Adobe has rolled out an upgrade for Creative Suite, version 5.5, that better integrates with touch-based tablets or smartphones and serves up a subscription model that lets users rent individual programs for a monthly or yearly fee instead of buying them upfront. The launch marks a major change to Adobe's product release strategy for Creative Suite, which now targets mid-cycle releases every 12 months and major releases every 24 months.

Creative Suite 5.5 brings several enhancements to Adobe's flagship design and development products, including Photoshop, InDesign, and Flash Builder. But more than anything the update seems to focus on emerging computing platforms. According to the company, CS5.5 enables "designers and developers to target popular and emerging smartphone and tablet platforms," and provides "substantive advances to HTML5, Flash authoring, digital publishing and video tools as well as new capabilities that kick-start the integration of tablets into creative workflows."

To this end Adobe launched the Photoshop Touch SDK and three iPad apps designed to interact with the desktop version of Photoshop: Color Lava, Eazel, and Nav. The first one allows you to mix colors on the iPad using your fingers as well as create color swatches and themes that can be transferred into Photoshop. Adobe Nav provides more desktop space by enabling users to select and control Photoshop tools on the iPad, while Adobe Eazel lets you create paintings with your fingertips, which you can then transfer back to Photoshop wirelessly.

These apps will be available from May, at prices ranging from $1.99 to $4.99, and are meant to showcase the Photoshop Touch SDK's capabilities so developers create their own apps for Android, Blackberry PlayBook, and iOS devices.

As for the new subscription pricing model, Adobe has worked out a scheme were users can rent the entire suite or individual programs with a one-year plan for lower monthly payments, or a flexible month-to-month plan that you can stop and restart as needed. It's not exactly cheap but it lowers the entry barrier for freelancers and small business owners: Photoshop starts at $35 per month, for example, while Adobe Design Premium CS 5.5 is priced at $95 per month and the entire Master Collection will cost $129 per month. Naturally, you can still purchase the suite upfront.