Later in the first half of 2012, Adobe will introduce Creative Cloud, an end-to-end service offering that will grant users access to its upcoming Creative Suite 6 apps and provide ancillary services starting at $49.99 a month if you commit to a one year contract. The new software-as-a-service offering seems like a great deal, and when you compare $600 per year to $2,000 up-front, you'll have to think long and hard about whether it's worth it in the long term. Still, it's not hard to connect the changes to the rampant piracy that's plagued Adobe for years: a $49 entry price might lure in a lot of buyers who'd otherwise head straight to a torrent site.

The service will launch alongside Creative Suite 6 sometime later in the first half of this year, at which point subscribers will be able to download all apps individually on up to two different machines. To sweeten the deal Adobe is bundling 20GB of cloud storage, device- and desktop-syncing, and access to the full gamut of Adobe touch apps introduced late last year. It also brings tools to help in the actual publishing stage, including Business Catalyst for web hosting, Typekit, and Digital Publishing Suite, a solution for turning static content into interactive iPad applications. Adobe promises to deliver new major feature updates to those who sign up, leaving retail purchasers — and pirates — waiting until the next major release to gain added functionality. The company blames subscription accounting principles as the reason for leaving up-front customers in a lurch, but it has the added side effect of making a subscription that much more enticing.

To attract businesses that currently volume license its offerings, Adobe will introduce a team option with added collaboration and security features in the fall for $69.99 per user. After Lightroom 4 loses its beta status, that app will also be included — though it will not be added to Creative Suite 6. Finally, new web-authoring apps Muse and Edge will come to Creative Cloud before the end of the year.

One thing to remember is that not everyone buys software each year, and you could very well end up paying more in the long-run by signing for a subscription than by upgrading every few years. We'll see if Adobe's experiment with subscription pricing pays off for the company and its users in the years to come, but it's nice to see a real attempt to change software pricing in the modern era.