Mobile Apps

Adobe's Aviary acquisition signals broader ambitions

Adobe swoops in on Aviary, but it seems the interest wasn't in the photo-editing app the startup offers for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

Aviary's iOS app offers many common editing options, including the now ubqiquitous filter effects. Aviary offers these tools to other app and Web-site programmers.
Aviary's iOS app offers many common editing options, including the now ubqiquitous filter effects. Aviary offers these tools to other app and website programmers. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe Systems already has plenty of expertise in photo-editing software, of course, including mobile versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. Instead, Adobe is after Aviary's photo-editing technology that programmers can embed in their own mobile apps or Web apps.

Some of those Aviary tools are actually online services -- and that's an area where Adobe is investing. In June, Adobe announced its Creative SDK, a software developer kit that lets mobile app developers tap into Adobe servers for some processor-intensive tasks and hook into some services available with Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription.

The new plan is to combine the Aviary and Adobe SDKs into a more powerful option that other programmers can use. That's probably smart, given that photo editing is now a feature in so many apps but not necessarily one that programmers themselves want to take on. Aviary gives Adobe much more breadth for easy-to-plug-in editing and a way to expand its business beyond the creative professionals it relies on today for most of its revenue.

"We will continue to support and enhance Aviary's SDK as part of Adobe's broader Creative SDK offering," Aviary CEO Tobias Peggs said in a blog post Monday. While ensuring no interruption to Aviary's developer community, or their apps' users, we plan to add additional components and services for developers to incorporate -- such as the ability to save creations to Creative Cloud in Adobe file formats, access Photoshop technology, and connect creativity across devices using the Creative SDK."

More than 7,000 apps use Aviary technology, exposing it to more than 70 million people who use it each month, the company said in January. Those people have used it to edit more than 10 billion images.

Adobe's core business is selling software such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and After Effects; in the last two years it's changed how it sells this software from the Creative Suite of perpetually licensed software to the Creative Cloud subscription plan that costs $50 monthly for the full collection. Adobe has now signed up 2.8 million subscribers so far -- but it also alienated many customers who don't like the idea of their software not working if they stop paying.

Offering to be the power behind others' photo-editing products evidently is one direction Adobe hopes will expand its business. Adobe said earlier it will disclose new Creative SDK partners at its October conference, Adobe Max.

Adobe didn't disclose terms of the acquisition.

Adobe's Creative Cloud subscriptions reached 2.81 million in its third fiscal quarter of 2014.
Adobe's Creative Cloud subscriptions reached 2.81 million in its third fiscal quarter of 2014. Stephen Shankland/CNET