hand-cloud-frame-300x229Cross-posted from BetaNews.com: Adobe took the wraps off Creative Suite 6 on Monday, introducing the largest release to date of the content-creation platform. CS6 now includes up to 12 programs and two companion applications, Bridge and Encore, and is available in four editions: Design Standard, Design and Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection.

The CS6 beta is one of the most successful in the company’s history, with one million downloads over the past month of availability alone, a record for Adobe. The move was slightly unusual considering the company typically does not offer large-scale betas of its products.

Photoshop gets notable upgrades including content-aware editing tools and video-editing capability, as well as performance enhancements that should speed the image-editing process. Photoshop Extended includes several new 3D image and new 2D design tools and an overall “darker” look: the user interface now uses blacks and greys versus the white UI of previous versions.

While Flash continues to be a part of the Creative Suite, Adobe seriously begins the transition to HTML5 in this release. Two new development applications take center stage, dubbed Muse and Edge. Muse will automate the process of developing HTML5 websites, while Adobe Edge assists in the creation of animated web content.

Creative Suite 6 packages range in price from $1,299 for Design Standard to $2,599 for the Master Collection. Customers can pre-order starting today with availability planned within 30 days, the company says.

Consider the Cloud

Those that find CS6 too costly might consider Adobe’s push towards the cloud as alternative. For $49.99 per month, subscribers gain access to all 14 applications in the suite plus some additional benefits.

The idea of subscriptions is nothing new to Adobe, but the cloud aspect of the service is. Adobe is integrating its tablet app suite into CS6, and using the cloud to sync workflows between the desktop and tablet versions of applications — 20GB of online storage is included in the monthly fee. The cloud will also deliver new functionality and updates before the general public has access, and assist in mobile app submission to the Apple App Store and Android marketplaces.

All in all, the focus on the cloud will make Creative Suite much more affordable for a broader segment of Adobe’s customer base. That is welcome news for a company that has struggled in recent years to produce stable financial results.

Creative Cloud is perhaps the most intriguing part of CS6 as it signals the beginning of a shift towards cloud-based delivery of Adobe products. It also saves the end user a good deal of money. All 14 applications are available through the service. Considering CS6 Master Collection retails for $2,599, and Adobe’s average release cycle is 12-18 months, a user who selects Creative Cloud over the physical media would save as much as $2,000 depending on what applications they download and the next major release of Creative Suite.

Creative Cloud will also sync work between desktop versions of CS6 and companion touch tablet apps. Creative Cloud Connection will save the necessary work in the cloud using the 20GB of space included with each account. Adobe does plan to make additional storage available in the future, it says.

Those interested should note that the $49.99 monthly fee is available to those agreeing to an annual contract. Those preferring month to month service will pay an extra $30 each month. As an incentive to owners of previous Creative Suite versions, Adobe is offering promotional discount pricing.

wners of CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 will be able to register for Creative Cloud for $29.99 per month if they agree to a one-year contract, according to the company’s website.