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How Adobe is Reimagining Photoshop for the Mobile Era

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company:

What wasn’t instantly obvious, however, was exactly how to translate Photoshop into an experience that made sense on the iPad and other mobile devices. In 2011, Adobe released three “Photoshop Touch” iPad apps—Eazel, Color Lava, and Nav—which were complements to Photoshop in its full-strength form rather than stand-alone tools. Then in 2012, it introduced an app called Photoshop Touch, which took a smallish subset of desktop Photoshop’s features, stripped out most of their advanced features, and rejiggered the interface so it worked with touch input.

This year, the company started all over again. It discontinued development of Photoshop Touch—which was available for iPhones and Android devices as well as iPads—and announced that Photoshop’s future on the iPad and other mobile devices would henceforth involve smaller, specialized tools rather than anything that retained Photoshop’s traditional everything-and-the-kitchen-sink flavor.

Adobe has done a rather phenomenal job in its transition from boxed software to the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud, as its latest quarter’s record revenue figures clearly demonstrate. Over that same period, Adobe has also invested substantially in developing apps for mobile devices, and most significantly, the iPad. In fact earlier this year in May I looked at the number of iOS apps developed by Adobe, and at the time they had 50 apps in the App Store that had been updated within the last year (another 59 had been pulled from sale or not been updated in over a year).

As McCracken’s story makes clear, Adobe’s strategy for mobile devices isn’t about slimming down their flagship desktop products so that they can run on mobile devices. Instead, Adobe has focused on creating apps for specific tasks, whether it be Photoshop Fix for retouching photos or Photoshop Mix for combining and blending images and layers together. In that way, Adobe claims that they can offer a better mobile product, that can in some ways offer a better experience than on the desktop.