Photoshop for iPad still on track for 2019 launch

Adobe Inc. is nearing the consumer launch of Photoshop for Apple Inc.’s iPads a year after it was officially announced, however the company and early testers have said that the application will lack some key features from the desktop version.

The San Jose, California-based company will hold its annual creative software conference, Max, in early November in Los Angeles and will provide an update on Photoshop for iPad at that time. The mobile app, which was announced to much fanfare and anticipation at the conference in 2018, is still on track to reach consumers by the end of this year, Scott Belsky, chief product officer of Adobe’s Creative Cloud division, said in an interview. The company hasn’t provided an official update on the software launch since last year.

Adobe has been testing Photoshop for iPad under the codename Rocket with a small group of beta testers since earlier this year. Participants have told Bloomberg News that some beta versions don’t include well-established features they expected to be part of the release. They complained about less advanced or missing features around core functionality like filters, the pen tool and custom paintbrush libraries, vector drawing, color spaces, RAW editing, smart objects, layer styles and certain options for mask creation. Their disappointment about these limitations stems from Photoshop’s established reputation as a leading professional photo-editing program on the desktop.

“Feature-wise, it feels like a beefed-up cloud-based version of their existing iPad apps and not ‘real Photoshop’ as advertised,” said someone beta-testing the software, who declined to be named talking about an unreleased app. “I understand it is based on desktop Photoshop code, but it doesn’t feel like it right now.” Other testers have called the app “rudimentary” and said, in its current state, it is inferior to other apps like Procreate and Affinity on the iPad.

Belsky said that the beta feature set won’t represent the final version for consumers, and the need to collaborate with Apple meant that a lot of features are “coming in hot” ahead of the launch. At launch, he said that Photoshop will still lack some familiar features, but that will only represent version one of the product. “Launching every single feature that was accumulated over 25 years on the iPad on day one would not best serve our customers and the needs they have.” Usage on a desktop and an iPad isn’t “apples to apples,” he said, and Adobe “will definitely expand the capabilities” of Photoshop on iPad over time.

Apple has positioned the new iteration of Photoshop as a selling point for its iPad Pro tablets since the moment the app was announced. It was highlighted during the launch of the most recent iPad Pro models about a year ago, and the Cupertino, California-based company has steadfastly featured the software on its website even though customers have been unable to download the app.

Adobe has bolstered its mobile app strategy in an effort to reinvigorate growth in its Creative Cloud division, a suite of programs that lead the art and design software markets. Most of Adobe’s revenue comes from these tools, whose pace of growth has slowed from last year. Adobe offers a Lightroom CC app for iPads and iPhones, and it has unveiled several standalone mobile apps to capture a broader swath of customers than just the group who’d typically subscribe to all of the company’s creative tools.

Adobe engineers prioritized the Photoshop functions they think will be most useful for customers with the first iPad release, the company said. It can work with “any Photoshop file in the world” and adjust every layer of an image in a non-destructive way, Belsky added. While Photoshop for the iPad runs on a version of the flagship tool’s underpinnings, the mobile version won’t support any three-dimensional workloads. The result, Belsky said, is a Photoshop that’s easier for beginners to use, but robust enough for professional projects. It will also synchronize files and edits with the desktop version via Creative Cloud.

The app was heavily promoted by Adobe as being “real Photoshop,” a phrase that many professional users took to mean “full Photoshop.” “I want to say it’s the best product in the world for specific workflows and not have to apologize that it’s not full because that’s not what the customer needs,” Belsky said. The new version of Photoshop will also debut entirely new tools that take advantage of features — such as stylus and touch input — that are native to the iPad, he added.

Bloomberg News first reported last year that Adobe was developing Photoshop for iPad and it was announced last October for release this year.

“I couldn’t be more proud of where we landed,” Belsky said. “People will see for themselves.”

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Photoshop for iPad still on track for 2019 launch