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Adobe: Online Photoshop coming this year

The image-editing powerhouse will offer a beta version of its online version of Photoshop this year and put it into production in 2008.

Photoshop Express offers users a selection of different options from which to select as an easier alternative to adjustment sliders. Stephen Shankland/CNET Networks

MONTEREY, Calif.--Adobe Systems has committed to shipping a beta version of its online image-editing tool, Photoshop Express, this year, and said it will be complete in 2008.

"By late this year, we anticipate having a beta version," said John Loiacono, senior vice president for Adobe Creative Solutions, speaking at the 6sight digital imaging conference here. And next year, the online service will be "available to anyone," he said.

Loiacono showed Photoshop Express running on an Adobe server connected over the Internet, he said. But when the average person experiences the software, it likely will be through partners such as Shutterfly or Photobucket, he said.

Unsurprisingly, Loiacono left unmentioned Flickr, which said in October it will use Picnik's online photo-editing tools.

Photoshop Express is a profoundly important project, and Adobe's schedule indicates that its repercussions are near-term and not academic.

For Adobe, the project is the spearhead of a transformation from a seller of boxed software to a provider of services in an increasingly rich Internet experience. And for the industry overall, it signals that Internet technology is maturing enough that companies are willing risk extending the brand of respected PC software to the network.

Photoshop Express, as its name suggests, isn't a full-fledged version of Photoshop proper or even of its hobbyist-oriented sibling, Photoshop Elements. The intent is to reach a much larger audience than the company currently reaches with its higher-end boxed software products.

This sports car used to be red. Stephen Shankland/CNET Networks

A look at Photoshop Express
Loiacono demonstrated several features of Photoshop Express, hampered only fleetingly by a couple Flash error messages. He selected photos to edit from a group, removed red-eye, cropped, adjusted color tones, used a healing brush to erase a skin blemish, and replaced the color of a red sports car with various other hues.

The demonstration showed the relatively limited set of features available in Photoshop Express. There were three top-level menu options: quick fix, tuning, and fun.

"Fun" options include replace color, which Loiacono showed to change a red sports car into blue, purple and green. Other options are huge, black-and-white, distort, sketch, and tint.

"Quick fix" options were crop and rotate, blemish removal, red-eye removal, auto correct, and sharpen. Tuning options were white balance, exposure, highlight, fill light, saturation, and soft focus.

Photoshop Express offers a blemish-fixing tool similar to full-fledged Photoshop's healing brush. Stephen Shankland/CNET Networks

If you want another look, my comrade Martin LaMonica--who had the online Photoshop scoop in February--last month posted a video of an earlier Photoshop Express demonstration.

Computational photography
Loiacono also offered a glimpse into what Adobe and others call computational photography--the achieving through the combination of photography and computers what can't be achieved with either alone.

With digital cameras, some computation already happens in cameras themselves, but Loiacono predicted more.

For example, today people can combine two photos that are exposed differently--one for a subject in the foreground illuminated by a flash and another with natural light in the background. Merging those two photos could happen earlier in the process so people don't have to futz with processing the photos afterward, he said.

"What we're moving to is an environment when your camera will be able to take two shots, process them in the camera, and give you the desirable output," Loiacono said.

He also demonstrated a video variation of stitching still images together into a single panorama. A video taken panning across a view of an African waterfall was converted into a wide panoramic pan of the same waterfall, with the water flowing across the full scene even though it was taken from different frames of the video.

He also showed a view of Adobe's light-field camera work, which processes multiple images taken simultaneously so the computer can effectively construct a three-dimensional model of the scene.