A peek at Adobe's online version of Photoshop

September 8, 2007: 8:44 AM ET

Adobe Systems (ADBE) CEO Bruce Chizen said earlier this year that the company would release a Web-based Photoshop product, and on Thursday at the Photoshop World conference, the company gave the first peek at its efforts to do just that.

But don't throw out your shrink-wrapped version just yet. Details are scarce so far, but it's already clear that Adobe's online

product, Photoshop Express, won't be a replacement for the real thing.

NOT A SUBSTITUTE

Just because of the inherent differences between PC software and online apps, the online version of Photoshop is sure to be slower and less capable of multitasking than the other versions. Those limitations will be enough to keep Adobe's base of professionals and enthusiasts paying for the more complete versions to run on powerful computers with high-end chips from Intel (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) that run operating systems from Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT).

So why is Adobe doing an online version of Photoshop at all? I talked to CEO Bruce Chizen about that earlier this year. I gathered that it's a defensive move as much as anything.

PLAYING DEFENSE

Companies like Google (GOOG) and Microsoft are increasingly using the Web to chip away at established software franchises. For example, Google's Docs & Spreadsheets application is a challenge to Microsoft Office; and Microsoft's Silverlight platform, which competes with Adobe Flash and Flex, might allow Redmond to challenge Adobe's standing as a supplier of rich Web 2.0 developer tools.

Chizen sees the handwriting on the wall, and doesn't want to wait for Google or Microsoft to roll out their own online Photoshop competitor – or wait for them to buy one of the many that already exist. (See Fauxto, Picnik, PXN8, Snipshot and others.) By stepping out now with its own online Photoshop clone, Adobe hopes to set the standard for online image editors, and learn a lot more about Web-based apps along the way.

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