These are not secrets: I’m no fan of Adobe’s Flash platform, I’ve been pretty vocal about my disdain for their bloated and maddening desktop software, and I’ve gone on record with my dislike for their tablet publishing strategy. So it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that Adobe is not in fact a monolithic company, that they’re not all bad. There are smart, impassioned people working there and they’re still capable of producing surprising, even delightful software.
For example, it’s worth noting that at least one Adobe team is producing some very good apps for the iPad. I’ve been a fan, if not a devoted user, of the company’s surprisingly lightweight and responsive sketching app Adobe Ideas since it debuted. I also think their Photoshop Express app is well done and, thankfully in spite of its name, very un-Photoshop-like.
A Multi-Pronged Approach to Multi-touch
Apparently there’s more where those came from, as yesterday Adobe released three new apps for iPad: Adobe Eazel is a fascinating and exquisitely responsive painting program with an intriguing, five-finger user interface that’s only possible on the iPad. Adobe Nav turns your iPad into a kind of input peripheral connected to Photoshop CS5, letting you access Photoshop’s tools as if the iPad were a hardware extension of your desktop. And Adobe Color Lava lets you mix colors and create color swatches with an interface that recreates the feeling of mixing watercolors with startling fluidity and delightfulness.
None of these are perfect, but they’re all imaginative and incredibly creative, and what’s more, they are fearless in acknowledging that this platform is something new, that it requires an entirely different approach to software, that in order to succeed, they have to create products that truly embrace the strengths and the weaknesses of the iPad. Adobe has laudably eschewed their traditional, insurrectionist habit of trying to build their own platforms within other players’ platforms (and ignoring the native characteristics of their hosts) while also pushing the cost of such unwelcome ambitions onto their users in terms of bloat, reliability and, well, cost. What may be most remarkable about these apps is that the priciest of them is still just US$4.99. That’s a long, long way from the hundreds of dollars that the company typically likes to charge for its premier products. I’m not sure I’m going to become a regular user of any of them, but at this cost I can hardly resist playing with them, at least. They should do more of this.