April 10, 2009

Adobe papers light up SIGGRAPH

I was excited to hear that researchers at Adobe have submitted 22% of all papers accepted at SIGGRAPH this year. That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment*. In addition, Wojciech Matusik has been selected as this year’s recipient of the ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New Research Award. Congrats, guys!
The company has been making significant investments & attracting top talent in this area in recent years, and it’s great to see those efforts bearing fruit. It’ll be even better when we start harvesting more of this research as real-world features in Photoshop and other apps–and believe me, we’re working to do just that.
* By way of comparison, Microsoft had 6 papers accepted this year (vs. Adobe’s 17). Microsoft has 90,000 employees; Adobe has 7,000.

Posted by John Nack at 10:48 AM on April 10, 2009

Comments

  • Matt — 12:04 PM on April 10, 2009

    If you look at Microsoft as an example, you see that the amount they spend on research and siggraph-y things is inversely proportional to their innovation and creativity when compared to Apple.
    [Do Apple engineers share their innovations with the world through endeavors like SIGGRAPH? Is that permitted at Apple? I don't know. --J.]
    You guys have a hard time keeping up with Apple’s changes to, don’t you? (64-bit photoshop, cocoa, lightroom)
    Hmmmm… makes one think. :-)
    [What does it make one think? Seriously, I'm dying to know.
    Apple (like Microsoft and other platform companies) makes what in their view are the best decisions for the health of their platform. That's their job & their prerogative.
    Sometimes those decisions mean more work for developers. If Apple had stuck with their plans to ship Carbon 64, you'd have a 64-bit-native Mac version of Photoshop today. As it is, if you're a Mac user you'll have to wait, and the Photoshop team will spend a lot of time on Cocoa that would have gone to addressing other customer requests & app architectural needs. So be it. (I'm not saying Apple should or shouldn't have taken the course they did. They took it, that's their right, and certain consequences result.)
    As for Lightroom, I'm not sure who you think is having a hard time keeping up. Lightroom 2 was released in 64-bit form more than a year ago. In the 12 months since then, *no 64-bit-native Apple apps* have shipped. Oh, but it's always "Adobe the terrible laggard, Adobe the foot-dragging Mac-haters, Adobe the hidebound apostates..." Give me a break.
    So now, tell me true--what *does* it make one think? --J.]

  • ricardo — 6:04 PM on April 10, 2009

    That was a cheap shot towards Microsoft.
    [It wasn't meant to be. --J.]
    Adobe has a long way to go to achieve what MS has in Siggraph. In addition many of your researchers have learned a lot from time spent as employees of MS.
    [Did I say otherwise?
    Microsoft Research is a formidable organization with lots of great work to its credit. That doesn't change the fact that the Adobe team has had a very strong year--something I find all the more impressive given the 10X+ size difference between the companies. --J.]
    I understand that you (jnack) are new to this research thing and feel the need to talk trash.
    [Listen, my friend, when I talk trash, you'll know it. :-) --J.]
    But I bet the Adobe researchers that you’re crowing about wouldn’t be quite as cocky as you.
    [And I'll bet the MSFT researchers wouldn't be as thin-skinned as you. --J.]

  • Mark Thomas — 9:05 PM on April 10, 2009

    It seems to me that Lightroom for Mac being 64 bit is a pretty good argument in favor of being cocoa.
    [If there are two cars in your driveway and someone lets all the air out of the tires on one of them, then I guess on some level that's an argument for the superiority of the other car. It's not an argument based on the innate superiority of the non-vandalized car, however.
    Note that I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Cocoa. EOL'ing the Carbon car doesn't make Cocoa inherently better, but it does state more clearly that Cocoa is the one way Apple will support development in the future. --J.]
    It’s a shame Adobe didn’t move Photoshop etc to cocoa ten years ago like Apple asked them to do. :P
    [No it isn't--at all.
    If the only way to make an app OS X-native had been a complete rewrite (as Apple initially wanted), then Adobe, Microsoft, and other developers would have simply bailed on the Mac completely. I'm talking about a period long before I worked at the company, but given where Apple's marketshare was & was headed in 1997, asking Mac developers to take three or four years out (during which they wouldn't be generating revenue with new releases) was a recipe for disaster. Apple realized this & created Carbon, then used it to bring their own existing apps (FCP, etc.) to OS X. --J.]
    True, none of Apple’s apps are 64 bit yet, at least not in the wild. But internally, I bet you they all are. Internally, I bet that everything, including FCP, the Finder, and iTunes, are cocoa and 64 bit.
    [I suppose in the meantime Apple is just toying with us all, withholding that obvious goodness.
    Of course, you might consider what John Gruber wrote:

    "Everyone out there with a stiffy for the “rewritten in Cocoa” Snow Leopard Finder needs to get a grip. Cocoa is just an API. It is not some sort of magic technology where you just sprinkle a ton of square brackets in your source code and you instantly get a better UI. From a user’s perspective, the Snow Leopard Finder is going to be pretty much the exact same turd we’ve had in Mac OS X all along."

    --J.]
    It just makes sense. After all, OS X was running on Intel long before there were Intel Macs. It just doesn’t matter yet.
    Yes, it’s great that Lightroom is 64 bit (and cocoa), but in practice it doesn’t make one bit of difference except for the dubious bragging rights.
    [64-bit absolutely makes a difference if you're addressing a large amount of RAM. If not, then no, it doesn't--and neither will it for FCP, Aperture, Motion, etc. if and when they make the jump.
    As for bragging rights, somehow I think we'd be hearing a different story had Apple been faster to market with 64-bit software. Forget real-world usefulness: the chorus would have been all "Stupid, *stupid* Adobe, failing to see the light!" In fact, that's exactly what I expect to hear as of NAB. --J.]
    So there!
    [Yes, got me again... --J.]

  • Kurt — 8:28 AM on April 11, 2009

    Cocoa/Carbon/64-bit aside, congrats to the Adobe authors for their SIGGRAPH papers. Kudos to Adobe as well for supporting writing the papers because they are a lot of work.

  • Matt — 12:14 PM on April 11, 2009

    Looks like we touched a nerve!
    What it makes one think, in reference to my original post, is that a company in the business of making money should maybe spend more time paying attention to their products than to SIGGRAPH.
    [Why do you think that making money & contributing to the publicly known store of good ideas run counter to one another? By that rationale Apple should cease contributing to WebKit. --J.]
    Also, Adobe employees have been defensive about the Cocoa thing for years.
    [If you'd spent years dealing with cocksure know-nothings (people who wouldn't know Cocoa from Ovaltine), you'd feel defensive, too. Never is it necessary for these people to tell you *why* something is better. They just have to keep repeating that it is, and that you're stupid. Forgive me if I find that approach less than compelling.
    It's always funny to me that guys who actually know what they're talking about, like Gruber or Brent Simmons, are the ones who support my points. Meanwhile I deal with comments from people like this guy, who stated with total conviction that Apple's decision to *start* using ALL CAPS in Finder/iTunes must be due to a failing in/dependence upon Carbon; unbelievable. --J.]
    Cocoa was the clear choice for the future and it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that was the case many many years ago. It wasn’t like Apple actually _might_ go with Carbon as the one platform for the future, they definitely would not.
    [Obviously no one thought that Carbon would be continued to the exclusion of Cocoa. --J.]
    When Carbon would end? Who knows, but you knew it was going to and should have prepared.
    [Who says we weren't preparing? We've been doing things like moving off of QuickDraw and onto Quartz. That kind of work has always been on our roadmap, because it involves customer-facing benefits. The parts of transitioning to Cocoa that had no benefit to customers were naturally lower priority.
    By the way--just for the record--Apple has never, to my knowledge, stated that Carbon support is going to end. Even now Apple.com describes Carbon as "a set of APIs for developing full-featured, high-performance, and reliable applications for Mac OS X," while touting it as "well-suited to cross-platform development"--something they don't say about Cocoa.
    What Apple *has* made clear is that they believe the Mac platform is best served by having the company focus its resources on Cocoa, and for that reason Apple isn't adding new APIs to Carbon, etc. And let me say again for the cheap seats: that's all fine. Just don't try to shift all responsibility for the consequences off of Apple. --J.]
    Combine that with the fact that Photoshop releases have been far from amazingly innovative.
    [Do you suppose that spending a large chunk of each development cycle paying platform taxes leaves more time or less for innovation?
    Listen: I have enormous, even transformative, visions for Photoshop. Having to run just to stand still means delaying the delivery of those visions. As it is we have to take engineers off building the foundation for next-gen features so that we can do things like port CFM to Mach-O (do you by chance even know what that is? I wouldn't if I didn't work here). That means more dreams deferred; hence the touched nerve. --J.]
    (I like Photoshop, by the way, and the updates do contain some good stuff, but lets face it, the updates are never very exciting.) And you can guess what happened.
    Adobe either was too lazy, too unskilled, or too bogged down in bureaucracy to be able to make any changes.
    [Lazy and stupid--yep, that's the ticket! It couldn't have been that we, like, oh, the Final Cut Pro & iTunes teams, put customer-facing benefits ahead of work that wouldn't produce benefits for customers. Nah; why give someone the benefit of the doubt (or even think that they were making a rational business decision, insofar as visible improvements drive sales) when you can say they're a bunch of morons?
    Thanks, by the way, for descending into petty name-calling. I wouldn't want to have characterized you unfairly. --J.]
    I’m not saying it’s easy, but the writing was on the wall. Stop playing this “Oh, too bad Apple didn’t decide to go with Carbon” nonsense. We all knew that wasn’t going to happen.
    [No one said it was. --J.]

  • Klaus Nordby — 3:31 PM on April 11, 2009

    John, you have all my sympathies for dealing with this never-ending CCC (Carbon-Cocoa-Crap) from the Macnoids. We Windows folks may have our faults, but at least we don’t give you a hard time about obscure Win APIs! So just stop paying attention to the CCC trolls.

  • Mark Thomas — 5:22 PM on April 11, 2009

    If cocoa were not the superior API for Mac OS X, Apple wouldn’t be wasting its time rewriting its own legacy classic Mac apps in cocoa, nor would it be using cocoa for every new app they write from scratch. For OS X, cocoa is like steel, and carbon is like plastic. Yes, it is possible to make a quality product from plastic, but in the real world, plastic stuff is always flimsier and less desirable and smacks of cheapness.
    [Out of curiosity, Mark, would you tell me again what experience you, personally, have in developing software? You make a lot of confident assertions. It would be nice to know they come from someone who actually builds apps--or who has ever built one. --J.]
    It’s also worth noting that I have on my very old NeXT cube a copy of Adobe Illustrator written seemingly very rapidly from scratch in cocoa (née NeXTSTEP/Objective C), and which, even when I compare it to the CS4 version, contains much of the same functionality.
    And let’s not forget that despite being handed the carbon crutch, Adobe was the last major developer to ship OS X versions of its products. It even became a kind of running gag at MacWorld.
    [As I recall, Adobe shipped 13 major OS X-native applications in the first 18 months following the release of OS X 10.0.0. Various Adobe, Macromedia, and Microsoft apps came out within months of one another. Quark was the real laggard, finally shipping an OS X-native version of XPress fully 18 months after Adobe shipped an OS X-native Photoshop. --J.]
    Lastly, keep this in mind. No matter how justified Adobe and Microsoft may have been to reject Apple’s request that they rewrite their apps properly ten years ago, this refusal did major damage to their perception amongst long time Mac users who now view Adobe with resentment and suspicion. Basically Adobe bet against Apple when their support was needed the most. Nice.
    [That kind of absurd statement is what makes people tune out "Mac zealots." By your logic, Apple bet against Apple by using Carbon for Final Cut, Finder, and iTunes. Nice. (Wait, wait--they did that just out of some weird sense of solidarity with these back-stabbing third parties, not because Carbon let them bring features to market more quickly. And they've continued to stab themselves in the back for the last 9 years (denying users the *obvious* benefits of rewriting in Cocoa), because... why, exactly?) --J.]
    Klaus: cocoa is not some obscure API. It’s the primary native API for OS X. Huge difference. There’s a weird reality distortion field over Adobe HQ about this.
    [No, there isn't, and I haven't said otherwise. But you know what? It's a beautiful Easter weekend here, and I've said all I care to say--and then some--on this subject. I didn't convince you of anything a year ago, and I'm not going to now. I'm instead going to spend the rest of the weekend out with the family, and I don't intend to discuss this stuff further. --J.]

  • Jjay — 9:17 AM on April 12, 2009

    As no one else has said it, congratulations.

  • Informed Sympathizer — 5:24 PM on April 12, 2009

    I thought I would take a moment to dissent from the likes of Matt & Mark Thomas most recently, and countless other before them, by expressing sympathies and respect for Mr. Nack. I find your blog to be consistently interesting and well-written, even when its subject matter deviates from Photoshop itself. Furthermore, I respect your generally patient, well-reasoned responses to the inane sorts of criticism you subject yourself to.
    To Matt and to Mark Thomas, you embarrass yourselves by revealing an obvious lack of understanding about software development. To those of us who actually write software for a living (particularly on the Macintosh) your criticism of Adobe is quite simply, silly. And I’m not just talking about the difference between working on the relatively small codebases most developers work on when compared to Photoshop. In point of fact, I know firsthand that a codebase of the age and size that Photoshop’s doubtless is represents engineering tasks which the majority of us should be thankful we never have to deal with. Furthermore, I’m also not just talking about the realities of doing large-scale commercial software development versus small to medium-scale development, especially as compared with an app whose userbase is the size of Photoshop. And it’s not just a huge userbase – it’s an incredibly varied one. The things a visual effects professional wants are not just orthogonal but sometimes even antithetical to what say, a professional wedding photographer wants from the app. I am quite certain that most of us have never had to deal with balancing the demands such varied groups of people are constantly making.
    What I *am* talking about however, is that you clearly have only the faintest understanding of what you are talking about when you raise a point about Cocoa versus Carbon, or when Adobe should have intuited that the things that Apple had been telling all of us at WWDC for many years, and which they were ostensibly abiding by in their own apps were in fact, not true. To be fair, Apple is a company like any other who reserved the right to change their minds. And they did, and it was probably the right move in retrospect, though it certainly pissed many of us right off. However when people such as yourselves are given the mic in a public forum and starting stammering about technical issues of which they have very little grasp, it is apparent to all of us who actually know anything about the topic. I will speculate that neither of you are experienced developers on the Mac – possibly even of software at all. I understand that you are frustrated that Photoshop is not as good as you think it should be, but it is not due to the API it uses on the operating system you happen to use, and your energies would be more usefully directed basically *anywhere* else. That’s true for us, the readers of John’s blog, it’s especially true for John, and it’s true for yourselves. Please shut up and go do some of whatever you are good at.
    With regards to the topic of this post, congratulations to Adobe for really turning a corner. As an attendee of the last 8 SIGGRAPHs, I will confirm that Microsoft basically kicked nearly everyone else’s ass for the last several years when it comes to commercially funded and publicly published results. That include’s Adobe’s. But especially Apple’s. The last paper I’m aware of Apple publishing was in 1997, Litwinowicz’s “Processing images and video for an impressionist effect”, though perhaps there was one in there I missed. Regardless, when it comes to imaging technology (and I’m not talking about writing GPU implementations of decades-old image processing algorithms and sticking it in a friendly API) Apple doesn’t do much that other people haven’t. They don’t especially need to, it’s not part of their business model, and there’s little reason to believe they’d ever share the results with the world if they did. I’m pleased to hear that Adobe is not only innovating in earnest (let’s be honest, there was way too little of that for several years Adobe) but they are also publishing the results. Let’s hope they lead the way on software patent reform too :).
    Respect to John – keep it up sir.

  • Greg — 6:56 AM on April 13, 2009

    Kudos to Adobe – full speed ahead.
    As for the “CCC trolls” (like that nickname a lot), John I just don’t know how you can stand it. So many people pull so much much of their opinions straight out of their butt without so much as a “I think” to qualify their BS. I am simply a curious, interested bystander of the whole mysterious practice known as Programming because I find it fascinating—so much passion and intelligence involved—and *I* know that the Cocoa=Nirvana/Carbon=cheap old and flimsy argument is complete crap. Your restraint is remarkable!
    Keep up the great work – I check this blog every single day and it has contributed greatly to my appreciation of Adobe.

  • Tom — 8:06 AM on April 17, 2009

    John, you don’t need to spend time debunking attacks from Mac fanboys. Apple and Google — they get a free pass on everything they do. Just the way the world works. Just post their comment, follow it with a simple: “I explained it a year ago; here’s the link.” Everyone else will be able to figure it out. And you save yourself a lot of energy.
    We in the Windows world are quite accustomed to getting bashed for perceived faults in our platform of choice, most of which are actually not even true. So we feel a pang of sympathy every time one of these Mac fanboys drops by. We’re also quite happy to have 64-bit Photoshop, which we’ve been running on Vista and Windows 7 for months.
    In other words, come join the Evil Empire, just like Autodesk did when it dropped UNIX support. We Windows citizens are friendly, and don’t bite. You won’t find us blaming Adobe for something that Microsoft did. :-)
    P.S. I know that’s unrealistic. I know Adobe will never drop Mac so long as it has half the Photoshop market. AutoCAD was a very different situation, driven by a decade-long decline in UNIX engineering workstations. It’s just ironic that you spend all this money maintaining feature parity across two platforms, and one of them hates you for it.

  • Mike — 9:52 AM on April 23, 2009

    Impressive – but where did you get the numbers of accepted papers?
    “The complete list of accepted Technical Papers will be available in early May.” (official SIGGRAPH statement)

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