After multiple half-steps over the past eight years, Adobe now plans to launch a full version of its popular photo editing app Photoshop for the iPad. Bloomberg reports today that the app will likely debut at Adobe’s MAX conference in October 2018, and hit the market in 2019.
Photoshop has remained one of the most important applications for creative professionals for decades, and it is the core offering of Creative Cloud, a Mac and PC subscription service that leases access to Adobe’s apps. The computer version of Photoshop offers powerful image editing tools that have evolved slowly but surely over the years, notably adding AI to “fill” empty spaces with modified versions of adjacent content.
According to the report, the iPad version of Photoshop will be the same as the Mac and PC app, as part of Adobe’s strategy to boost subscription sales by making its apps work across multiple devices. Adobe’s head of Creative Cloud Scott Belsky confirmed the move, saying that he hopes to get iPad versions of Photoshop and other applications “on the market as soon as possible,” though getting the apps to work on “a modern device like the iPad” requires a lot of labor.
Adobe has released multiple Photoshop-branded apps for the iPad in the past, starting with a version that appeared only months after the iPad’s 2010 debut. But all of the apps have been stripped down for mobile devices, with limited features, and none has strongly resembled the full Mac and PC version of Photoshop. In the meantime, rival apps such as Pixelmator, Affinity, and Enlight Photofox have appeared with much larger feature sets, as countless smaller apps have arrived with narrower but more touchscreen-friendly abilities.
Belsky says the latest iPad Pros are powerful enough to run the full versions of Adobe’s apps, though the report suggests Adobe will launch the new Photoshop — and further down the road, a new Illustrator — “alongside” the original app, rather than immediately replacing it. This will enable Adobe to adopt a more mobile-friendly interface for both computer and tablet users, while gently transitioning users away from the classic Photoshop’s aging code base.
Apple used a similar strategy years ago to phase out its original version of Final Cut Pro in favor of a streamlined Final Cut Pro X, leading to howls from the video editing community — and abandonment of the Mac by some professional and prosumer users. However, Apple insisted that the updated application was better positioned for the future, and continued to rebuild the new app with requested features using major free updates. By comparison, Adobe’s plan will apparently depend upon ongoing subscription revenues.
Adobe’s decision to bring the full Photoshop to the iPad dovetails with Apple’s “Marzipan” initiative, a multi-year strategy to enable iOS and macOS apps to share the same code base. It’s unclear whether Adobe is collaborating with Apple on the Photoshop port, but the companies have recently been working more closely together after their infamous battle over Flash on iPhones roughly a decade ago.