January 17, 2011

Why would you *want* to create on a tablet?

You need to take a picture, and I put in front of you a smartphone containing a camera. Next to it I put an excellent dedicated camera–say, a 5D Mark II.  Which will you use?

At one time that question would have been absurd: of course you’d use the high-end camera. In many cases that remains true, but increasingly I find myself choosing to use my iPhone instead of my SLR–and not just because it’s handy & the SLR isn’t. I choose the phone because of the slickness, the immediacy of creating (including post-processing), sharing, and getting feedback.

I mention this because I remain deeply interested in building creative tools for tablets, and I see a parallel. Today if you put my iPad next to my MacBook Pro & ask me to create something visual, I’m always going to choose to use the laptop. The precision, the horsepower, the screen size–everything makes it a faster, more satisfying option for me. I rarely use the iPad for creative work, instead doing standard consumer stuff (browsing, email, Netflix, etc.).

But can & should that change? All else being equal (i.e. factoring out size & availability), what would make me want to choose the tablet over the laptop?

I’m frankly uninterested in making a “poor-man’s Photoshop” for tablets. Good thing, too, as customers seem uninterested. We already have Photoshop, and the rationale for putting apps on tablets can’t simply be, “The device is smaller than a laptop.” If you just want a small computer, get a MacBook Air or similarly lightweight device & be happy.

Tablet apps have to be about something else–about a different spirit, a different ethos–to be worth doing. Otherwise it’s just the same stuff dumped onto more feeble hardware. I suspect that transformative apps be more about fun, about speed, and about the unbridled pleasure of creation than what we know today. They’ll certainly take advantage of a tablet’s differentiating hardware (accelerometer, location awareness, and of course multitouch).

I haven’t yet seen the app(s) that’ll make me favor a tablet for creative work–but I know they’re coming. And I’m going to try to be part of flipping that proverbial bit.

Your thoughts are, as always, most welcome.

Posted by John Nack at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2011

Comments

  • Patrick Magee — 8:41 AM on January 17, 2011

    I would rather see something like the Nik or OnOne products available on an iPad.

    [Could you elaborate on what you have in mind? –J.]

    • Patrick Magee — 9:12 AM on January 17, 2011

      Example 1: Something similar to OnOne PhotoFrame to merge borders, backgrounds, etc. with image and being able to control parameters. I understand the storage requirements for this type of app but if the data was low res in the app with hi-res available from a server as needed it should mitigate the problem.

      Example 2: Something similar to Nik Silver Efex Pro for B&W conversions with presets and control points.

      Example 3: Something similar to Nik HDR Efex Pro for HDR conversions with presets and control points.

  • Patrick LaMontagne — 8:49 AM on January 17, 2011

    The problem with tablets is that many people are stuck on comparing them to laptops or desktops. Having used all three, I don’t believe a tablet (iPad, specifically) is either of those. It’s a device unto itself, and has it’s place.

    I thoroughly enjoy sketching with an iPad, with or without a stylus, I’ve recently discovered some incredible apps for composing and playing music, and as a portable browser, email, and even notation device, I find it very convenient. Finally, it really shines as a portfolio display device and I’m very pleased I bought it.

    Agreed that you shouldn’t bother creating a ‘poor man’s Photoshop’ for the iPad. Photoshop is too massive a program with too many features to cheapen it by slicing and dicing it to make it feasible for the iPad.

    [Thanks for the feedback. To clarify, I’m not saying that there’s no place for compositing or creative imaging on tablets. I’m saying that I believe the center of gravity (emotion, intention) will be different. –J.]

  • Chris DeAngelus — 8:54 AM on January 17, 2011

    Looking at the Adobe Suite, let’s separate the tools in to two categories using some generalizations that aren’t 100% accurate, but for the sake of discussion, we’ll go with it:

    The first group is creation tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Flash; these are all creator tools for the most part, where you want horsepower, precision,all that stuff that makes a computer great for content creation.

    But then you have what I’ll call editor apps: Premiere, Soundbooth, Lightroom, and let’s say InDesign, are examples of programs where you’re taking pre-existing content, and massaging it into something new. This is where I think tablets and touch-based devices will excel.

    I long for a Lightroom for iPad where I can do more serious work on photos than the tools I see now. Giving me the gesture-based touch interface to work with the photos would be fantastic. Same with editing. A virtual job/shuttle wheel would be a great interface for frame accuracy, probably better than the zoome-the-timeline-find-the-frame method we use now.

    I don’t want to say that tablets are bad at creating content, but I think they’ll be at their best when they’re manipulating existing content into new content: editing.

  • Devon Mitton — 8:58 AM on January 17, 2011

    I think the thing that makes mobile device cameras so great (along with the apps, as you mentioned) is that it’s there (also as you mentioned).

    The best camera is the one you have with you.

    [Yes, but I’m saying that even if you neutralize its ubiquity, it now offers important advantages over even the best dedicated hardware. –J.]

    At this point, there’s not exactly that kind of distinction between a tablet and a laptop. They’re both portable and mobile devices, the laptop can expand itself with peripherals that make working easier.

    In my mind, an experience like the direction that the Surface or Perceptive Pixel is going would be a great tool for content creation because it becomes your creation space, not a device that sits on your creation space (like a laptop on a desk).

  • Jay Proulx — 9:00 AM on January 17, 2011

    I agree, portables (tablets and phones) are used for the same reason that you take notes in a meeting instead of creating a final product.

    I use my tablet frequently, for everything that I want to do frequently, or if I want to do it anywhere other than a desk (i.e. a couch, a comfy chair, in a boardroom, at an airport waiting for a plane).

    I never miss the full functionality of desktop apps because I’m not looking for them, I want to record something quickly, and improve it when I get back to a desk.

  • Adam — 9:02 AM on January 17, 2011

    I use my tablet for creation very often. Mainly when I don’t feel like sitting in front of my desktop, but since my tablet is also a real computer that runs Adobe CS5 and has a Wacom digitizer built into the screen, it’s a lot easier. A cool tip to help make Photoshop more finger-friendly is to dock the virtual keyboard to the bottom of the screen and use the touch-keyboard for Photoshop keyboard shortcuts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eAIUHG1CPI
    I even do HD video editing using touch/stylus and have authored an interactive DVD that way. If only Adobe supported more of the multi-touch gestures.

  • Mordy Golding — 9:09 AM on January 17, 2011

    I’m not convinced a tablet should be used to *create* anything. I struggle with this daily. I can’t see replacing my desktop for creating anything. I have too much power and control on my laptop to really give it up for anything else. Maybe keyboards and mice or even pen tablets aren’t the best user input devices ever devised, but they are pretty much ingrained in our workflows now.

    I use my tablet mainly to VIEW content. Not CREATE it. I’ve tried tons of times to use apps like Pages or Numbers or Keynote or the like to actually get work done. Even email is a pain — I’m still primarily POP-based and any email I do from my iPad is no different than what I do on my phone (i.e., “great idea — when I get back to my desk, I’ll send you a proposal…”).

    I know the world is changing and the web browser is dying, and moving to apps. That’s great. But then there are “super apps” — like Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office — and they live above and beyond the precept of an “app”.

    A tablet is nothing more than a pad and paper that we carry around with us to sketch or jot down ideas when we are inspired. Only the ink and the paper are infinite (well, as infinite as our remaining battery power).

    • Adam — 9:49 AM on January 17, 2011

      But what if your Tablet was as powerful as your laptop, could run Adobe CS5/MS Office, and had both touch/pen UIs?

      • Mylenium — 10:52 AM on January 17, 2011

        It’s not so much about power, it’s about usability and precision. For a tablet to be useful as a creation device, it would have to have much better touch resolution. If you hold up any such device against the light at a specific angle, you can see the little touch capacitors and they are several milimeters apart forming a rather crude grid. So in essence, Mr. Jobs can talk about Retina displays all he wants, the touch resolution remains that of a digitizer tablet in the early 80s and any stroke you do is a crude interpolation of this rough sensor data. In fact I just last weekend saw a buddy of mine struggling with surfing some web pages on his iPad, requiring him to zoom in to hit the correct links (and no, I don’t believe a web page should need to be redesigned for an iPad). Personally, I don’t like the haptics of those glass surfaces nor do I like the awkwardness the touch operation brings with it on some devices. It seems to me that common sense is failing some companies and they churn out touch screen devices just because they can technically…

        • Adam — 1:07 PM on January 17, 2011

          That’s why my two current Tablet PCs have Wacom digitizers (as do all of my desktop PCs). It doesn’t get much more precise than that.

    • Greg Geisler — 3:03 PM on January 20, 2011

      I’m on the same page as Mordy. John and most of the AI team know my take on it- a tablet needs to have Wacom support for many of us to even consider using it as an effective production tool. I still use my almost 7 year old Motion table to sketch with. I can draw with Illustrator on it, paint in Photoshop with it, take notes and sketch in Sketchbook Pro. I can’t envision creating any other worthwhile content on it other than that because as an input device it is kludgey. As for the iPad, I can’t even imagine using it for any serious work without Wacom support.

      Personally, I feel like the rush to pursue all of these amazing, groovy, mobile apps is a bit forced. I know that Adobe needs to jump on the bandwagon like everyone else but I think that the focus of this pursuit should be the utility of these applications to professional content creators and less about the wow factor.

  • Speed — 9:22 AM on January 17, 2011

    Can you do serious work (including typing) on your laptop while wearing heavy winter gloves? An iPad is about as useful.

    In my experience, a tabletPC (with a stylus, high spatial resolution and excellent handwriting recognition) is midway between the two, preferable to the laptop in many situations and to the iPad in most.

  • Rich Morey — 9:35 AM on January 17, 2011

    I agree with Mordy Golding – I want my tablet (I don’t own one yet!) for viewing content, not creating it.

    • dusanmal — 10:30 PM on January 17, 2011

      Best use description is likely a bit wider: tablets should be good for interacting with content. There I find Apple/Jobs making a mistake for using imprecise touch-input technology.
      I personally wouldn’t like to produce content on the tablet but be able to precisely annotate and mark viewed content.

  • Colin — 10:02 AM on January 17, 2011

    Lightroom.

    Definitely needs to seemlessly sync with the desktop. Should be able to import and edit photos on the road, then bring them back to the desktop when performance is needed.

  • John Derry — 10:07 AM on January 17, 2011

    “But can & should that change? All else being equal (i.e. factoring out size & availability), what would make me want to choose the tablet over the laptop?”

    Better input!!! Serious desktop paint applications didn’t take off until the early ’90’s, when pressure-sensitive digitizing tablets arrived on the market. We’re at the same place with tablets now: using one’s finger is—well—fingerpainting. The addition of pressure input, I suspect, will quickly change the painting app landscape for tablets.

    -john

    • Adam — 10:19 AM on January 17, 2011

      I’ve been using pressure-sensitive digitizing tablet PCs since 2002. There’s plenty of them available. I got the HP tm2 for a little more than an iPad and it is extremely powerful. The best is being able to take notes in a meeting with handwriting recognition while also maintaining eye contact with the speaker.

  • Rob — 10:11 AM on January 17, 2011

    Though your comment about which device to use for image capture was only a lead-in to your real point, let me expand on it a bit.

    Smartphones and the like are neat for grabbing an image and sharing it quickly (and a shout-out to Gorillacam and HDR Pro for making good use of the technology and taking pictures that transcend the limitations of the smartphones), but the pictures they take are rarely worth going back and looking at again. They’re snapshots in every sense of that word. That’s a stark contrast with the images you can obtain from a serious digital camera, which can be visually arresting and long-term mementos.

    Your own pictures of your sons are Exhibit A to this dichotomy: the Instagram snapshots are grainy, washed out and ultimately fleeting, whereas the digital camera photographs are stunning and pictures you’ll enjoy for years.

    Improved smartphone cameras may lessen the gap between snapshots and photographs, but for the present time and the near future, the difference remains. And once digital cameras include the ability to upload and share photos instantly, some of the advantage you perceive in smartphones may diminish or disappear.

  • BJN — 10:20 AM on January 17, 2011

    Why does the latest tech always consume all the air in the room? I’m sure that there will be some creative uses for tablets — there already are. But it’s just a tool, and like all other tools tablets have strengths and limitations.

    Anybody who’d compare an iPhone with a DSLR as a photographic tool is either being intentionally obtuse or doesn’t have sufficient grasp of “horses for courses”. We need better tools across the board and it’s frustrating to have developers collectively wet themselves over the newest cool tech.

  • MikeW — 10:35 AM on January 17, 2011

    Help me achieve the dream of one day getting on a plane and lugging nothing but my iPad with me instead of my laptop. To me that means utility apps. Let me easily mark up PDFs (design comps etc.) and send that feedback to my team. Let me rank sort and add metadata to my photos and round trip that back into LightRoom/Aperture whatever…

    Will I do hardcore content creation? No. But there is a lot of productivity that happens in the space between consumption and creation. It’s not a black or white universe.

    BTW: On many roadtrips where I don’t bring my laptop, I currently dump raw photos off my DSLR just to check em out. I use photogene to occasionally crop one or convert to B&W and upload it to Flickr or Facebook (just to share with friends). To me it’s throw-away work because I will dump the Raw into Aperture and use Silver FX when I am back at my real machine. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for that basic functionality.

    • Patrick Magee — 10:43 AM on January 17, 2011

      Exactly! Wouldn’t it also be nice to have a portable version of Silver Efex to use on the iPad and then be able to import the initial settings from the iPad modified image into Silver Efex in Aperture (or Lightroom or Photoshop)?

  • Steven Noreyko — 10:55 AM on January 17, 2011

    Photoshop “lite” on iPad – No.

    Lightroom “lite” on iPad – YES! Other’s mention this as well, but let me provide another use case.

    I would like to be able to be able to do a “tethered” shoot but without the laptop or the actual tether (usb cable) to a device.

    App on iPad accepts images from a DSLR via WiFi (built in FTP server). Then view an image as thumbnail or full screen and Flag it as a select, give it stars and maybe keywords. Image adjustments would be great, but not needed. The coup de gras would be a function to save the metadata to somewhere (dropbox or similar) and be able to apply that information to the same set of images when you import them to your primary computer.

    What I’m getting at is something where I can hand an iPad to a client while shooting and have them see images as we’re shooting and Flag favorites/selections.

    If taking the laptop out of the loop is not possible, I’d settle for an app that acts as a remote control and viewer to Lightroom on your computer. “Lightroom Viewer” might be a name for such a thing.

    Capture One is on the path to this with “Capture Pilot” although it only allows you to view images and thumbnails so far. It also requires that you be tethered to Capture One Pro on your laptop.

    EyeFi is also getting close to this with a recent announcement of a feature to transmit directly to an iOS device from an EyeFi card.

    • melgross — 9:13 AM on January 20, 2011

      You can already do most of this with ShutterSnitch 2.01.

      I remember a survey John had here a while ago about a type of program Adobe was asking about. Many people stated they wanted Lightroom instead. I was one of them. Perhaps they could call it “Lightpad”, and have a modified version.

  • Aanarav Sareen — 11:24 AM on January 17, 2011

    Creating content on a tablet is a hard sell. And, I’ve tried for nearly a year. From writing to photo editing to drawing, the tablet just doesn’t work. Then again, as a creative professional, I’m used to the big/powerful systems that do it all.

    The tablet is good to view content and that’s about it. My iPad for example is used only an hour or 2 each day and that’s for checking social media sites and maybe a few emails here and there. Other than that, it sits in the bag waiting.

  • James Shewmaker — 11:35 AM on January 17, 2011

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to use the word “tablet” and mean the same thing.

    For some people, a “tablet” has its CPU built in, like a laptop is portable and its monitor is touch sensitive.

    For other people, a Wacom Intuos is a tablet.

    Until we all speak the same language, its difficult to communicate.

  • Jeff Schwarz — 12:24 PM on January 17, 2011

    I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Tablets have the potential to be mass-market Cintiqs. Editing a photograph by touching it should be a qualitatively different experience than editing via mouse or keyboard or even a Intuos-style tablet. The process should be both more intuitive and more artistic. Simply porting Photoshop to a tablet would be wrong. But software designed to perform (non-destructive) Photoshop-style edits using a touch-based UI (running on a not-too-expensive, easily-transported device) would be an incredible tool for all sorts of photographer-artists.

  • Benny — 12:46 PM on January 17, 2011

    I would never ever use a touchbased monitor for professional work. The grease will evidently mess up the true look in the image.
    I would use Ipad as entertainment. Or as a on-the-move monitor able to sort images the Bridge way.

  • Michael Wypasek — 1:01 PM on January 17, 2011

    I agree with the idea that what makes the phone photography apps attractive is the idea of immediate creation.

    I envision a page sketching tool. Something that would allow me to thumbnail my concept, maybe throw in a photo, input some initial headlines while leaving a sketch block for small text. Sometimes that’s all I need, and it always feels fresh. But then it should be able to send this thumbnail to indesign.

    Suddenly it’s the easy and fun initial creation, but can still tie directly into real work. There are a couple apps that let you “wireframe” web sites, why not print pages?

  • Steve — 1:10 PM on January 17, 2011

    I use my iPad for sketching out ideas occasionally, and would probably do it more with better software. Vectors and shapes, not pictures.

    Quick sketches so I can record what I’m thinking. I might mail that out to someone to show them, or import it into a real computer as a reference for final work. I haven’t done this yet, but for something quick and dirty (diagram to go with blog post, maybe) I might use it as-is.

  • Ken — 1:24 PM on January 17, 2011

    John,

    I would think a app like indesign would be a killer app with a lot of templates,e.g. Email designs,newsletter,invoice,etc, etc

    plus about 50 slideshow type stuff for photo

    Thank you for your blog, great help

    Ken in KY

  • Mordy Golding — 5:46 PM on January 17, 2011

    Many of the folks here are describing functionality that already exists in apps like Adobe Ideas for the iPhone and iPad.

    But I think that when I’m creating, I am probably not going to be doing it in a crowded train, or even sitting in a coffee shop. There are too many distractions there. Creatives are often inspired by finding a nice quiet spot outdoors. And the likelihood is that the sun will be shining. Today’s tablets are made with glossy screens that offer a better video playback experience, which is obviously their primary intended use. But outdoors, even while sitting in shady areas, the screen quickly becomes a mirror and is impossible to use or see with any detail.

    I’d sooner see Adobe develop something with digital ink technology, like what is available on Amazon’s Kindle. Either that, or invent some magical sunglasses that “heals” the reflective glass and lets us view glossy glass screens while we create inspiring pieces of work in broad daylight.

  • Phil Brown — 7:21 PM on January 17, 2011

    I saw an excellent use of an iPad on the weekend whilst my fiancee and I were looking for her engagement ring. The jeweller had it setup to browse their catalogue of images of designs and gems and such, as well as other reference information (grading of gems, for example).

    It also allowed the jeweller to quickly sketch over the image to show suggestions or variations (I didn’t see which app he was using and decided not to turn it into a technical-session else I might have been in a bit of trouble ;p )

    This sort of immediacey, size, functionality etc is ideal and the impression I got from the jeweller is that he wanted to create (show designs, show variations) because it was intuitive and simple – it wasn’t too much removed from a piece of paper, with the added benefits of the high-res screen. It was attractive to clients and it was easy (for everyone). Anything else would have been overkill and less friendly in such an environment.

    We did sit down and he did take out pencil and paper, so obviously a more intergrated app would have been ideal (it was clearly just browsing local content – not networked in), but it did serve the purpose.

    It’s actually the first time I’ve seen one used in anything like this way.

    [Thanks for the feedback, and congrats on your engagement, Phil! –J.]

  • Mike Wiacek — 8:57 PM on January 17, 2011

    Putting something on a tablet just for the sake of putting something on a tablet seems to be a waste of valuable and limited resources. So it’s probably a good idea to think about where tablets are useful and where they might solve a problem better than desktops.

    For me, culling photos, sorting out the blurry or over/under exposed shots, takes more time than actually processing photos. I’d love a Lightroom tablet component that will upload low-res previews to the cloud, let me view the full batch on my tablet, organize them, and then have the changes propagate back to Lightroom automatically.

    Tablet’s have a strength in using multiple fingers and gestures when compared to a mouse. Pinch zooming, flicking, multi finger swipe would probably be extremely efficient mechanisms for sorting and organizing photos using a tablet.

    It’s a small idea, but it’s one where I think the tablet side of things would be a strength, and not result in a poor man’s version of anything.

  • David — 9:08 PM on January 17, 2011

    The rumored iPad 2 with a 264 DPI IPS screen would be great as a “tethered” display with a Lightroom app, or for soft-proofing inDesign work. Is there any way to color-calibrate an iPad screen?

    I wish pro digital cameras weren’t so hung up on film camera design baggage. One of my favorite digicams (Nikon 995) was split down the middle so the lens on one side swiveled independently from the screen and handle. Its form factor and extremely close focus distance made it great for macro shots. It was also good for being inconspicuous.

    A lot could also be done on the software side of cameras. Is there any consumer camera with “apps” yet? The closest I’ve seen is the custom firmware for Canon digicams.

  • DTKahn — 10:00 PM on January 17, 2011

    When I first heard that Apple was developing a tablet computer (iPad didn’t have a name at this point) I pictured a full strength laptop without a keyboard. My first thought was the functionality that this would bring to Photoshop. I had in my mind the love child of a MacBook Pro and the Wacom Cintiq. Obviously, this is not what Apple released.

    The iPad, in its current form isn’t intended to run the Adobe suite. But, the convenience of one that is configured for that type of work would be an excellent tool. HP’s TouchSmart line seems to be going in this direction, but I can’t really comment as I’ve never actually played with one. We may be almost there!

  • Simon — 11:10 PM on January 17, 2011

    For speed! Call me crazy, but I like the idea of a poor man’s Photoshop on a tablet. If you could create Curves and Levels adjustments to existing PSDs using simple touch gestures such as the way Autodesk SketchBook or Adobe Ideas changes brush properties (select tool then horizontal and vertical), it would be very handy on the road and save time. Perhaps the Curves graph could be a pop-over or fullscreen overlay. Bring in basic layers and masks and this would be a handy tool.

    I like the idea of having a Photoshop as opposed to just a Lightroom style of application. Go back to Jef Han’s TED demonstration. Being able to grab a bunch of JPEGs and scale and arrange them on a canvas as layers. This is basic photo montaging!

    Zooming, a Bridge-style loupe, Quick Selection, Clone/Healing Brush, Burn and Dodge I think would all work well with touch.

    I don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel. And I’m not sure that using every hardware feature (such as the accelerometer) is necessary. Save that time for developing for future high-res displays and built-in cameras.

    • Simon — 11:16 PM on January 17, 2011

      *correction: Perhaps the Curves graph could be a pop-over or overlay [obviously fullscreen would be pointless]

  • Gio — 1:25 AM on January 18, 2011

    I’d want a guarantee from Apple that they won’t suddenly put their creativity to work finding an excuse to ban my Adobe app from my iPad.

  • Alex Vance — 6:15 AM on January 18, 2011

    Impressive amount of discussion so far.

    The main driver of the iPhone and iPad’s successful software ecosystem is that the apps provide a thoughtfully limited set of features and execute them well. Fast, easy, and most importantly immediate. No abstract controls: you touch something or move another thing and stuff happens.

    Desktop class software obviously doesn’t translate well into this realm. Desktop software has toolbars and palettes and multilevel menus to enable a host of functions, and while the functions themselves might be desirable on a pad, the complexity of the interface isn’t. It undermines the exact thing we want from our tablets: simplicity and immediacy.

    Multi-touch is the absolute best human-computer interface ever created. It’s arguable whether it’s the most effective, or flexible, or efficient — but it’s the most human. It’s constantly satisfying, enjoyable, fun.

    Tablets can’t supplant desktops, they can’t replicate the horsepower, complexity and scale of the tasks we perform on desktops and laptops — but they could extend our ability to perform them.

    For one thing they can make our data more portable. Google Docs and similar services make it easier and easier to smoothly transition performing the task of text or spreadsheet editing from the desktop to a mobile device. Simplenote, with its constant, letter-by-letter syncing, does this best: I type a few words on the web interface on the desktop, and I can watch those words appear on my iPhone’s screen. There has also been much clamoring for a portable version os Lightroom that can sync with one’s desktop libraries so you can carry your portfolio, but also collect new photos on your iPad as you take them, and sync them back to your desktop at home.

    There’s also a second way to go about extending the desktop experience onto the tablet, but it’s one that’s not quite so prevalent: using the tablet’s superior interaction model as a control surface for desktop software.

    I suffer from RSI, so I’ve replaced my mouse with a trackpad and do exercises to prevent pain from using the traditional input devices of a computer, which has made me think a good deal about how we interact with computers.

    I imagine a companion app for Photoshop that works over WiFi, with a little client plugin for PS. I start up PS on my iMac, fire up the companion on my iPad, and perhaps I wouldn’t need to use my keyboard or mouse at all from here on out.

    In this thought experiment, everything that is computationally difficult or which would involve the transmission of a large amout of data would be done on the desktop; everything that is simple is done on the iPad.

    Things like zooming; on the iPad I see a full-size representation of the image along with a zoom level slider. Raising the slider sooms the image in on the desktop and on the iPad I see a rectangular overlay that shows which portion of the image I’m seeing on the iMac, which I can move around with my finger.

    I an have my brightness/contrast sliders under a tab on my iPad and watch the results on my computer’s screen. I can manipulate the levels curve with multi-touch and watch the histogram update live on the iPad while the image updates live on the computer.

    Perhaps I can paint selections on my iPad, too. Crude fingerpaints which are processed on the computer to smartly snap to recognizable object edges, precision which is fed back to the preview on my pad.

    Such applications could let users of desktop software benefit from the immediacy and comfort of a touch interface. Simple things like scrolling and sliding are so much easier with a touch interface.

    Since I got my Magic Trackpad, I’ve found it far easier and more comfortable to do audio editing, too. At least in Garageband I can pinch to zoom the waveform of a track, a simple action that used to require several mouse moves and clicks.

    I can imagine quite a few things that could be made easier in PS alone simply by using the iPad as a control surface :)

  • Nick — 7:01 AM on January 18, 2011

    *Why* would I *want* to create on a tablet?

    Great posts, many of them answer *what* or *how* would I create (or not yet) on a tablet.

    *Why* for me is easier… it is a much more intimate, human and relaxed experience than a laptop or a desktop. Even today the technology melts out of the way, so the experience becomes about what you are *doing* not *how* you are doing it. Build on that – I *want* that experience (= I will pay for it). That experience is the equivalent of a sketch pad on your knees in the Tuscan hills in Italy in summer (sorry, I’m sure there is a US equivalent), rather than working in a rainy London office in winter.

    Sure there are technical challenges in today’s devices – both hw and sw) to solve – that’s the *how*. They can be overcome if enough people like me feel the experience is sufficiently different to make a market – and many of them will be non-tech people.

  • karl — 7:50 AM on January 18, 2011

    I never use the cam of my smartphone to take pictures – because the quality is terrible. Not so terrible like an iPhone but unuseable if there is to low light…

    I’ve dreaming of using my smartphone/tablet as an input device for the real Photoshop on a real PC, like a Wacom tablet. A Android-App would be nice for this (please don’t write always “iPhone” in your posts!)

  • fiddlergene — 8:12 AM on January 18, 2011

    I would love to get apps for my iPad that give me a way to jumpstart my processing when I get back to my desktop. They aren’t there yet. That’s why I don’t have an iPad. I have enough gear to carry around now. I don’t need another toy just to look spiffy and hip (I look spiffy and hip enough now). And I certainly don’t need another opportunity to improve myself by learning yet another software package with its own keyboard (pad) commands and tools. What I really need is an app that will be a pared down version of what I’m already using (and know intimately) on my desktop, and that will give me an edge to getting work done before I return home.

    Aha, you say, don’t i want to have fun? Life isn’t all work, y’know!
    Well …. no, I don’t want to. I have all the fun I can handle now doing my work. If I had any more fun in my life, I’d have to relocate to the fun-ny farm.

  • Gary — 8:43 AM on January 18, 2011

    If the question is “how do we create a tablet app that has enormous value (i.e., how do we get people to pay us lots of money)?” then my response is, Welcome to the club. In the same way that old media newspaper owners balk at the notion of new media, I sense a similar understanding here. When the framing is a “poor man’s Photoshop,” it strikes me almost as derisive because not unlike the newspapers and magazines, there is an implicit expectation that new media are novelties. No one wants to trade surefire old media dollars for novelty new media cents. So, maybe this is about the hegemony of old media. Maybe the desktop is old media and the emphasis on how to recreate Photoshop on the tablet is about the very same struggle. In this view, the tablet has to complement a complete strategy, so there isn’t anything wrong with creating a cheap version of Photoshop for tablets but doing the real work on the desktop. Just hope that those old media dollars don’t dry up too fast!

    On the other hand, if the question is “when will a tablet be as productive as a laptop,” then I think this is a completely obvious question answered by Moore’s law. Everyone is so focused on creating some transformative user experience, but ultimately people pay either for productivity or convenience. We’re talking about professionals that will only be amused with the novelty for a short time, not consumers that are looking for shiny objects.

    Not unlike your camera anecdote, would a professional photographer show up at a wedding with a camera phone? Unless somehow it took better pictures, it wouldn’t matter even if it was the shiniest camera phone in the store.

    (Re-read, this time with tongue in cheek.)

  • Dave Polaschek — 9:03 AM on January 18, 2011

    Umm. I would want to create on my tablet for the same reason I want to be able to write emails on my phone. Because I don’t always have a “real” computer with me when I have an idea.

  • Dave Frank — 10:06 AM on January 18, 2011

    The high-level reason for creating content on a tablet would be the same reason artists have crated content on sketchpads and other portable options for centuries: the ability to create where the subject is located. So another way to approach the issue under discussion is: What would the ideal content-creation tablet need to more closely match the experience of drawing/sketching on a paper drawing pad? The current crop of hardware alternatives are all inadequate in various ways, but are also all intriguing with the possibilities they suggest. Daylight-visible screen technology, pen/brush input options, multiple available screen sizes (in the UPWARD direction rather than the downward direction) and tactile feedback leap to mind. On the software front, drawing programs that are versatile enough to be useful and simple enough to be practical.

  • Ken Kameda — 4:15 PM on January 18, 2011

    The immediateness (instant on) and interactivity (touch screen) of a tablet seems to lend itself to quick ideas, prototyping, playing around. How about an interior designer/home remodeling app? Take a snapshot of a room, and the app autodetects objects (chairs, tables, curtains, carpets, walls). Then the app allows you to change colors of objects, or substitute new ones (a different couch, with smart fill to replace the background if the new couch is a different shape). Move things around the room. Swap patterns. The ability to visualize the change. Many people have trouble picturing the remodel from an architect’s 2D blueprint.

  • Gregory Wostrel — 8:07 AM on January 19, 2011

    People, seriously, tablets in general, and specifically the iPad, have plenty of ability to do light content creation. For those who reject that I point out the comments from many about the comparison to having a sketch pad, or a small notebook in your bag. the iPad is just like that, but better. There are several apps that give you a “lite” image editing ability – Filterstorm is a great example. Plus, lots of excellent apps for drawing and painting and idea capturing. For example, Brushes, AutoDesk Sketchbook (for iPad, iPhone and desktop), Art Studio, and Adobe’s own Ideas. The iPad (and tablets to come) are a new device with a tremendous utility for the mobile creative type.
    For those curmudgeons and grumpy types who are dismissive of the tech – if something does not appeal to, or work for, you that does not mean it is without value or not useful to others. Try to break out of your box and look at it from a different perspective.

  • connectionfailure — 4:32 PM on January 19, 2011

    I wouldn’t let the device define what can or can’t be done. Your company makes software that allows people to be creative, so you have to be creative yourself.
    Yes, pressure sensitivity would be ideal and might appear on future tablets. Perhaps Apple is not the leader in this hardware aspect because it might confuse someone’s mother or children.
    However, look at what the device has that a computer doesn’t: Accelerometer, Magnetometer, GPS… how can these input devices be used *in combination with multitouch* to help creative people create? Check out apps like GD3D (I dont work for them) which lets you make artwork that is location-based.
    Can Adobe be brave enough to make painting software that uses the Accelerometer before Corel does? Imagine putting a blog of virtual paint on the tablet canvas, tilting it and watching the digital paint ooze down the page.

  • Daemon — 2:44 AM on January 20, 2011

    Here is an answer by not typing an answer but by making a clear statement:

    Tablets as a product line are closer to TELEVISION than to computers. Computers are machines that you use to create stuff, Television are machines that you use to consume stuff someone else created. There is no creation process in Television. Tablets will replace television sets, not laptop / netbook. Of course, you will always want to have some HUGE plasma in your home to watch special edition of Star Wars, but for day to day personal need evening content consumption Tablet is far better choice than TV.

    Mark my words, Tablet will kill TV, not PC.

  • George DeWolfe — 7:06 AM on January 20, 2011

    Lightroom for iPad would be ideal

  • melgross — 9:30 AM on January 20, 2011

    There are always going to be a small, but vocal, crowd that doesn’t understand the newest technology. They will cry that it’s just no good for what they do. Then, years later, they will all be using it and decrying the next step. That happened starting with the first personal computer in 1975, and it’s happened every few years since then, notably with the Mac’s drop down menus, mouse, and GUI. I remember all the PC people laughing and saying that they would NEVER use something like that for REAL work. well…

    We can see the same thing happening here. The next iPad will likely have a dual core CPU with a more powerful gpu, more RAM, etc. Possibly a much higher Rez screen, though that may have to wait until next year. At what point will people admit that it’s good enough for that REAL work they think they’re doing?

    And if they think they need a keyboard at times, they can use one.

    ShutterSnitch already allows us to bring in, and view, RAW images from our cameras. There’s a device for $100 that allows us to use SD cards to get files on AND off the device, and is a wireless server as well. We can share files over its network. There are a lot of things that can be done. There are even stylus’s for the iPad.

    While I can tell from some of the posts that there are people here who just seem to hate the idea because it’s an Apple product, that’s nothing new, and shouldn’t affect Adobe’s thinking. Anyone who reads the pro photography sites knows that the iPad, along with the photo apps available already is considered to be indispensable. Many people already would prefer to take an iPad out in the field instead of their MBP’s.

    If Adobe expects to keep its leadership position in this field, they must be considering this new product category in their plans, and I don’t mean with just the apps they have now, nice as they are. After all, the iPad is more powerful than the computers we used with PS 1.0. I know, I was one of the first users.

  • Thom Hogan — 9:58 AM on January 20, 2011

    I’d go further than the Lightroom Lite idea. Lightroom needs to be an ecosystem across devices. Right now the hurdle for many is the awkwardness of using Lightroom in the field with a laptop and then integrating back into your main computer. Yes, I know all about the various options that allow me to do this, but they all have small gotchas you have to watch out for, and it’s far from automated.

    So. What do I want on an iPad? Lightroom Ingest and Tagging. Which can automatically get everything back to my desktop, either via 3G or WiFi, or by a wired sync, if necessary. Maybe Quick Develop, but it’s not necessary in my opinion. The goal would be to use an iPad much like the Epson P7000 or similar devices, but with more capability and automation in getting images back home ready to work on.

  • Tom — 1:46 PM on January 26, 2011

    CS5 in the cloud: Supposing the Creative Suite software ran on a server, displaying the interface on a tablet. Bandwidth nightmare, for one?

  • Hendrik — 1:40 AM on January 27, 2011

    John, I completely agree with your posts. Tablets clearly demand a different kind of spirit as you say.
    I don’t know if they ever will be an important tool in the toolbox of the professional creative. Maybe not.
    But what is clear to me is that they will allow non-professionals to express themselves creatively so much more easily than was ever possible with desktop software. The immediacy of the interaction with the content via the multi-touch screen just makes creation so much more intuitive and fun.
    Just watch this video:
    http://vimeo.com/15381744
    No, these are not paid professionals doing serious creative work. But these kids are clearly creating. In a completely new way. I am sure many commenters here might sneer at this app for being just a silly toy, but I think it is completely amazing.

    [Looks awesome; can’t wait to check it out! Yes, this is just the sort of spirit I have in mind. –J.]

  • Kevin Bjorke — 4:51 PM on February 03, 2011

    Hmm, found this after writing about a similar topic on my own blog http://www.botzilla.com/blog/archives/000732.html and I actually suspect that Adobe’s challenge now will be not getting people to use creative apps on their tablets and phones but getting people to use any photo-manipulator app other than the camera app itself. In fact, maybe Adobe should be making camera apps for phones and tablets that “incorporate Photoshop Technology” rather than thinking of the editing app as separate.

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