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Adobe discontinues Photoshop Touch, previews its next generation

Adobe ceases development on its mobile cross-platform image-editing app to make way for a more modern version, but promises Android for more of its apps by the end of the year.

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Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

Thursday Adobe announced that it has bumped off Photoshop Touch, and with it the last of Adobe's original mobile apps have been laid to rest. Despite originally debuting its apps on Android tablets , Adobe has let that platform languish; only a few apps, most notably the last release of Lightroom, supports it.

The good news is we should see at least some of the modern apps available for Android by the end of this year, and the next-generation of the "pro" Photoshop app -- as opposed to the consumer-oreinted Photoshop Express -- will have a lot more in common with Adobe's current apps and mobile strategy than its predecessor when it becomes available later this year.

As with most discontinued apps, PS Touch will continue to work; Adobe will simply cease to update it, and it will no longer be available through the Apple App Store or Google Play after one week from today. Here's more information from Adobe about migration workflow issues.

I think this is the right decision for both Adobe and for its users. Photoshop Touch's interface is clunky by modern standards and I suspect the underlying architecture is too alien to update effectively. The company's acquisition of Aviary and its technology in September 2014 provided the bulk of its Creative SDK (software developer's kit) on which the newer apps are based, and which seems to make a huge difference in app capabilities. (In other news, when I questioned Hughes about the biggest hole in Adobe's portfolio, decent organization tools, he said there's a "renewed focus on Bridge" -- yay! )

For example, Adobe gave me an early preview of the new app, and one of the most notable capabilities is surprisingly fast handling of large files; in the demonstration by Bryan O'Neil Hughes, Adobe's Head of Outreach and Collaboration for Creative Cloud, he loaded up a 50-megapixel file from the Canon EOS 5DS almost faster than my Mac Pro on an iPad Air 2. (Of course the iPad doesn't load the entire file into memory at once. But still.) PS Touch is limited to 12MP files.

The app will have a different set of functions than PS Touch, in part because the compositing and collaging tools of the latter have been incorporated into the newer Photoshop Mix and more in keeping with Adobe's task-based app strategy.

Instead, it will concentrate on nondestructive (infinitely undoable) retouching -- exposure, contrast, saturation, dodge and burn, smooth, heal, paint -- as well as some effects like applying vignettes and Liquify options like Warp, Pucker and Bloat, Twirl and Reconstruct. It will also support DNG files from 5-based devices (enabled with the operating system's Camera 2.0 API). Correction: Adobe has not promised Android DNG support.

Of course, Photoshop to-be-named will debut into a far more competitive app environment than Photoshop Touch did. Unlike PS Touch, which cost $5 or $10, depending upon device, the new apps will be free with an Adobe login ID (also free). But it's main competitive advantage over apps like Pixelmator and other relatively high-end editing apps is the part that won't be free -- the Creative Cloud integration that should let you pass the layered files to the desktop with the least-destructive structure and share library elements with the rest of your CC apps and applications.

Unsurprisingly, that's how the new app, indeed its entire mobile strategy, feeds into Adobe's larger business: as an on-ramp to or in support of Creative Cloud.

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