Adobe is tweaking its most famous product to work more like the design tool it committed US$20-billion to acquire.
Photoshop, the company’s flagship image editing product, will add more collaboration tools, artificial intelligence features and Web capability as the creative giant aims to update its software portfolio for a younger and more casual audience. Last month, Adobe announced it would buy Figma to try to capture some of the small businesses, social media creators and non-professionals who have flocked to the upstart maker of Web-based design tools.
The updates introduced on Tuesday at Adobe’s annual product conference symbolise the company’s efforts to streamline its offerings as smaller rivals like Figma and Canva threaten the software juggernaut’s market dominance. Adobe has responded with updates to its line of desktop creative tools and the introduction of a slimmed-down online Photoshop and Adobe Express, a Web-based service that looks more like Canva than other Adobe products on the desktop.
Browser-based products are crucial to Adobe’s efforts to pick up new customers, chief product officer Scott Belsky said in an interview. “There’s no friction when you can just click and be in a Web app in seconds.”
The integration of design tool Figma could help “modernise the entire Creative Cloud product portfolio over the next three to five years,” wrote Piper Sandler analyst Brent Bracelin in a note on Monday. Adobe has said the deal is expected to close sometime in 2023, subject to regulatory approvals.
Still, Wall Street has panned the acquisition as too expensive and revealing stronger competitive pressures than previously appreciated. Adobe’s shares are down 22% since the deal became public, more than three times the decline in the broad-based S&P 500.
One new feature, dubbed “share for review”, allows Photoshop, Lightroom and InDesign files to be shared for feedback in a Web browser rather through exporting large files or requiring reviewers to have the program installed. The workflow mirrors that of video review platform Frame.io, which was acquired by Adobe last year for $1.3-billion.
The company will also add new artificial intelligence updates like the ability to remove objects from images with one click, detection of people, and background removal in Adobe Express. AI-generated images have taken off this year thanks to providers like OpenAI’s Dall-E, and Belsky said Adobe is focused on how to integrate this kind of AI into creative workflows, rather than just making “silly JPEGs from words”.
As manipulated of online content has become more common, creative artists have expressed worry about protecting their intellectual property. To address such concerns, Adobe is partnering with camera manufacturers Nikon and Leica on technology that will attach a photographer’s credentials to a picture’s metadata, at the time of capture, through advanced coding. The picture retains its creator’s identity while being edited, published and shared on social media.
“It’s important to remember that technology companies — like Adobe, like social media platforms — are not the arbiters of truth,” Adobe’s chief trust officer Dana Rao said. “They don’t want to be sitting in that judgment seat trying to decide if something is true, deceptive or satire. This solution gives them the opportunity to put the power back in the hands of the people.”
Adobe isn’t the only software titan betting on Web-based creative tools integrated with artificial intelligence. Microsoft announced a new design feature last week that will be part of its suite of office products like Word and Teams. The tool, called Designer, will be integrated with Dall-E, which generates images based on text commands.
Microsoft’s new solution “seems to be pretty focused on a very limited set of features for some of their office products right now”, Belsky said. “We have a deep partnership with Microsoft and they’re also exploring ways to integrate with Adobe Express.” — Brody Ford and Sabiq Shahidullah, (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP