I've been following Adobe almost as long as I have been following Apple; the relationship between them has been rocky at times. The two A-companies were pretty much responsible for the digital publishing revolution of the mid-to-late 1980s but then fell out in a most unseemly manner over typefaces and licenses, with Apple famously going in with Microsoft the thought! to build the competing TrueType platform.
I actually got thrown out of a type house in Ponsonby for just mentioning the word 'TrueType' back in the early 1990s. The manager came rushing out from his office and escorted me from the building. I was only asking about compatibility for a client's document.
Then things calmed down for a while.
But then came Steve Jobs' disdain for Flash. That's a battle Adobe seems now to have largely conceded, with it being supported as an excellent online games platform these days but not much else, with HTML5 increasingly taking over for online animations and movies.
But with the last version of Creative Suite, 5.5, although it was known as an incremental rather than a fundamental upgrade, it looked like Adobe wasn't really progressing. A tweak here, a feature there but that's all changed. Adobe has not only caught up, but also taken back an edge of innovation.
Adobe has gone to considerable lengths to create an even more compelling suite of products for creative professionals, bringing onboard some clever Cloud-based aspects and a new membership payments model.
It's a full two years since the last full revision of Photoshop, but as Adobe Pacific's Michael Stoddart put it, that's when iPad was announced. And that changed everything. (Stoddart really rated the new iPad, by the way, for use with the Photoshop app, thanks to the new iPad's improved built-in camera. He says it's a boon for professionals who need to capture images on the spot.)
Internally, this is Photoshop 13, hence the odd splash screen in the pre-release version. CS6's new cloud features means there are no cost spikes every two years but with Master Collection available to members, it's designed as a more cost effective solution, too.
What CS6 will offer in total is four suites (CS5 had five), encompassing a total of 14 products Adobe Pacific referred to CS6 as a 'monumental release'.
The suites include Design Standard, the combined new Design and Web Premium, and Photoshop Extended (which adds 3d, but all Photoshops now support direct, basic video editing). Extended also gets Dreamweaver and Flash Pro.
Overall, new features include the 64-bitMercury playback engine and an all-new look. Believe me, you won't think you're using CS5 or earlier, in Photoshop especially, since it has a new sombre, dark grey background.
Membership gives you all of CS6's 14 modules plus new touch apps; this should change the two-year product cycle of, for example, Photoshop, making Adobe more nimble to deploy through a new update release path, which lets the firm react more specifically to market demand updates and new products will now be instantly available to all members on release.
It's an interesting model which means Adobe gets a monthly revenue stream from users. In turn, they get a constant flow of resources, software and updates a month before launch, Adobe reckoned the cost at around NZ$100 per month. (In Australia, there's no GST on online memberships, but I'm not sure that's the case here.)
You can still buy a box, though the new retail model isn't exclusively cloud-based.
Edge and Muse are two new products that will act as conduits for getting files to print but these are not available in the CS6 boxes, only via the paid membership.
Membership gives you a workable 20GB storage in the cloud, which teams nicely with Business Catalyst, a new feature that lets you build and manage online businesses.
The Adobe Creative Cloud not only allows online collaboration on projects, it also offers a way to install the components you need. In other words, if you have a pressing need for Photoshop, download and use that. Add InDesign later when your needs change, or Illustrator, or Dreamweaver. Log in with your Adobe ID, then download the products you need. Opt out of the payments, and your Adobe ID simply doesn't unlock the package. Pay it again, and it does, suiting itinerant work.
Creative Cloud membership is for individuals, though, not companies. The the license is to you, not to your computer. That means the problems with dropping the license to a machine for Adobe products when you change computers are hopefully in the past. But Adobe, in late March, said there was an enterprise solution in the wings.
Creative Community connects creatives, but also accesses training and support facilities.
The new cloud services also allows tablets to be used as portable creative devices, thanks to web standards. In other words, with a tablet, a representative can visit a client, sketch out an idea say a site-tree or plan and back in the office, a pro can make it into a designed reality.
Wire framing in Adobe Porto on an iPad means you can literally wireframe up a site on an iPad with a client, then push it through Creative Cloud. At the other end, it writes the code out for you.
This brings back sketching and other on-the-fly skills. Imagine specialists going out to your clients and pushing designs back to the office for finalisation.
The service can be used with Android and iOS via a syncing process that can let you switch out higher res images back in the office, for example. Content is designed to adapt to devices' different displays.
There's more in the cloud, too, like Typekit, an online service for web fonts that serves them up to projects. Online font licensing for online deployment means Adobe is looking after its considerable font intellectual property.
Most of Adobe's graphic design customers are still print centric, but increasingly there's a need to make a print product into an app-like version for tablets. Not only are tablets deployable as sketching 'front ends', Digital Publishing Suite is designed to publish content to iPads Adobe reckons six of the top ten iPad mags are already done this way. In other words, InDesign can now repurpose an A4 document designed for a print magazine as something for iPad. Although you will still need to tweak the finish product, CS6 aims to do at least 80 per cent of the work for you.
A new 'Publish Anywhere' facility means you can be creative anywhere, not necessarily at work.
As Adobe Pacific's Michael Stoddart put it, it's all about capturing the idea earlier, but with more tailoring of content as iBooks to iPads, adding iOS apps to the mix and adding a cloud service all means Adobe is grasping the nettle, again. Good!