Here's what you'll see from Adobe over the coming year: more mobile apps, new types of stock media, more offerings for large companies and new tools for home users.
The company's future plans were revealed by VP Mala Sharma in a conference call to journalists yesterday. While there was some broad discussion of an emphasis on more mobile tools, the company's desktop products from Photoshop to After Effects were barely mentioned – with the exception of its new UX design software Adobe XD (aka Adobe Experience Design).
Adobe XD is an attempt to take over one notable part of the design design market where the company doesn't have dominance – Sketch being the tool of choice for most UX designers. Like Sketch it's Mac-only, but I was surprised that there wasn't an iOS version on Adobe's roadmap for the tool when a beta was released earlier this month – especially considering that mobile apps are a big part of Adobe's future plans, and Apple made a big deal about targeting creative pros with its iPad Pro at the launch of the new smaller model earlier this week.
From using the tool, I doubt it would need the performance only found on a laptop that you'd need to run Photoshop or Illustrator. So why no XD for iOS?
Sharma (below) said that Adobe created XD for Mac OS X as that's where current customers were working on UX projects (i.e. in Sketch) – and those customers don't see the iPad as a platform for creation yet. This is a chicken-and-egg situation though, as creatives won't look to the iPad Pro as a device for designing on until Adobe – or someone else – builds design tools with a professional-level breadth of features for it. And if Adobe is waiting for designers to buy iPads while designers are waiting for Adobe to release tools for it, we're going to stay using desktop tools.
Another possibility is that a different firm could produce pro-level creative iPads apps - disrupting Adobe's hold on the market just as Sketch did for UX design. In fact, an iOS version of Sketch could do just that - though that would only be successful if its extensive plug-ins for tools such as InVision and Marvel were ported over too.
Adobe is clearly aware that it needs to move first if it wants to take creatives onto the devices Apple clearly wants them to move onto (iPads not laptops) - and not lose out to newcomer competitors again. While she didn't reveal any specific details, Sharma said that "Adobe has the opportunity to change the perception around those devices" by producing "apps that are not extensions of [desktop] applications but are interchangeable with them."
Sharma foresees a time when apps aren't just limited to single features (like Photoshop Fix) or ideation (like Adobe Comp) - but full tools that you use on the move or in meetings, that sync your work to the cloud when you get to your studio (or during the meeting), and then you continue seamlessly on your desktop applications.
From Adobe's current app line-up, we're still some distance from there - but most creatives would like to be able to work from iPad to desktop as effortlessly as they can with email, Slack or Evernote.
New from Adobe Stock: 3D, video and fonts (possibly)
Adobe has invested a lot of resources into its Adobe Stock library of photos and illustrations, and Sharma sketched out what's coming next there. Expect to see stock video and 3D models and textures on sale through Adobe Stock - as well as possibly fonts too. Creatives currently get a library of fonts through Adobe's TypeKit service - but the number available inside tools such as Photoshop, InDesign or Premiere is much lower than those available as Web fonts. Sharma said that Adobe may let you buy perpetual licences as you can now from foundries themselves or the likes of Fonts.com.
Sharma also said photographers and illustrators will be able to submit work to Adobe Stock from within Adobe's tools in a similar way to how they can currently download them using the Libraries panel.
While creatives are its core business, Adobe sees consumers and large enterprise companies as being the big growth areas when it can expand its market. We can hope that putting resources into developing creative tools for home users won't distract Adobe from adding new tools to professional apps (which we've seen from many companies in the market in the past).
Adobe for the enterprise
Adobe's enterprise tools are more interesting. The 'big news' that Adobe is bringing together Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Document Cloud to offer large companies a single 'Adobe Cloud' won't get anyone reading Digital Arts excited, but the ability to move seamlessly from prototyping an app in Adobe XD (part of Creative Cloud) to building and distributing it and updating its content using Experience Manager (part of Marketing Cloud) sounds like it could save a few headaches.