The Future of the Desktop: Cloud Computing and Adobe Photoshop

The Desmise of the Desktop: How will Cloud Computing Affect the Graphic Designer?

–by Jori Curry

I was at Adobe headquarters last February and there was much discussion about the future of the desktop. Adobe chief executive Bruce Chizen has recently elaborated on the shift in software from the desktop to the web, and speculates it should happen within 10 years. Adobe seems to be following the lead from the web based Google Apps, such as Writely, an online word processing experience, and Picasa which is an online photo manager. It seems that even Microsoft and IBM are jumping on the online bandwagon of “Cloud Computing.”

The whole industry seems poised to step away from buying product licenses, and moving towards the online-based subscription for software. Time Magazine February 2008 issue is stating that by the year 2010 the internet will slow to a crawl due to the video streaming that is growing exponentially.The question is: How will the graphic designer and developer be affected? Will the internet be able to handle the demands of the designer?

Adobe AIR

Another interesting aspect of the future of Cloud Computing is Adobe AIR. Adobe AIR, allows web applications from Flash and HTML be deployed as cross-platform desktop applications, and is taking the direction of “Cloud Computing” to the next level. For example, the AIR iPhone, by Ribbit, allows you to put a simulated iPhone on your desktop and allows you to make and receive calls on your desktop. It’s powered by the Ribbit platform, and includes a new feature called “Shout” which records voice messages and sends them to their email as an audio attachment.

How will our Design Process Change?

So the question is this: If Adobe shifts to free/cheaper online versions of Photohop and the other CS3 family (or CS9 by the time this comes to fruition), how will it affect us? Will it be completely free and advertiser driven, or come at a cost? Adobe has already dipped it’s toe in the water by adding online Express versions of some of its’ applications, but my two biggest questions are firstly, how will we deal with large file sizes, and secondly, security? Especially with the professional Photoshop user base, I think the complexity it takes to perform such tasks as Liquify or Lighting Effects would challenge the speed of todays’ broadband. If you’re anything like me, your Photoshop files can be extremely large, and the idea of relying on both a WiFi connection and a server out of my control leaves me a bit shaky.

Adobe has Adobe SHARE in beta format, which just fuels the fire that Cloud Computing is the wave of the future. Share is a free web-based service that allows you to share, publish and organize documents. You can share with a list of those you specify, or with anyone. You can host up to 1GB of documents, but not the ability to collaborate such as Adobe InCopy. Adobe does plan to include an embedded code with a Flash preview for all documents–not just PDF’s.

Possible Solutions to Online Applications

One solution to the issue of taking a monster such as Photoshop to a strictly online experience would be to break it down into segments. For example, most people that use Photoshop have “tunnel vision.”

The retoucher only uses a fraction of the tools to get their job done, the web designer uses it for laying out their site. Segregating the online version of Photoshop into the different markets, such as Photoshop: Web Design, Photoshop: Retouching, Photoshop: Special Effects might just be an answer to tackle this problem.

As a company, we at Ascend Training have recently started using BaseCamp. It’s an online project collaboration application that includes tools for those working on projects together. I will say that in a few short weeks, our work as a team has streamlined and projects are more on task. So as far as Ascend Training stepping into the online world of applications, so far so good.

While I do think that we are already on the speeding locomotive towards online applications, I do think that those of us that work with 70 MB files are very concerned about logistics. Until WiFi becomes as prevalent as electrical sockets, this future could leave us with nothing to do. While this might create more time to read a book, or have a leisurely dinner, most of those in the creative market are under deadlines and the idea of relying on an internet connection is quite daunting.