Don't expect Adobe to launch a fully functioning version of Photoshop for the iPad any time soon. That is the message from today's launch of three companion apps: all are low priced iPad apps that are designed not to be a substitute for Photoshop, but are designed to work with your desktop versions.
Adobe Nav for Photoshop is a $1.99 app and acts as a kind of remote control for Photoshop. The app allows users to use their multitouch device to use Photoshop, either at the same time or remotely. The catch is that you must own Photoshop CS5 (or the new CS 5.5), as the app will not work with CS4 (that means I'm out of luck until I upgrade).
Adobe Eazel for Photoshop is $4.99 and is a finger painting app that again forces the user to use Photoshop while taking advantage of the iPad's multitouch capabilities.
Finally there is Adobe Color Lava for Photoshop, a $2.99 app that allows users to make a mess of their work through dabs, swirls and smudges. It, too requires Photoshop CS5 or higher.
It will be interesting to see the reaction to these new apps. When old media companies release mobile or tablet apps that are pricey, or create paywalls for their websites, they are accused of trying to protect their legacy print products. They are dinosaurs.
But here we have a major tech company that, rather than introducing stand alone tablet apps, created companion apps that force the user to continue owning their high priced legacy applications – even forcing upgrades for many owners.
There is a big lesson here, however, for media companies developing for tablets: Adobe has not tried to reinvent the wheel here, instead they are adding multitouch capabilities to their existing products. In other words, they are using the iPad to expand their products.
For too many publishers the goal for releasing a tablet or mobile app is to simply extend the reach of their existing products. Indeed, the goal is to "replicate" the print product for the new medium. Instead, one of two approaches would be better: either consider the tablet or mobile platform as requiring all new products, or else use the new platforms to add new capabilities: geolocation services, multimedia, new navigation, etc.
The Adobe video below touches on thinking behind their new iPad apps. Notice how Thomas Ruark, senior computer scientist at Adobe, immediately dismisses the idea that you could put Photoshop on the iPad. Why? (Because it would not only require a complete rewrite of the program, but the pricing environment for tablets would require much lower pricing, as well.)