Adobe’s first major product line release since Creative Suite 6 cements the company’s commitment to subscription and the cloud. The product name has changed from Creative Suite to Creative Cloud. Announcement includes features, tools, mobile products, updates and an SDK.
Following several months of private briefings Adobe has announced major upgrades to all 14 of its Creative Cloud products, new mobile apps, and probably most anticipated, the arrival of its hardware products the Ink pen and the Slide ruler. The company has also announced a new SDK that will enable other companies to build products on the Adobe Creative Cloud platform.
What comes through in this release is Adobe’s willingness to tweak the Creative Cloud platform as it evolves. The company sees its cloud as a living thing that will take shape as people use it and make their preferences clear. For instance, about a year or so after the launch of Creative Cloud and after a certain amount of Sturm und Drang blowing around the idea of subscriptions, Adobe announced promotional packaging and pricing for the photography apps including Photoshop and Lightroom. The promotion came in answer to complaints from photographers who said they weren’t interested in all of Adobe’s creative products and services. In response Adobe offered Photoshop, Lightroom, and a Creative Cloud membership with storage space and the Behance creative sharing site for $9.99 a month. It has apparently been popular because the company is making the photography membership permanent.
Mobile + Services
In a pre-briefing for the press, Scott Morris, Adobe’s Senior Marketing Director notes that people want to do serious work using mobile tools. He said that Adobe conducted a study and found their target customers, the so-called Creatives, are seeing their jobs change more rapidly and more profoundly in the last few years than their jobs have changed in the previous ten years. The good news is people are excited about their work and interested in using new tools, even if they are a little worried about who will be paying their next pay check. Morris says the primary agent of change has been mobile.
Adobe is planning for a world where people are always connected and the company is using this connectivity to provide users with a wealth of resources. Adobe says it is providing a services layer to help glue all the pieces together.
The services layer isn’t exactly new but it’s the connective tissue making a lot of Adobe’s new features work. The services layer technology first appeared on the desktop as the Creative Cloud app that manages downloads and content including files, fonts, and assets. As the CC Services component extends to the web, it becomes the link between the desktop and the mobile apps. As part of the Services layer Adobe says it is also offering the Creative Cloud Market, a collection of content offered by Creative Cloud customers. In the New York presentation of Creative Cloud 2014, David Wadhwani said in passing that Adobe is updating its site and improving access. There is clearly more work required on that front. There are a ton of resources and information on the Adobe site, but getting to the information you’re actually looking for can be hard work.
The Mobile Apps
The Mobile Apps represent a major focus for Adobe. The company has been experimenting with apps with uneven results but it almost doesn’t care. As people create content, many of them will be feeding it to the Creative Cloud and staying within the Adobe family. Adobe is unveiling new mobile apps: Sketch, Line, and Mix and they’re free, sort of. They require a Creative Cloud subscription to work. This is where the Photographers’ version of Creative Cloud at $9.99 a month might be able to pull in a lot more customers – people who might not think of themselves as professionals, but Adobe would deem them “creatives.”
So far, you’ll notice a decided bent towards the iOS platform. (At the height of the Flash wars between Adobe and Apple, Adobe did make some apps available on the Android platform.) The company says it is evaluating other platforms and will have future announcements. The company is well aware of the growing importance of the Windows Surface machines – it has added special interface features for Photoshop and the Surface track pad. But for now the company insists that most of their customers using mobile tools are using Apple’s mobile devices, and that seems like an easy enough assertion to believe.
Apple Sketch: Designed for Adobe’s new Ink stylus, the Sketch app is designed to for free-form drawing, Adobe has coined the term social sketching to describe the process they believe its customers will adopt. They see people doing sketches and uploading them to Adobe’s social site Behance for comment. Adobe sees Behance as a possible resource for people searching for artists and for artists searching or jobs. In addition, artists can comment on their colleagues’ work.
Adobe Line: Also designed for Adobe’s hardware, Line is a tool for “precision drawing and drafting.” Line can be used in conjunction with the Slide ruler but it does not require it. Instead, Line features a virtual Slide ruler that can be used as a straight edge. It works but it will probably make users want to buy Ink and Slide because the digital version falls just short of satisfying. In addition to a straight line, line includes different shape templates and even assets like desks, chairs, etc. Adobe Line is a vector based tool producing SVG, a common vector format supported by Illustrator. It’s also easy to access Kuler color themes in Adobe Line.
Adobe Mix: A Photoshop based tool. It brings some sophisticated tools from Photoshop and Lightroom to mobile including Upright, Content Aware Fill, and Camera Shake Reduction. Like Lightroom, Mix provides a non-destructive workflow. For resource intensive jobs including Content Aware Fill and for filters, the application sends the work to the cloud where it’s processed and sent back. At the New York event the comment was made that given a good Internet connection the process can be faster than the desktop because there are so many compute cores available in the Cloud.
Lightroom Mobile for iPhone: Takes the new Lightroom Mobile to the iPhone as well as the iPad and takes Adobe closer to seamless access to content and tools. Using the mobile app, photographers can make edits, crop, process their images, and update them via an Internet connection. The app maintains the images in a lightweight format so it’s usable on mobile platforms.
Adobe’s new SDK
As mentioned, the Creative Cloud app gives Adobe’s customers access to their files, assets, content, collaborative tools. Adobe has also announced its new SDK for mobile apps. The APIs and SDK will support the Ink and Slide tools and also extend access to the new cloud-based services. Adobe says it will make some Adobe “marquee technologies” formerly restricted to Adobe’s desktop apps available to developers. The SDK is just now being rolled out to developers gradually, and the company hopes to be able to showcase new apps by the time its Max user conference in early October.
Pen and Paper
So far, we haven’t talked about the new Ink and Slide tools in detail. That’s because we’ve talked quite a bit about it before, but to refresh, the Ink pen and Slide ruler were originally rolled out as prototypes named Mighty and Napoleon respectively. Now, they’re shipping as a matched set for $199.00 through Adobe’s partner Adonit, which developed the original pen technology used by Adobe for Ink. The pen and ruler can be purchased on Adonit’s site. Adonit’s Jot pen is also available on the site and the company has added Creative Cloud support to the pen, all of which should give you an idea about Adobe’s expansive thinking about Creative Cloud and its products.
When it comes to mobile, Adobe is completely unafraid of making tweaks and adding on new features and introducing products that may duplicate features from earlier products or even compete with earlier releases. The new Line mobile app is a lot like Adobe Ideas, another vector based product. The introduction of Photoshop Express a few years ago has been superseded by Photoshop Touch, which has in turn been superseded by Lightroom and Mix. So what? Adobe will tell you that each one has a different purpose and is designed for a different audience, and no doubt they are right, but it does make managing apps and content a challenge.
It is wonderful to be able to access everything you’re working on in the cloud including fonts, Kuler swatches, preferences et al. And that’s the part Adobe is getting right.
What do we think?
There are a lot of things to think with these announcements. For a long time now, Adobe has led the market in creative tools. With growth into mobile, it’s building a creative platform with the tablet functioning as digital paper to complement Adobe’s software tools. And, of course, it actually has a real pen too. If Adobe had made no change to the way it sold its products, it would be in trouble, maybe even dying because the trend for software tools is to decline in price until it’s just about free and companies that try and protect their margins are likely to find themselves confronted by less expensive competitors and free open source tools. These days having great technology isn’t enough. Somewhere along the way, Adobe realized its real asset is its community of users. Now, that community of users is becoming a product as well. They’re creating content that can be sold in the market place but more important the work of these people who are the center of the creative universe in so many fields such as print, film, video, photography, and art can become accessible to Adobe’s Marketing Cloud and monetized by content owners. This is not a conspiracy really; it’s a willing partnership for those who bother to think about it. For the rest Adobe offers a wealth of resources at a reasonable price.
And on another front, this overview does not get into all of the new features Adobe is rolling out in its Creative Cloud applications but there are a lot, including further advances into 3D. Photoshop users will be able to do even more with 3D content. As they bring 3D content into photos, they can do a lot more to better integrate the content. In addition Adobe added to its palette of basic 3D content creation including 3D type and don’t forget the company’s introduction of a print button for 3D printers.
When we look at the tools available in Illustrator, Photoshop, Ideas, and Line for drawing and drafting and then see more and more accommodation for 3D, we’re seeing the worlds of CAD, art, and photography coming together. Adobe is hanging out on the fringes of the CAD world and moving closer. There has always been that trajectory but as Autodesk and Adobe both adjust their course in response to the opportunities afforded by the Internet we can see many ways in which the companies are going to be competing and colliding.
Interestingly, the stock market has noticed the similarities between the ambitions of the two companies. Adobe has announced several very successful quarters, and with this quarter’s announcement, the stock market also rewarded Autodesk.