The Richter Scale: A.viary CEO Avi Muchnick on Photoshop Express

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Ed. Note: The Richter Scale is a new series on Rev2. Following important announcements, we’ll be interviewing industry experts and featuring excerpts from their commentary on Rev2. We believe the insight of competitors and peers in the industry is essential in evaluating the significance and meaning of events.

AdobeLogo_vanity.jpgTaking a cue from the vast movement of applications to the web, Adobe took a significant step today by announcing Photoshop Express, a free offering for those who “want to store, sort and show off digital photos with eye-catching effects.” The offering focuses a lot on simplicity, but features 2GB of free storage for all users. TechCrunch noted that Picnik, another online photo editor with slightly more advanced features, “is not scared” by Adobe’s announcement. Rev2 spoke to Avi Muchnick, CEO of A.viary, a “rich content creation and distribution” company that’s presently best known for their sophisticated Phoenix image editor. You can her more from Avi in next week’s Rev2 Cabinet, which will be centered around A.viary. In the mean time, he offers an excellent perspective on Adobe’s recent announcement.

Zach Sims, Rev2: What’s your take on Adobe’s announcement?

Avi Muchnick, CEO of A.viary: Let me just preface: I don’t think that Photoshop Express is competition for Aviary, because we cater to completely different markets. They decided to focus on the mass consumer with an offering that is good for red-eye reduction, rotation and some neat finishing effects. That’s great for the consumer level user who is uploading their works to Facebook and wants to do small correcting. Aviary is great for hobbyist level users who want to do advanced special effects. It has layer-based editing more akin to the desktop version of Photoshop, and targeted to more advanced users. This gives our users real access to do anything with their files, no matter how complex the desired outcome. Different markets.

Sketch.jpg

The Sketch Filter in Photoshop Express, One of the App’s Simple Abilities

I also think that this is wonderful market validation for web apps in general. We now have two major publicly traded companies (Adobe and Google) getting fully immersed into the web apps industry. They have a finger on exactly where technology is headed, so it’s a safe bet that web apps is that place.

Rev2: Do you think Adobe stepping into the market will be a tidal wave that propels other players to follow suit?

Muchnick: Well, I hope that will be the case as it will just increase the market validation and force everybody to stay sharp, but I don’t know if this tool will singularly have that much of an impact on web development, any more than other Flash apps that came before it. Platforms are more appealing to me and traditionally cause “tidal waves” when they become opened up for development (Facebook as the case in point). What I’d love to see is for Adobe to focus on extending their platform development and let third parties build out exciting applications in new and innovative ways as a way to promote Flex/Flash. That is what will encourage more developers and companies to look to web apps.

Rev2: Do you think this is Adobe’s first step in assembling a suite of online applications?

Muchnick: I do love that they are offering 2GB of free upload space presumably to be shared between all of their applications. That is a positive sign to me.

My Photos.jpg

Photoshop Express’ My Photos Organizer

Regarding Photoshop Express specifically: I do think this is the first step for Adobe (technically, their second, as they already launched Premiere Express in YouTube’s beta site a year ago). But that being said it’s not a full step in that direction. This is a hedged step intended to promote Flex, add headcount to their marketing efforts, bring in some upsell opportunities to their core products, but at the same time not compete at all with their core desktop products. That last part is unfortunate to the end user.

Adobe, a billion dollar corporation that also owns the Flash platform, ahd the resources to create an actual web-based port of Photoshop with layers, brushes, and selection tools instead of making a consumer light application that most people already have included with the purchase of a digital camera.  I can’t help but feel they deliberately limited themselves as they don’t want to hurt their existing desktop software sales with a coimpeting product.

Rev2: In our Rev2 Cabinet conversation [which will be posted next Wednesday], you mentioned that A.viary was for users who don’t really need Photoshop and do not need to pay for its extensive feature set.  Is this a sign that Adobe has realized the value in that demographic as well?

Muchnick: I think Adobe recognizes the need for a less advanced offering than Photoshop CS3, but I’m not sure they are comfortable hitting that mid-way point where the software really needs to go (and where Aviary currently resides).  Instead they catered to the least advanced type of customer and entered a space that is already well-served by Picnik, FotoFlexer, and other consumer-focused companies.

Conclusion, Zach Sims of Rev2

Adobe’s entrance in the market is symbolic, and Photoshop Express is one of many online apps Adobe is now managing.  Their increasingly large online portfolio, which includes apps like Buzzword, have convinced some, like Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb, to say that Adobe’s building an “online empire.”  Flex is becoming an increasingly important part of the rich internet application movement, and Photoshop Express is an interesting demonstration of its abilities.  We’ll be featuring another application, SlideRocket, tomorrow that also pushes the envelope with Flex, but in the area of presentations.

avi.jpgAvi Muchnick is the CEO of A.viary, a “rich content creation and distribution” company.  He is also the Founder and CEO of Worth1000.com, a Photoshop contest website.  He will be the focus of next week’s Rev2 Cabinet article and podcast.  If you’d like to read more from Avi, please visit the A.viary blog.


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