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Adobe: We've got the Touch for tablets

Showing new competitive fire in its belly at its Max conference, Adobe shows the tablet version of its vaunted Photoshop along with five other $10 Honeycomb apps.

A look at Adobe's Photoshop Touch for Android app.
A look at Adobe's Photoshop Touch for Android app, which will come to iOS later. Adobe Systems

After dipping its toes in the water with some limited-scope mobile apps, Adobe Systems is taking the plunge today with six programs for Android Honeycomb tablets, including the company's flagship brand, Photoshop.

The programs, each to debut in November with a $10 introductory price, fall under the new Adobe Touch Apps brand. And they tie in with the new Adobe Creative Cloud, a service for sharing files, finding services, and transferring works from the tablet apps to Adobe's Creative Suite apps running on traditional computers.

Along with Photoshop Touch, the other apps are Collage, Debut, Ideas, Kuler, and Proto. Adobe earlier had dabbled with a touch interface to computer apps but more recently turned up the heat a bit with its Carousel app for photo editing and sharing.

It's not yet clear where professionals will put the new apps along the spectrum of essential to optional, but it is clear Adobe is showing new competitive fire in the belly after a long period of being criticized for lagging in new-era programming paradigms.

Ideas was already available for iOS, but the five new apps are only available for Honeycomb 3.1, the latest version of Google's Android operating system for tablets. That'll change, though: Of the six-app suite, Adobe's FAQ states, "Look for an announcement from Adobe in early 2012 about Touch App availability for the iPad." At least some of the apps are created with AIR, Adobe's cross-platform mechanism for packaging Flash apps and Web content, so at least theoretically it shouldn't be hard to make them available on other tablets.

John Nack, an Adobe principal product manager in charge of tablet apps, said in a blog post today about Photoshop Touch, "Many Adobe apps (Adobe Carousel, Ideas, Photoshop Express, Eazel, Color Lava, Nav) have already been released on iOS first, and it's good to support customers across platforms. We're busily coding for iOS as well, so I wouldn't make too much of this particular detail."

Here's a look at each of the six apps:

Adobe Photoshop Touch for Android tablets
Adobe Photoshop Touch for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• Photoshop Touch lets people combine images into separate layers, select parts of images with scribbling gestures and refine those selections with fingertip brush strokes, apply filters, paint with various paintbrushes, and share photos on Facebook.

Adobe Collage for Android tablets
Adobe Collage for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• Collage lets people combine images, text, drawings, and other content into "moodboards" that can be shared on the Creative Cloud. Graphics can be retrieved from Google and Flickr from within the app. It also accepts screenshots of Web sites, and files can be annotated with various pen or highlighter tools.

Adobe Debut for Android tablets
Adobe Debut for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• Debut lets people view files created with Adobe's main Creative Suite design programs--Photoshop for images, InDesign for layout, and Illustrator for vector graphics--that are stored on the Creative Cloud. The idea is to have a vehicle to show work to clients and to be able to add annotations.

Adobe Kuler for Android tablets
Adobe Kuler for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• Kuler, already available online for years, is a tool for picking quintets of colors and sharing them with others. It also lets people extract color themes from photos for a matched palette.

Adobe Proto for Android tablets
Adobe Proto for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• Proto lets people create interactive mockups of Web sites to be used with mobile devices. The wireframe designs can be opened with DreamWeaver when transferrerd with the Creative Cloud.

Adobe Ideas for Android tablets
Adobe Ideas for Android tablets Adobe Systems

• And Ideas is for drawing vector graphics with fingertip strokes. It supports layers, sharing with Photoshop or Illustrator via the Creative Cloud, and on iOS can be used on a large-screen monitor.

Adobe tangled with Apple over its barring Adobe's Flash Player from iOS devices, but the touch apps are clearly a serious effort to make the jump from PCs to tablets--though at present only one of the six apps, Ideas, runs on iOS.

Another big trend is in advanced Web sites and apps using new Web standards. There, Adobe today announced the acquisition of two start-ups, Nitobi, maker of the PhoneGap mobile Web developer tools, and TypeKit, which offers Web font subscriptions. And it showed off a significant new preview release of Edge.

At the same time, it's continuing to work on Flash. Flash 11 will be available at 9 p.m. PT today, along with its close relative, AIR 3, Adobe announced today. The highlight feature, the Stage 3D hardware-accelerated 3D graphics interface code-named Molehill, comes with high-level libraries such as Adobe's 2D Starlight tools and a handful of 3D packages from others to make using the low-level interface easier.

It's clear Adobe, already awakened to its competitive challenges, is now providing something beyond just words to answer its critics.