For more than a quarter century, Adobe Photoshop has reflected a remarkably consistent vision. It’s leveraged the latest advances in computer science. It’s burst at the seams with potent features, most of which themselves have burst at the seams with options. And there’s been absolutely nothing about it that has been tailored to the needs of newbies or other people who might be daunted by its learning curve, which has been intimidating, if not downright terrifying.
All along, the product has dominated its category as thoroughly as any product in software history. Which means that for years, there wasn’t much reason for Adobe to mess with a winning formula. But in 2010, something happened that forced the company to reconsider just what Photoshop should be.
Color Nav, one of Adobe’s first Photoshop apps for the iPad
That something was Apple introducing the first iPad. It was instantly obvious that the tablet was a major new platform for software—and that the software it would run would have to depart from what came before on Windows PCs and Macs.
“The iPad 1 came out,” recalls Lance Lewis, a senior computer scientist who has been with the company for two decades. “In my my mind, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to transform the industry.’ I wanted to do everything I could to be part of mobile.’”
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.
The move had been in the works for a while. “We did a rethinking of our strategy a year and a half ago,” explains Manu Anand, an Adobe senior product manager. “Initially, we were on the path of, let’s take Photoshop from the desktop and make it run as efficiently as possible. We were bringing a lot of the complexity that one can associate with Photoshop on the desktop to mobile devices.”