The Flash Advantage

Believe it or not the screenshot at the left is not an Adobe product. Yep, its a dead ringer for Photoshop with masks and layers and pretty fast response time. And it is available now online for free. I urge you try it out – you dont even have to sign up. But I can assure you that if you do any image editing, especially online, you will bookmark and sign up for the free service at Splashup.

Now let me repeat this is not an Adobe program. Rather Adobes Photoshop Express has yet to appear; but there have been glimpses of the program at various Adobe and Flash events. I suspect that Adobe Photoshop Express will take full advantage of Flash/Flex/AIR – that is it will be able to run both on the desktop and over the Web. It will have a subset of Photoshop Elements features; but how much so is open to question – Splashup sets a very high standard for online photo editing. I suspect the offline operation and some image cataloging will be combined together in a $35-50/year online+offline version of the product. The online only version will likely be free. All this is pure speculation on my part based on the caliber of free online tools already available.

The Architectural + Monetizing Kicker

As noted there are a number of online photo-editing tools. Ditto for online “live” word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring and a broad set of utilities. Very few, though quite adept, have been able to charge for the services rendered – even though they even provide online storage and back-up. But I think that when developers offer both offline and online operation plus a choice of storage online or locally – that will be worth a lot. And users will be willing to spring for it. I suspect also that software vendors will switch to an annual pricing model; most already have the billing infrastructure to do so. And the rate at which innovations in this sector will be coming out, software vendors will have a lot of “new feature pull” to open wallets.

And who is the current leader of this RAIA-Rich Anywhere Interface Applications ? Adobe with Flex/Flash/AIR. See the screenshot above.

Google Buys Adobe

But Microsoft has been pounding the pavement with all sorts of promotions for Silverlight. Redmond has also moved its Silverlight versions along a lot faster than IE and Vista (really – is that saying much?). Well yes. Because Silverlight is moving so fast and with relatively high quality that says that certain parties within Redmonds bowels recognize that RAIA represents an online+offline turning point. It offers Microsoft a path out of its current 2-5year lease license jumble. And Microsoft has been building $500-600million data centers throughout the world at the same clip as Google. What would these data centers do? Add fast response time, online storage services, and other added value feature not just to online photo-editing but a full range of Office and Business Center Live Offerings – some free to get you in the door, and others for a fee.

Now how can Adobe respond in terms of providing equivalent data center services? It cant. But if Adobe joint ventures with Google or outright is bought by Google the problem is solved. And Adobe can provide ready made very rich front end capabilities to Google. Finally, in the downturn in the stock market, Adobe stock has dropped from $42-47/share to $30-35/share. If after the latest earnings announcement this Tuesday, March 18th – the markets and ADBE continue to take hits – then a $45-50/share offer at $25-30B might not be totally unexpected.