Sure looks like we stirred up a can of worms when we noted Adobe’s intention not to test Adobe CS3 for Snow Leopard support, and the company’s seeming insistence it wouldn’t devote resources to ensuring the premium-priced essential design software would work with the new OS.

Adobe shifted position slightly on this, with the company’s John Nack offering frequent updates to the originally stated position – now an independent test seemingly indicates there’s few potential problems (none found so far, as far as we have been able to discern) using the 2.5-year old software with Snow Leopard.

“In my beta testing of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, I had no issues with Creative Suite 3. But just to be sure, I installed the suite on a fresh copy of Snow Leopard today and ran a variety of tasks in the main CS3 apps just to be sure. You can relax: I’ve yet to encounter any issues, not even with Adobe’s alternative file manager, Version Cue, which mucks around the Mac OS’s innards a bit,” reports Infoworld’s Galen Gruman.

Gruman reports that his whistle-stop tests showed no obvious incompatibilities between CS3 and Snow Leopard, but notes Adobe’s lack of a guarantee of such support.

Despite Adobe’s warning that the company wouldn’t support Snow Leopard with CS3, the reviewer notes, “If you think you need to upgrade to CS4 because you plan to upgrade to Snow Leopard, think again.”

We’ve read multiple reports on the original position taken by Adobe, and were keenly disappointed with some reviewers who seemed to think that maintaining older applications through an OS transition was unnecessary. Our position is that during economic recession you can bet your bottom dollar there’s going to be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of smaller graphics and design shops using older software packages. And with Adobe’s software suite being both premium-priced and utterly essential, there’s no excuse not to offer a firm promise of support to users. Frightening customers into engaging in a costly software upgrade isn’t good business.

As mentioned, Nack has since updated his position on all of this, he now states: “I’ve done some more research into the history of Adobe’s work with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). I can’t speak for product teams besides Photoshop, and in the interests of time, I’m sharing what I’ve found out so far….It turns out that the Photoshop team has tested Photoshop CS3 on Snow Leopard, and to the best of our knowledge, PS CS3 works fine on Snow Leopard.”

He added, “The Photoshop QE team reported a couple of dozen problems to Apple, and I’m happy to say that Apple has fixed all the significant issues we found.”

He continues to explain: “It has always been Adobe’s policy not to go backwards and do dot releases on software that is no longer shipping. This isn’t some kind of ploy to force people to upgrade; rather, it’s a recognition that resources are not infinite, and we need to focus our efforts on current and future technology. When we say that we officially support a specific OS, you can trust that we’ve done very extensive testing on that platform. If we haven’t done that level of testing, then we simply won’t say that we support it.”

“That said, none of us like to inconvenience customers, so the reality is that we *do* actually perform some amount of testing on older product if we believe that there are a significant number of customers using it. So does Apple.”

So, we’re pleased to see some response from the company, but we think the furore surrounding Adobe’s original statements, which strongly suggested no support for CS3 on Snow Leopard, and the subsequent changes in position and info-updates from the company reflect that doing business in an internet-connected, socially networked age has changed.

Customers aren’t happy with a “top-down” approach to product introductions. That’s the same change as is happening in management, politics and employment. It’s not enough any more to tell customers or employees to jump and expect them to ask you “how far”. In this new era we’re becoming digital tribes, and now, more than ever, there’s a shift toward consensus marketing.

This means that software developers, including the likes of Microsoft, hardware makers, including Apple, most any kind of business now needs to engage positively with customers. This requires more than the occassional blog entry, instead it requires a recognition that, as predicted by Marshall McLuhan (who I keep banging on about, sorry), we’re all in the loop. The medium is the message, and companies need to ensure they nurture and nourish their tribes, it’s not just about the money, it’s about community.

 *though Apple has a special relationship with customers based on its proven ability to continue to stun an amaze with its products, hence a wide acceptance, if a little frustration, at its customary secrecy*

In the case of the CS3 “incident”, Adobe may have learned that the top-down approach to customer relations is on the way out, that that style of hierarchical management is under threat. It’s exactly the same thing the music industry has been struggling to hang onto since Napster, the idea that some people are in charge while others follow. That’s true to an extent, but it’s also true that old style management practises that alienate existing communities can ultimately undermine a business position. Tribes simply elect new leaders.

So, we’re pleased Adobe’s done some tests on CS3 on Snow Leopard. Now we think the company should publish the full results – not just those for Photoshop.

In the new business paradigm, there’s nothing to lose for any firm choosing to establish an open feedback loop with customers – and everything to gain.

Customers who feel their previous investment has been appreciated and supported by any company are far, far more likely to upgrade to a similar product from the same company later than customers who feel slightly alienated by their treatment. And this could conceivably include more transparency from any tech firm when choosing price points for different territories, but that’s another story.

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