Recently it was announced that Adobe would no longer be updating several of their touch-enabled applications which were a big part (from a marketing perspective) of their Creative Cloud launch last year. The apps that will be getting the axe are Adobe Debut, Adobe Collage, Adobe Proto, and the Android versions of Adobe Ideas and Adobe Kuler. So, basically they’re keeping Photoshop Touch around as well as the iOS version of Adobe Ideas. The main reasoning behind this? Adobe cites lack of adoption as their reasoning behind killing these apps just 9 months into their lifespan. While I’m sure the numbers weren’t stellar, I still say they’ve pulled the plug just a little too soon.
There has been a backlash in the creative community regarding Adobe killing touch apps. Granted, most of the backlash is coming from those who make their living presenting and teaching Adobe products, not so much those who claim to be using the apps in a production workflow, but still, a backlash nonetheless. As I said before, I think the apps were pulled prematurely, but I also agree with Adobe’s statement 100% wherein they say “we can do better”.
The Adobe Touch Apps were doomed from the start if you ask me. Originally they were touted as being a part of the Creative Cloud subscription, which meant that when you sign up for Creative Cloud, you would (seemingly) get the Touch Apps alongside it. However, it later came to light that you actually had to purchase the touch apps for $9.99 a piece. In all fairness, Adobe did find a workaround for this by giving you “Creative Cloud Credits” once you purchased the apps, but at this point not many people were listening. These apps should have been released for a much lower price ($0.99 perhaps) or even for free to the public, and then had their functionality limited by forcing the user to sign in to their Creative Cloud account before the app would truly function. Now, I don’t pretend to know about the Apple App Store’s policy on such apps, but I do know there are apps out there that require you to sign in to something prior to their full functionality being available to you. Doing this would’ve allowed people to dip a toe in the Adobe pond before they went full-on into a Creative Cloud subscription. I think ultimately it would have been a huge win from a marketing perspective for Adobe, but I digress.
The apps themselves were limited at best in terms of functionality. Take Proto for example. This was the app that showed the most promise in my opinion, and yet it just wasn’t quite there yet. The idea of the app was very simple. Proto allowed you to basically draw out a website mockup using your finger on your tablet and it would create a working HTML/CSS prototype (hence the name) for you to then take into Dreamweaver and edit further. This sounds great, but once you used it a few times you quickly realized it wasn’t as glorious as it sounded. First off, not everyone uses Dreamweaver (I don’t) and so limiting Proto’s roundtrip capabilities to just one app seems ridiculous to me. Adobe should’ve allowed the things you created in Proto to be used in many applications like Fireworks, Photoshop, Illlustrator, or even just give me the raw CSS/HTML in a .ZIP file and let me load it into Sublime Text (or whatever code editor I choose). Instead, you got a .PROTO file, which was basically useless.
As an educator, and someone who regularly does presentations for Adobe, I’m frustrated by these announcements. We were told that this was the future. We were told this is what you need to hype, so we did just that. I’ve spent the past year touting these apps as I go around the country speaking and telling folks that this is where the industry is going, but it would seem that it was all for not. I was never 100% sold on the idea that tablet workflows will take off, and I’m still not. But I do think that Adobe, being a thought leader in the creative industry, had a huge opportunity to change the perception of touch-based workflows. With this announcement, however, they have done nothing but echo the sentiments of many of my students over the past year by basically saying “these things just don’t fit”.
As a businessman, I totally understand Adobe’s reasoning for killing these products. You put something out there, sold it for $10 and nobody bought it. Ok, no problem, pull it off the shelf. It’s the same thing that companies do all the time. Remember New Coke or Pepsi Clear? Yeah, that crap didn’t sell either so those companies killed them. End of story. My only wish is that Adobe would’ve given the Touch Apps a little bit longer to gain some traction. After all, 9 months isn’t a long time.
Hopefully I’ve missed the bigger picture here, and Adobe is quietly working on another set of apps that will just totally blow our minds and turn into something we can’t get through our day without. That’s what these apps were supposed to be, right? The creative community is clamoring for change in its workflow. The products we’re creating are different from anything we’ve ever created before, and so our tools should reflect that. In the end, I think that the idea for these apps was spot-on, but the implementation just wasn’t up to snuff. Maybe the technology just isn’t there yet. Maybe there aren’t as many people willing to adopt new tools into their workflow as I’d like to think there are. Or, maybe we should’ve kept these things around a little bit longer, continued implementing new features, and in a few years, once the touch revolution is out of its infancy, we would see them take off. I’ll let people much smarter than myself make that call. In the meantime I’ll sit back, relax, and enjoy the tools I do have and continue to embrace and try new ones as they become available. That’s really all I can do.