Adobe’s Empty Promise of Innovation

May 14, 2013

Adobe has consistently touted a particular benefit of its move to the cloud — engineers will be able to distribute new innovations quickly to cloud customers.  Instead of waiting for a new major release, the company will be free to add new features when they are ready.

There’s a big problem with this “benefit” for customers. When was the last time Adobe introduced a truly innovative feature?  Certainly Photoshop has improved with every new version, but most of the improvements over the past few years have been incremental. The program has become more “content aware,” and there have been a few tweaks to other tools. As I mentioned in my last post, I recently upgraded from CS3 (first released in 2007) to CC.  I didn’t see a whole lot of difference.  Here is one of the “new features” for CS6 listed in a 2012 PC Magazine review: “The new UI uses a dark gray background, the darkness/lightness of which is customizable.” Let’s face it, Photoshop, like Microsoft Word, is a mature product. At this point in the product lifecycle, no one is clamoring for a new feature for MS Word or Photoshop.

The Boston Consulting Group developed a name for products like Photoshop in the 1970s: cash cows. Cash cows are mature products with significant market share in low growth industries.  Consultants advise companies with cash cows to milk them for profits for as long as possible and not to invest significant funds for R&D on these products in the firm’s portfolio. Uh oh, do you think Adobe will follow this strategy when they have a steady revenue stream and no exit option for consumers?  I do.

Next:  Where is the innovation in photography software likely to come from?