I listen to a number of tech podcasts which focus on Apple hardware and software. Many of these have recently referred to, and made an example of, the recently announced arrival of “real, full Photoshop” to iOS. It is most often cited as a marker for the coming of age of “professional” software on iOS, and particularly on the iPad. I feel, however, that most are missing the point. Professional software is already here, and Photoshop isn’t. Not even close.
If we want to just stick to the domain that Photoshop lives in, we already have the stunningly good Affinity Photo and Pixelmator. But there’s more to it. Many of the same people heralding Photoshop’s arrival point out that “there are a lot of professionals whose workflow is built around the Adobe ecosystem.” The key there is the word “ecosystem.” If there is only Photoshop and no Illustrator or, perhaps most importantly, InDesign, then what ecosystem is there?
Most crucially, the arrival of “real Photoshop” is a long way off. Adobe announced “coming in 2019” but what they announced was an initial version of Photoshop which, in their own words, will have “a smaller set of features on the iPad first so we can ship the 1.0 version to you quickly, and gradually add the rest over time.” If you want to know how that will go, take a look at Lightroom CC. Adobe have taken a similar approach with Lightroom, but the feature set on the all new Lightroom CC is (at least initially) limited. For this reason “Lightroom Classic CC” remains (it is the original product). The new Lightroom focuses on being simple, using the cloud, and uses “AI” to automatically tag your images – these are all anathema to “professionals.”
If you want a professional app ecosystem on iOS and macOS, take a look at the Affinity line. Already Affinity Photo (a Photoshop competitor) and Affinity Designer (an Illustrator competitor) exist on both platforms with feature parity because – you guessed it – they share the same code base. Affinity Publisher will soon arrive on macOS (it’s in public beta now) and I would wager will be on iOS before the new Photoshop has moved from crawling to walking.
Is the new, platform-agnostic Photoshop a good thing? Sure is. Is it some kind of signpost in the evolution of iOS as a professional tool? I don’t think so. It is just another mile marker along the road.