Friday, October 19, 2007

Adobe Preparing Full Shift to Web Apps

At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said that the company is working toward shifting all of their apps online, but that it would probably take about 10 years for a complete shift. While the web as the computing platform of the future is currently a popular idea, and while prognostication 10 years out is rarely a good idea, I'm skeptical that Adobe could pull off a full shift of its software catalog to Internet apps.

Adobe has launched stripped down online versions of some of its apps, already. Premiere Express, which powers the video mashups at sites like Photobucket and YouTube, is one of the nicer online video editors, but still falls well short of Adobe's software offering. Two week's ago at the Adobe Max event, Adobe showed off the latest version of their Photoshop Express web app -- again, it appeared to be one of the nicer online offerings, but still well short of their traditional software package.

The high-level processing necessary to do a lot of the things that Adobe's popular offline apps do -- managing multiple layers, calculating the math behind vector graphics, applying complex filters -- these are all things that are complex, and I would guess are beyond the capabilities of Flex or Flash. Further, the US will need a massive leap in broadband speeds to support complex web apps at speeds comparable to desktop apps.

Adobe did recently show off their new image processing programming language, Hydra, which will be integrated into the next version of Flash. Though early in development, the Hydra demos are impressive and its addition to Flash may eventually make Photoshop-like filter effects more plausible in web apps, but achieving the sort of speed and complexity of Photoshop online -- even in 10 years -- still seems implausible to me.

Certainly, we will see more web applications from Adobe, and more complex applications that will closely mimic their offline brethren. It is very plausible that Adobe can have (less powerful) online versions of its most popular software aimed at the consumer market within 10 years, but I think it will be a long time before professional users are comfortable using completely online applications for critical graphic, video, animation, and programming work. Matching the speed and complexity of Adobe's offline applications online is more than 10 years away, in my opinion.

What do you think? Is it feasible for Adobe to have its entire catalog of software online in 10 years?

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