisters.  So, after more than a few sleepovers, I finally got the guts to ask why no one ever wanted to play games, like I did.  My answer was a little less than satisfying.  I was told simply, “Girls don’t play games.”  I guess this sentiment started early and continued, because for years after that, I was viewed as sort-of “odd” for liking boys’ toys.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a poor me pity-party, but it’s necessary to reflect on my experiences to understand that this has been going on a long time.  Marketing used to exclude women and girls from the gaming community all together; as a result, people assumed women weren’t interested video games or technology, and consequently, they also began to assume we knew nothing about it.  But with the rise of the internet and the growing importance of understanding at least the basics of technology, marketers found themselves up to bat for a new challenge: Getting women and girls to “pay attention” to mens’ and boys’ toys, and getting them to use these gadgets independently.

Cue the shitstorm.  I don’t know what was going through marketers’ heads, but I assure you it was more than likely a team of 40-something white guys tossing out ideas: “How do we make them look at this? Oh I know, let’s make it pink!  And CUUUUTE! Women like pink and cute, right?”  I KNOW there are women out there who  like pink things; this is not something I’ve ever denied.  But to assume that women function as one unit and respond simply because something is pink is beyond insulting.  It’s just plain stupid.  Because along with something that’s decked-out in pink, you can be sure to find that the quality probably isn’t as good (more than likely because they threw it out there as an afterthought), and that the suggested uses for it are ridiculous.  Take, for example, Dell’s pathetic attempt at marketing laptops to the laydeez: Della. Within two sad weeks of its launch, Della was gone. Why? An asinine pastel website design, paired with helpful “tips” on how to use a Della (Use it to count calories! How about looking up some healthy recipes?), just plain turned women off to it.  And you know, I’d be willing to let it slide if it were a one-time slip-up that Dell learned an important lesson from, but unfortunately, it happened again.

Oh, look, the women have pink and magenta laptops.  And the one that isn’t pink?  She’s using her webcam to put on her lipstick.  So cute!  The lipstick and computer like, totally match!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know they weren’t trying to imply that women ONLY use computers for arts and crafts and on-the-go/bus-lipstick-applying (if they learned anything from the Della debacle), but come on.  The guys were all actively taking pictures, organizing their record collections, looking businessy and important, and proudly posing with Google Maps by their (admittedly) awesome cars, you know, doing the things they usually advertise about in order to sell personal computers or laptops — organize your music collection, plan a roadtrip or vacation, edit your photos, take it with you for business trips.  The women were standing there, doing… I’m not sure what, maybe arts and crafts?  Or putting on lipstick.  Do you see computers advertised for that?  Get your own personal laptop so you can replace that tiny, antiquated mirror in your purse!  Get a laptop so you can print out stencils!  Doesn’t quite mesh, does it?  There is the exception of the first girl on her Vespa, but of course… it’s all pink, and I don’t see what that has to do with selling a computer.  With the way she glances up at her helmet, perhaps she used her pink laptop to buy a pink helmet on Ebay to match her pink ride.

But before you get all up-in-arms, saying I’m focusing on stupid things when I could be donating my time to more important things, what I’m writing about here isn’t simply just knocking the pretty pictures and color schemes that they use to appeal to women and girls.  It’s also about the language of marketing directed towards women and girls, namely, in simplistic terms.  And this has a more widespread effect than most people think.

I may be a tad biased as a linguist, but language really is the basis for our formative ideas about a product.  We listen to advertisements describe what a product can do, how it will improve our lives, and how easy it is to use.  Colors, imagery, and music are all integrated with the words to make a 30-second impression that we’re supposed to remember, so we can rush out and buy the merchandise.  The problem arises not only when women and girls don’t see representations of themselves in commercials, but when the language clearly isn’t directed towards them (yes, I know, it’s a gratuitous, ridiculous example, but the idea is still the same), or it’s just plain ridiculous. (Bonus: This site has a whole list of commercials that exemplify what I was discussing earlier about pink, and it’s a hilarious article to boot!) “Play now, my lord”?  Well, I guess that kinda leaves ladies out of it, doesn’t it?  “Imagine Babyz”?  You’ve gotta be kidding me, as if all women just want to play with babies all the time.  At least the DS commercials feature women of varying ages playing different kinds games, and you know what?  That’s pretty accurate.  Women self-identify as gamers these days, and apparently they make up 40% of the gaming market.  There’s a lot of money to be made by appealing to women and girls who play video games, and the point that these marketers seem to be missing is that there are different kinds of games that interest different people.  That is, men and women alike.  Using language that creates an atmosphere of exclusion, or that infantizes women’s gaming interests creates a social stigma that says, “Women don’t play games, and when they do, it’s not the same games that men like.”  These separate, but “equal” gaming strategies aren’t working, and they’re just plain annoying.  Take a hint from the many, many women out there who are fed up with this: We’re people, with a whole spectrum of interests when it comes to games.  Stop assuming we’re going to respond to only pink, or only things specially labeled for us as ladies.  Oh, and please: get on hiring some more women already.

A bit about me

I figured that if I was going to make a blog, and attempt to have any sort of reasonable discussions here (see, this is an assumption that eventually I’ll get readers, har har!) that you might need to know a bit about me, and what I expect from this blog.

First of all, I am indeed a woman.  I’m 25 now, which means I’ve had a bit of life experience, but I’m still terribly inexperienced in other areas.  My point of view is somewhat privileged, as I am a white, middle-class person.  I take a highly feminist stance on most issues, and although I do my best to write and analyze ‘fairly’,  I have to remember to check myself every once in awhile for my privilege and biases.

That being said, I have a little experience with a lot of different subjects that I would like to incorporate into my blog (let’s hear it for all the jack-of-all-trades people out there!).  I have been a creative individual my whole life; I used to draw, write, compose music, design games, do stop-motion films, and as soon as I discovered the internet, I took on designing webpages, writing anime and video game reviews, and doing a webcomic with my sister. (You probably never heard of it, but Shonen Chikara will return someday. Promise.)  I studied languages and foreign cultures, which I discovered intersected with my interest in games very well.  After completing an undergrad degree in 2007, I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a Master’s in Language and Communication at Georgetown University.  This was one of the best and worst years of my entire life.

Firstly, I discovered I enjoyed writing about games.  I played World of Warcraft in ANY of the downtime I had from classes, which resulted in me having three level 70 characters (Burning Crusade, yeah!) despite the 13 hours a day I was spending doing school-related things.  I tried to incorporate nerdy issues into my papers, because technology and language, as I’d discovered, were highly intersectional, and they were relatively new and therefore untapped resources for a budding young linguist to bury herself in.

Secondly, I discovered that not only language within the gaming community, but other online communities as well, was beginning to change.  Patterns of discourse veered from the traditional mimicry of spoken language, to shortened forms of words (mostly seen in texting or in chatrooms/messenger programs) and even to syntax variation within certain circles.  The tl;dr of it?  Language was changing and evolving before my very eyes, and it was something I wanted very much to study.

Finally, as a woman who is very interested in gaming, graphics, technology, language, and other nerdy fare, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of sexism.  I want a safe platform to discuss women and girls in video games, and women and girls who play video games.  This is not commensurate with excluding men from discussing these issues, but I would like to say first and foremost that I will not tolerate any trolling, woman-bashing, or basic thread derailing. I am the only judge of what is, or is not considered to be any of the aforementioned taboos, so honestly, I don’t give a shit if you don’t agree with my calls.  Also, I expect that if you have any criticism, you can keep it constructive and not destructive.  I welcome debate, as long as it doesn’t get too heated.

So, this blog will be an exploration.  I want it to be open to non-linguists and linguists alike, and to all genders.  I look forward to sharing with you!