Photoshop Tries to Win Over the Web 2.0 Crowd

What should photo imaging software giant Adobe be focusing on in a Web 2.0 world? Judging from some new products, it’s not just taking on the likes of Apple’s iPhoto and Aperture; it’s learning to work and play well with social networks like Facebook and digital media storage Web sites such as Flickr.

Those could be the chief takeaways from Adobe’s announcement this week that it will be releasing Photoshop Elements 7 in late September, along with the imminent launch of Photoshop.com, a photo upload/storage site that will offer both free and paid services to members, and a beta version of a mobile software product.

The announcements highlight Adobe’s strategy of using its powerful brand to extend into Web-based segments of the marketplace. The questions could now be this: Has Adobe moved fast enough, or has the Internet services trend already zoomed by the company?

“Adobe as a software company has to figure out a way to make money as we move to Web 2.0, where everything is online and everything is free,” Roger Kay, principal analyst, Endpoint Technologies, told TechNewsWorld. “There’s lots of competition in this area, so how can it take its franchise, Photoshop and turn it into something usable?”

Photoshop Express = Photoshop.com

The first step toward answering Kay’s question: Make sure everything online has the Photoshop brand front and center. Adobe had already dipped its toe into the Web-based waters with its Express Web site. Now that morphs into Photoshop.com, which will offer 5 GB of storage for free and 20 GB for those who pay US$50 a year. Users will be able to upload photos to popular sharing Web sites Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket, and can send photos and videos to the world’s top social network, Facebook.

The next step? Promise a seamless experience between desktop, online and Windows Mobile phone with new products Elements 7 and Photoshop Mobile.

Elements 7 ($100, $80 with upgrade) offers enhanced digital imaging/touchup tools including Scene Cleaner for scrubbing away unwanted backgrounds (and, possibly, ex-spouses) from photos and a series of tabs — Full Edit, Quick Fix and Guided Editing — that offer a variety of features, depending on whether the user is a newbie or a seasoned Photoshop pro.

Photoshop Mobile is for use with Windows Mobile phones and will also debut in late September. This represents Adobe’s realization of the ubiquity of multi-megapixel camera phones, along with the desire by users to shoot photos and immediately post them to their favorite social network or media-sharing site.

Making Photoshop Mainstream

The challenge for Adobe, Kay said, is to transfer a franchise that may be more popular with serious photography enthusiasts and creative services professionals and make it mainstream and user-friendly.

“What’s happening is, this capability (photos and videos) is coming within the reach of Everyman,” Kay said. “The tools making it accessible need to be put into place as well. They need to broaden their products to appeal to wider markets. That doesn’t mean dumbing them down but hiding their complexity, making the controls easier.”

When it comes to Adobe discovering the usefulness of trends like social networks and photo-sharing sites, Kay has a caveat that an hour’s worth of Smart Brushing can’t erase: “Adobe is coming late to the game. It reminds me of Kodak coming late to the game in digital photography.”

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