In a recent briefing to prepare us for the annual barrage of Adobe announcements, one of Adobe’s technology development people said of the company’s app development, "These early experiments…are one of the first stages of constructing the core products. Sooner or later, mouse and keyboard won’t be enough in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. We’re trying to prepare ourselves for when that entire market gets disrupted. "
To me, that’s the theme of this year’s Creative Cloud extravaganza. Yes, Adobe’s offering up the usual updates to the desktop applications, major and minor. But we’re also seeing a company whose success has been built on monolithic, computationally intensive applications struggling to address the changing needs of its core base of imaging professionals — whose need for lightweight mobile apps is growing rapidly.
The launch of CC in 2011 was the first step down that road, building an infrastructure to connect all the as-yet-unforseen tools. This year’s announcements display a strategic commitment to underlying technologies, but in my opinion, its actual mobile apps still convey a sense of confusion rather than clear purpose.
The company’s delivering its first hardware products plus two new drawing apps (Ink and Slide), a brand-new Photoshop app variation (Photoshop Mix) an iPhone version of Lightroom, and a brand-new Creative software development kit (SDK) designed to help third parties hook into remote processing for advanced imaging capabilities. In general, the apps and hardware fall rather flat for me, and mostly seem to serve the purpose of attracting developers to its little corner of the world.
I think part of the lack of cohesion I sense is a result of the development incentives of the subscription system. During the briefing for Ink and Slide, the result of the company’s Projects Mighty and Napoleon, the assembled group asked questions about possible new features or extensions that we might see for these products. And all of the answers began with, "Well, if it’s successful…" So I asked: what’s your metric for gauging success? The blunt reply: if it drives subscriptions. What I see is Adobe throwing apps at the wall to see if any stick.
And they’re all iOS apps. On one hand, it makes sense for the company to devote its resources to a platform that most of its existing users are on. But as a multiplatform user — I have an iPad and an Android phone — I feel the loss. There’s now a Creative Cloud app for iOS that lets you manage your profile and assets similar to the way you can with the desktop application.