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article imageReview: Mass Appeal of Adobe's Online Photoshop Express Could Hurt Competition

By Chris Hogg     Mar 27, 2008 in Internet
It's here. Adobe has announced the release of Photoshop Express, and it was worth the wait. In a briefing with DigitalJournal.com, Adobe showed how its new software is the end-to-end storage, editing and sharing application the world has been waiting for.
Digital Journal – Photoshop is a must-have for any graphic designer, and despite the company offering a simplified “express” version of its software for average consumers, the brand hasn’t really taken off with average Joes and Janes. However, Adobe is taking the consumer bull by the horns with the launch of Photoshop Express, an online solution for storing, editing and sharing photos.
In a special media-only preview, Adobe walked DigitalJournal.com through the new features and talked about what separates it from the competition. In short: With the right marketing, Adobe had the potential to seriously gouge the competition in the eyes with a very solid feature list, by embracing Web 2.0 culture as well as upping the bar on what photography is all about. There has been a lot of hype around the launch of this product, and a quick glance of the features show it was worth the wait.
If you currently share photos online, you likely are familiar with the uber-popular Photobucket, Google’s Picasa, Flickr, Facebook’s photo-sharing capabilities or any of the other countless photo apps online. Adobe thinks it can do better. If you aren’t familiar with them, you are exactly the type of person Adobe is targeting with this release: They think they can do it better and offer you more reasons to start sharing and editing photos online.
Furthermore, Adobe has recognized it’s up against big boys who have a deep footprint in the industry, and so they are embracing this competition, integrating competing services into their own and also giving you more reasons to take photos with the big A in mind.
Adobe says that while there are a lot of great apps online, there are no end-to-end solutions for users to store, then edit, then send, share and embed work online. Photoshop Express, Adobe believes, will fill that hole in the industry and give consumers an easy photo solution that will not involve using five different photo sites.
Photoshop Express is being launched globally in beta version as of 12:01 a.m. (EST) March 27 and can be accessed at Photoshop.com/express. Adobe Vice President Doug Mack told DigitalJournal.com in a live demo conference call the “beta” tag is being applied so that Adobe can listen to initial customer feedback and make changes based on what people want. The software took Adobe about a year to build and ready for public launch.
“Even though it bears the name Photoshop, it's intended for the casual consumer,” said Mack. “The connected generation of users who are online 24x7 will find this a great solution.”
Photoshop Express allows anyone to upload images, store them, sort them, edit them and “package” them as an album to send to friends or embed on blogs. "The growth of broadband is making it practical to deliver a web-based solution for customers,” said Mack. “It no longer requires purchasing or downloading software."
Adobe says Photoshop Express is now possible because three main things have happened in the industry: Consumers have an increased interest in digital imaging, broadband has penetrated the market to a degree not previously seen, and consumers now also have a desire to share. One need look no further than Facebook to realize there is no fluff behind that statement, as the social network is the No. 1 photo-sharing application on the Web.
Adobe also hopes a free online photo solution will introduce new customers to the Photoshop brand with the hope they might also go out and buy the software after seeing the technology.

The Skinny on Photoshop Express

First up, the bad news for non-Americans: While the launch does happen on the Internet (therefore being accessible by anyone), it’s geared primarily at the U.S. market to start. If you access the site outside of Uncle Sam’s back yard you will likely see laggy performance, Adobe warns. Other countries will see localized versions later this year (hopefully).
The program is free to use by anyone, and comes with 2 GB of free storage. The word “free” might leave the business-minded folk wondering how this fits into Adobe’s business model, but rest assured there is an up-sell here: Adobe plans to eventually offer more storage and more features at a cost.
Photoshop Express works on PC, Mac and Linux in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari Internet browsers. It doesn’t support the RAW file format, however.

Show Me The Features

Photoshop is all about having power to transform, and Adobe is not selling anyone short on kick-ass features with this launch. We’ve got a bunch of screenshots here to give you a visual walk-through of what you can expect:
Using Photoshop Express you can view, sort edit and then share images.
Once you’ve uploaded images to Photoshop Express, you get drag-and-drop controls and very simple navigation. A big knock against Adobe has always been its software has a steep learning curve for casual users, and it’s something the company has clearly considered because Photoshop Express is very well laid out and simple to use.
Your uploaded images can be viewed in various-sized thumbnails with navigation on the left side of the screen. From your Albums page, you can view all your images, captions and ratings. To edit a photo, all you need to do is click ”Edit Photo” and you jump to editor mode.
Editing and retouching photos is simple, and blemishes on the skin can be removed in seconds
Photoshop Express comes with 17 tools for casual consumers that can all be accessed by pointing and clicking (you don’t need to be a Photoshop master to use this by any means). You can correct red-eye instantly or crop and image to remove unwanted content.
An important point that distinguishes Photoshop Express is the way in which it does these operations: This web-based app is still powered by Adobe’s Photoshop engine so you are getting quality technology. Red eye, for example, is actually corrected by analyzing an image to see how it should have been rather than plopping down a black dot to cover up the red in the eye.
With Photoshop Express, you can also change individual colours in an image by “popping colour.” You can change the colour of a hat for example by clicking on generated thumbnails or by tweaking it manually
Furthermore, Adobe realizes not everyone can figure out the tools of photo editing but many people can pick one image over another based on how it looks. In Photoshop Express, Adobe has included “generation variations” of images so you can see suggested thumbnails of how the image could be corrected. If you don’t want to take the time to fix an image, just click on the thumbnail of the suggested variation and the software does it all for you. You don’t need to know what saturation, contrast or colour correction means.
“Our basics are actually sophisticated,” said Mack.
Apply a cool style to a Photo in Photoshop Express that takes your photo and turns it into a “sketch” drawing, for example.
Publishing and sharing your photos is also another huge plus with Photoshop Express, and Adobe did this feature right: Once you’ve got an image finished you can simply email a link to a friend, you can embed it on a website or blog or download it to the computer at which you are working.
Adobe also provides more customization for grouping: Many people can put 100 photos of a ski trip into an album called “vacation” but the user might not want to actually share them all. Photoshop Express lets you drag and drop images into specific albums online or group them based on a theme so only certain images are included.
Adobe offers some visually impressive publishing tools too: Mack said the team there is “tired of uninspiring pages of HTML” so the company offers cool transitions along with slideshows. You can add a ring approach, a scattered photo approach, you can include captions with images or apply thick borders in very well-designed public or private slideshows.
Adobe Photoshop Express lets you upload and edit images, then share them in albums or through custom designed slideshows.
When you upload to your public folder, you also get a vanity URL to send to friends or colleagues such as “myname.photoshop.com” and you can drag and drop other alums into it at any time for public viewing. And in the spirit of sharing online and creating community, you can also browse through other users' photo albums.
Finally, and perhaps the most cool for many users who already have spent time uploading their images to other sites: Adobe lets you access those sites through this application to make edits and improvements. Rather than shutting out the competition, Adobe has embraced it.
Sites like Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa can be accessed from the left menu with the click of a button and you can view all your images on those sites. The images will also stay on Facebook servers, for example, so when you make edits using Adobe software it saves a new image with the changes you’ve made.
This is a very, very smart move on Adobe’s behalf because many companies would have tried to shut out the competition and do everything on its own. This way, Adobe benefits from getting its foot in the door of a market that is already well established and users don’t have to suffer through uploading images all over again to yet another site.

The Notable Afterthoughts

Some very cool things worth noting as a final thought: Adobe uses an “API” feed that lets you access your Facebook or Picasa photos from within their application. This means you don’t have to leave their site.
Adobe told DigitalJournal.com they are also working on the exact opposite: This program will eventually be able to be implemented on third-party sites. So if you run a website and you would love to have this technology at your fingertips, Adobe is working on making that happen, giving you access to all of this technology.
Adobe also plans to integrate this with its offline software in the future. The company told DigitalJournal.com it is working on building a foundation and this type of web functionality could be used on any of its products over time. Adobe is building a common platform that will extend other elements of other software in the future.
More about Adobe, Photoshop express, Photobucket, Picasa
 
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