Last week I was at Adobe’s Creative Cloud launch event out in San Francisco, and after getting a lot more details on what the Creative Cloud is all about, I have I’ve gone from cautiously curious to really excited.

I think this is going to open a lot of new opportunities and put some amazing tools in the hands of creative pros that were previously out of their reach. But I know from mentioning this briefly last week, a lot of folks have a lot of questions (I did too), and I thought I’d tackle some of the most-asked questions I’ve been getting here and see if this helps.

But before we get to the questions, I thought I would at least try to explain, in one brief paragraph, what the Creative Cloud is. Here’s how I understand it:

“It’s two things: (1) You can pay a monthly fee and get to download onto your computer, and use, full versions of all of Adobe’s Creative Suite software (everything from the latest Photoshop to After Effects to Dreamweaver to Premiere Pro, and so on [I think it’s 26 programs in all). As long as you pay your monthly membership, you get to use any (or all) of their software programs. And (2) You get a number of Web services including things like Cloud syncing, Adobe’s Business Catalyst Web hosting, storage and online collaberation stuff among others (a list of which I’m sure will grow pretty quickly).”

OK, that’s the one short paragraph version, but here are my quick Q&A follow-ups:

Q. Do I have to sign-up for a Creative Cloud membership or can I just upgrade like always?
A. Nope—you can just upgrade like always.

Q. Are “Creative Cloud” applications Web-based applications, or are they on my computer like regular applications?
A. They are NOT Web-based apps. The programs work just like they always did, right on your computer, but instead of installing them from a CD or DVD disc (like the “old days”), you download any ones you want from Adobe’s Creative Cloud site. If you’re a Mac user and have used the Mac App store to download software, it’s pretty much like that. Personally, I think the name, “Creative Cloud” makes it sound “Cloud-based” when it’s really not, but I guess calling it “Creative Download” wasn’t a great name either.

Q. How much does Creative Cloud Membership cost?
A. You can pay only $49.95 a month if you sign up for an annual plan (so basically, you’re “in” for 12 months), but if you want to do just a month-by-month thing (with no 12 month commitment), then it’s going to cost you more, I believe it’s around $70-something bucks a month.

By the way, you also get all the new Adobe touch Apps, and it includes the whole online Web hosting and storage space deals, plus there are services that come with your membership (the business catalyst stuff), and a bunch of stuff I wasn’t aware expecting.

This whole industry is changing really rapidly (just a couple of years ago, there really weren’t even tablets out there — now it’s a huge market, not to mention the mobile market as a whole) and so I imagine the whole Creative Cloud thing will evolve pretty rapidly (so we can create content for things like iPads and Android tablets quickly) and we’ll soon see new tools, more services, and they’ll come up with new ways to integrate workflows across all this stuff.

Q. So, what’s the best deal?
A. Honestly, the best deal is for anyone who already owns (is a registered user of) either the CS3, CS4 , CS5 or 5.5 Creative Suites, because Adobe has a special deal for the first 12-months, which is just $29.95 a month, which honestly is insanely low (you can’t get dinner for two at Chili’s for $29.95). That’s probably the best value overall (and you get EVERYTHING), but if you just want Photoshop CS6 by itself, you can do a monthly plan on it for only $19.95 (cheaper than dinner for one at Ruby Tuesday’s), which is kind of crazy when you think about it. I think this is going to put Photoshop in lots of folks hands who never could dream of using it before.

Q. What if I never owned the Creative Suite, do I have to buy it first?
A. That may be the most amazing thing — you don’t. There are no up-front costs for joining the Creative Cloud — you pay the $49.95 a month (if you do the annual contract), or $70-something for month-to-month even if you’ve never owned an Adobe product at all. I know, that sounds like it can’t be right, but that’s the way I understand it (and I asked Adobe people about this while I was at the launch numerous times because it seems a little too-good-to-be-true, but they assured me that’s the deal).

Q. What happens when CS7 eventually comes out?
A. I think this is the absolute best thing about the whole Creative Cloud idea —- you don’t have to wait for 18 or so months (like we did in the “old days”) to get new features. Adobe plans on releasing new features as soon as they’re ready, so when Adobe engineers come up with new technologies, or the tech or content landscape changes quickly, they can release that stuff as soon as its baked (instead of waiting for the next full release, which is what they were required to do in the past).

So, in short, the wait is over, and you get every new feature as soon as its released (while people not in the plan, will still have to wait the 18 or  so months until the next big release, like CS7). This is similar to Call of Duty Elite (stop snickering), where as an Elite member I had new COD map downloads months before the public release (I love the Elite program for just that reason), so if you’re in that program, then you know what I’m talking about (cover me, I’m reloading). ;-)

Q. After a certain number of months do I get to keep that software?
A. Nope. You’re basically paying for access to all that stuff, and as long as you keep paying, you keep playing. It’s kind of like renting an apartment— no matter how long you rent, it doesn’t one day become your apartment. Also, just like an apartment, you can pretty much do what you want as long as you keep paying your rent. But if you stop paying, the landlord will kick you out.

Q. Do I have to be connected to the Internet all the time to use the Creative Cloud?
A. Nope. It just checks once a month to make sure you’re still enrolled on the plan, but outside of that, you can use it “off line” just like always, on planes, trains, and automobiles (as long as you’re not the driver).

Q. What if it’s not for me?
A. That’s totally cool. You can pretend the Creative Cloud doesn’t exist, and just pay up front for upgrades and full versions of the software like you used to. The Creative Cloud is an option — one that makes sense for a lot of people who can’t handle the up-front costs of the regular Creative Suite, but if it’s not for you, no biggie.

Q. So you’re pretty excited about it?
A. As a guy that makes his living training on Adobe products, I obviously want as many people as possible to be using Adobe products, and I think this will put the Creative Suite applications in a lot of people’s hands that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, so I think that’s a good thing for everybody. It’s not available yet, but I’m going to be a Creative Cloud member as soon as it does ship, and while I know it’s not right for everybody, for a lot of people, this is something they’ve dreaming about, and now it’s nearly here. I’m psyched. Or as RC would say, “pumped!” :)

OK, well, I hope that helps. I’m also hoping some Adobe people jump in here and help answer any follow-up questions you guys might have (I’m sending some of my friends there a heads-up that I’m posting this today, to see if they might help-out with any follow-ups from you guys, but just remember—they’re out West, so they may be still asleep when you posted your questions).

Have a great Monday everybody, and I’ll be back in the States later on today. Cheers!