Rant: Adobe says no 64-bit Photoshop for Apple (and what this means for creatives)

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A funny thing happened in 2008. Somewhere Adobe and Apple learned to dislike each other. And not in the usual cordial 1800′s way of angsty stares, but in the venomous way two large billion dollar businesses glare face to face before devouring the other’s young.

Sure these are two monolith companies focused on profit. But who says giant organizations can’t love? When did this rift happen? Why did this happen? Let’s take a look at the sordid love affair between these two companies and see why their future together doesn’t look so hot.

And more importantly, beyond the fanboy hype, what does this mean to all of the graphic designers, photographers, and digital artists out there?

Yesterday, John Nack (programmer at Adobe) announced that the next edition of Photoshop will be 32-bit for Mac OSX and 64-bit for Windows Vista. And this has been big news to some.

What does 64-bit mean? Well according to John Nack’s own article:

In a nutshell, it lets an application address very large amounts of memory–specifically, more than 4 gigabytes. This is great for pro photographers with large collections of high-res images: Lightroom being able to address more RAM means less time swapping images into and out of memory during image processing-intensive operations.

In short, 64-bit is ideal for only a few applications: large images, video, and any other memory intense process. Photoshop is the ideal candidate.

The big commotion is that the Apple’s computer line has always been THE way to use Adobe’s creative programs. Say what you will, I’ve used both on excellent machines and Adobe’s programs always “feel better” on a mac. And if the history of computing means anything to you, you’ll know that this is a 20+ year legacy of Apple catering towards the creative market. So the diehard Apple fanbase is upset that their advantage is no longer.

If this were all John’s announcement meant I wouldn’t have wasted time to write an article. [Apple fanboys upset? NO WAY!] But this is bigger then that. It shows growing hatred between the two giants that helped build the other, and the growing concern this is just the beginning…

If I could use one word to describe Adobe in the new century it would be: Stagnant. They are the epitome of what is wrong with the software industry. Yearly releases which only bloat the product, a growing realization by consumers they are being had, and prices that are irrational for 90% of their installed base.

It means something when the only item of note is that the bought another large corporation, and we all watched as Macromedia carcass was dissolved slowly within the larger creature. Today Macromedia’s once strong product-line is nearly extinct, with Flash being the sole survivor forced to procreate with Adobe’s Creative Suite to stay alive. And after buying CS3, I’m very proud to announce that I will only use pirated versions of their products from here on out. Seriously. If a company almost destroys my computer in the process of installing an app, I’m allowed to dance on their corpse.

But in the last year AIR and Flex have renewed my faith that they aren’t completely insane. Hopefully those products live up to their lofty expectations.

If I could use one word to describe Apple in the new century it would be: innovative.
With several version of Mac OSX, iPod in 2001, Macbooks and iMacs, then Mac Minis, and 64-bit G5′s, and… (well you get the idea). Stay tuned tuned to the Apple store each Monday as they refresh another part of their product-line. EACH WEEK.

To say they dominated the tech space is an understatement. Apple has made computing cool again and they’ve done it with style and panache. But they did it by constantly innovating and pushing their products forward in a blend of software and hardware.

And it isn’t simply tech anymore. As of today they are now the number one music retailer in the nation beating out even Wal-mart. They are the leading digital movie and TV show digital download site as well.

(This is usually where a PC user will but in a take a pot-shot at Apple’s sales. And it should be said I love Microsoft. I’m a big fan of software innovators of any form. But the upset Apple is pulling off in daylight is astounding. For example, did you know that last month 1/4 of all money spent of laptops went to Apple? Pretty significant stuff even if you hate Steve Jobs and everything he stands for.)

And this is without mentioning the iPhone.
Just when you thought a company was bound to rest on its laurels they pull the coolest cat out of the bag. I never knew it was possible to enjoy a cellphone. But now I do. The software coming down the line is sure to turn the industry around again.

So here we have two companies, both raking in the cash. Why the hate? Well a culture clash is happening here for sure. It seems that the constant innovation has cost Adobe oodles of money and in the process a big chunk of the high-end photo market. Apple doesn’t really care about developer costs as long as it pushes the market forward. But I think it goes deeper then this and has also to do with the dates below:

June 6th, 2005 – Apple announces a transition to Intel Chips.
A very big deal to consumers and to software creators. Whole programs need to be rewritten to take full advantage. For some companies this is a blow, but for Adobe who has a full suite of complex products this is a nightmare. The transition takes over three years and is very rocky.

December 2005 – Apple ships a program called Aperture for professional photographers.
Suddenly Apple is in competition with Adobe’s new product Lightroom. A friendly race begins to see who is better. It goes from friendly to painful to watch pretty quickly.

January 10th, 2007 – Apple Computer change their name to Apple, Inc
Apple is no longer just computers. They’re operating systems, gizmos, and…software. Apple begins porting some software to PC. Adobe is officially nervous and frustrated with their old friend. What if they moved their suite over to PC? It would take a big chunk out of Adobe’s casual set.

June 3rd, 2007 – Apple launches the iPhone
The number one piece of software everyone wants added? Flash. The piece of software Apple is unwilling to add? Flash. Buddies no longer. What was a 99% penetration of Flash is now non-existent on Apple’s
speedy growing in market share phone. By January it is #2 in the smart phone market with over 2.1 million sold.

March 19th, 2008 – Adobe announces Flash for iPhone (then takes it back)
Parades were held in downtown locations, traffic was stopped, and a small goat was sacrificed in honor of Adobe. But then a few days later a whisper of an announcement came through the wires… “Opps! We may not be able to. Apple has to let us.” And since then there has been no word from either camp.

What does this mean for creatives? Love your work and not your platform, as they may not be friends very soon. Short term nothing will change. But long term I wouldn’t plan on Adobe inviting Apple over for a sleepover anytime soon.

Going to my shiny happy place,
- Josh

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3 insightful ideas to “Rant: Adobe says no 64-bit Photoshop for Apple (and what this means for creatives)”

  1. Avatarfluffy
    1

    I only use CS3 begrudgingly. Pixelmator is currently nowhere near as useful or fast or powerful or whatever (it’s okay for casual image editing but as a drawing app it’s terrible) BUT I have a feeling that in the long term it’s something you should keep your eye on.

    Incidentally, I can’t *entirely* fault Adobe for this split (it’s due to Apple abandoning Carbon entirely – which is IMO a good idea; Cocoa is a much cleaner and more elegant way of building apps), and I also don’t really think the split is that big of a deal (I can’t say I’ve ever seen Photoshop approach the 2GB address space limit). Also, right now consumer uptake of Vista-64 is abysmal, and so I seriously doubt that a lot of people will even be running the 64-bit version on Windows in the near future to begin with.

    I don’t think Flex or AIR will really last for the long term, and even if they do, they’re not really that innovative a concept. Strictly-speaking, Apple (well, NeXT) started that with WebObjects, which Microsoft then kinda-sorta pretended to rip off with .NET. The only real advantage of Adobe’s solution is that they are ostensibly platform-neutral, but then again, so is WebObjects (or at least it was when NeXT was still just running on fumes before Apple bought them out.) WebObjects (which is basically HTTP bindings for Cocoa objects, to oversimplify to a ridiculous degree) doesn’t look as sexy, but you did touch on one place where people use it a hell of a lot without even realizing it – the iTunes Music Store. The online Apple Store is built in WebObjects as well.

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  2. AvatarJosh Farkas
    2
    Author Comment

    Excellent points Fluffy! (heh)

    You hit on the two things I thought my rant was too bloated to cover: That there are now many alternatives to Photoshop on every platform (Pixelmator, Imagewell, Gimp) and that Vista is no speedy beast. It will be able to handle 64-bit but I slightly doubt that this will give a true advantage in any reasonable way.

    Personally I can see hitting the 2GB mark fairly quickly when working in high-res print files. But I will agree that I’m a special case. Even 50% of Photoshop users have little to no need for this boost (outside if Bridge maybe which is simply a nightmare to use due to slow image loading).

    And to your point, I kind of agree that this is Apple’s doing. They push on vendors and don’t care about the result. Adobe has only had a year to get fully comfortable with Intel. I hope they take the stock and treat Adobe as a preferred vendor, otherwise I do believe this could become something bigger.

    Had no clue that NeXT and WebObjects were related, or what they did compared to.Net. That rocks. Thanks for the great info! (Both Flex and Air feel like the hip new place to code, like Ruby on Rails was, but I’m waiting for the heavy backlash on why coding for either is awful. This is the internet and it is coming. Many devs rant about why they hate Flash so snazzy Flex sites should drive them up a wall.)

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  3. Avatarpassingbye
    3

    I like your article, but ;-) :

    You know, ever since the G4/G5 chips stagnated compared to intel chips (some time ago already) photoshop and the rest of Adobe software was much faster on Windows than on MacOS. And adobe could not do anything about it, even if it wanted to, Macs were just slower (whatever Apple advertisement at the time wanted you to beleive, apple is the king of spin, for sure). Apple had no choice but to switch to Intel, it was getting more and more behind performance wise, and even some of it’s most loyal customers were begining to realize it despite Apple’s spin.
    Only CS3 (first native version for intel chips on Macs) brings the OSX version back on par with the Windows version.

    So I don’t know where you get the impression MacOS (osx) had an advantage over windows running Adobe software until now.
    It it is true that at the beginning of photoshop, until version ver 5.5 (which is coincidental with windows 2000 quickly followed by XP, and approximatley the same time when Intel chips started to inexorably pull ahead), photoshop was probably “better” on MacOS than on Windows, and by all accounts. But from then on the windows version has always had an edge on the MacOS version until CS3 (which is ver. 10), which has put them on par again, in my humble opinion of course.

    As you probably know Adobe has discontinued Golive and replaced it with Dreamweaver in their lineup.
    Your vision of the Adobe acquisition of Macromedia as being Flash only and the rest to the bin is a little extreme.
    Adobe wanted flash badly, that’s for sure, but there were many things in macromedia that were appealing to Adobe. And we will still see the offsprings of that for some time to come, mostly in new programs, covering new needsn that macromedia was more advanced in than adobe.
    Sure, some programs that were obvious “double usage” are being discontinued, they had to choose which ones to keep between the adobe and macromedia programs, but it’s not always the “originaly macromedia” version of the app that is being discontinued as Dreamweaver shows us. When they thought the Adobe app was better they kept it, when they thought the Macromedia app was better they kept it.
    Adobe is intrested in making good apps for it’s customers, because good aps sell (and are rewarding for the ego), it’s as simple as that. Do you really think Adobe would have chosen to discontinu a Macromedia app it thought was superior to and Adobe app for some kind of “sentimental” reason ? :-)
    Once they bought them, all Macromedia apps became instantaneously Adobe apps, so they could keep whichever they wanted, they would be Adobe apps anyway.

    And that’s quite natural.
    Does anyone refer to Final Cut Pro as not being an apple app ? No.
    And do you know who developped Final Cut Pro originaly ? Macromedia !
    Where it get’s funny is that the team that developped it at Macromedia, was the same team that had developped Premiere at Adobe ! (you can’t invent stuff like this :-) )
    Macromedia, deciding to concentrate on web content developpement, sold it to Apple before it was released.

    This fun story links Macromedia, Adobe, and Apple in ways that are related to what you say in your article I think.

    Anyway it’s not like Adobe is not supporting MacOS anymore. It’s just that apparently their timeframe for cs4 doesn’t allow for a 64 bit version of photoshop (at least) for osx on cocoa. We can debte endlesly as who is to blame ( in my opinion apple is a little too unpredicatble, and I don’t know of any developper who likes last minute surprises). No big deal, cs5 “should” have 64 bit for osx. Yes, until cs5 the 64 bit windows version will obviously be “faster”, and better suited for large files, so…? It’s just temporary.

    Besides, if you have a mac you’re probably not obsesed with “raw performance” anyways (macpros are “fast”, no problem, but there are always many “faster” configs available for the windows crowd at any given time).
    Macs have other things going for them, use what you like/can, MacOS and Windows are both great, stable, modern OSes.

    Just so you know I run Vista 64 bit (the “real” vista version i beleive), well installed and configured (which you have to do yourself under windows, essentialy the update drivers part, apple will always have an advantage concerning that) and it works like a charm, a big step forward from XP and especialy for any big Graphic/3DCAD app, and even more under load, no question about that (are the apps that I use). Benhcmarks don’t really “benchmark” that i guess, but when you work all day with such apps, you sure realize it. And with native 64bit apps (severalCAD apps I use), there’s an impresive difference, can’t wait for all apps to be 64 bit. The problem with Vista (and especially the x64 version), is the driver model changed radicaly (as much as from MacOs classic to MacOsx), and up to date drivers were slow to come by, whereas all the whining.

    Oh and this brings to my mind another little catfight that is happening right now concerning widely used, but proprietary file formats.
    Kind of like the one you brought up about flash.
    Apple is refusing to release a 64 bit quicktime, so all the 3D, CAD, and Video editing software that are native 64 bit cannot directly export their stuff in quicktime format (for previews or render, etc..).
    Of course this bothers many App developpers (and soon Adobe i guess if they release a 64 bit premiere with cs4, doubt it though).
    And i’m sure Apple has a 64 bit version ready, but since there are no CAD/video editing apps for OSX ready yet (can OSX run native 64 software by the way ? OSX and 64 bit support is not very clear for me), it’s witholding it to bother the competition. The day Apple has native 64 bit apps that need quicktime, 64 bit quicktime will be released.

    Maybe this is lined with Adobe difficulty to make 64 bit versions of it’s software on OSX too ? Apple’s position on 64 bit is very murky I find, they sometimes claim things to be 64 bit that aren’t (typical apple spin, i’m not saying this meanly, it’s just a reality), and have no real clear position I know of on the 32bit/64bit transition. If anyone can explain how the 32/64 bit thing works out in OSX i’d be glad.
    Microfost’s position is much clearer (not giving them roses, just pointing out the obvious). You choose between a 32 bit OS version that can’t run 64 bit programs, or a 64bit OS version that can run 32 bit programs through an “emulation” layer (as fast or faster than on the native 32 bit version of the OS, which tends to show how much performance 64 bit ads ;-) ).

    They all play this borderline game with their formats, and of course, whatever our OS, we end up paying the price in frustration, exasperation, and lost time.

    Anyway, have fun with your computers, whatever you use.

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