By Bob Walsh
Jim Kring pointed out to me this morning that I may soon be eating my words: a few weeks ago Michael Lehman and I interviewed Joel Spolsky for The MicroISV Show. While Joel thought desktop apps were a fading thing of the past, I demurred that there would never be for example an online Adobe Photoshop.
Except, there will be.
Adobe’s CEO Bruce Chizen is putting his job on the line: Adobe is going to move toward web-based, advertising supported low end versions of its software. Adobe already has a simple video editing online app, Adobe Remix, it offers through the PhotoBucket media-sharing site, and that’s not an exclusive license, more a get Adobe’s feet wet kind of thing.
Whether you go Flex, ASP .NET, php, RoR or (someday) WPF/E, I have to admit as a diehard desktop developer the technology is there to deliver a solid, innovative, feature rich app on the web.
However, there are still four very big hurdles for Photoshop Online:
- Latency. Here’s “Walsh’s Rule of Online Apps” – the more functionality, the frustrating the online app will be. Even with Ajax, even with web services, even with every trick in the book, online apps are slow. While evolving technology is raising the ceiling where too many features make an online app unusable, that ceiling is very low indeed compared to desktop apps. It can be done: 37signals.com are masters of this. But that ceiling is going to hurt a lot of heads at Adobe when they unveil their online Photoshop and Photoshop users with desktop expectations hit that ceiling hard.
- Where’s my Data? As this poster at Business of Software found, people are not going to go for persisting any and all of their data in the Internet Cloud: nor will companies, enterprises, organizations or governments.
- Where’s the revenue? Photoshop Online will be “free”, that is ad-supported. Is Adobe going to give Google control over their revenue stream for this product? Are the going to attempt (foolishly) build an ad network to generate revenue? Will users sit still for being distracted by ads while they are trying to do something creative? Ads in Gmail are one thing; ads while you’re trying to create art?
- Adobe.com sucks. It is slow, slow, slow, rigid, and a major pain in the ass. I noticed when prepping for this post that the Flex2 SDK is a free download and I thought I’d go ahead and grab it. Good luck! An instantly frustrating experience. It is without a doubt one of the worst web sites of any major ISV out there.
I’m ready to eat my words if Adobe pulls this off, but the more I think about it, the more hurdles I see for Adobe and other “real” ISVs who want to go online with their apps. Micro-ISV’s, on the other hand, have enough flexibility, are hungry enough and can control what their apps will do to beat the online expectation ceiling.
What do you think?