I remember watching Adobe demo the iPad version of Photoshop at the iPad Pro launch event just over a year ago. It was impressive. Designers everywhere started imagining what it would mean to have a mobile device as powerful as the iPad Pro running Photoshop--the real Photoshop. 

Well, it's finally here. 

Except, it turns out that the real Photoshop isn't actually the real Photoshop. And users aren't having it. In fact, the response has been really bad, especially for a brand like Adobe, which prides itself on catering to the needs of real professionals. 

Mostly the complaints are due to the fact that the iPad version is missing common Photoshop features like curves, RAW editing, color spaces, or layer styles. Which means that iPad users were clearly expecting more than they're getting. That disappointment is reflected by the fact that the app currently has a 2.1-star rating in the App Store. 

Of course, it's not that Adobe exactly promised it would be the full desktop experience on the iPad. The company was clear that it was focusing on bringing the ability to work with layered PSD files to the iPad, so that you could easily transfer your work back and forth. It also talked about building on the existing code base to provide an app that works with the Apple Pencil and a touch interface. 

All of that is great, but it's still not what people expected. And that's the entire point. 

Here's the thing: Photoshop is one of the most widely used tools for designers, photographers, and other creatives. That's largely because it's one of the most powerful pieces of software you can run on a desktop computer, it's been around for what seems like forever, and it's really good at what it does. If you promise people Photoshop, it has to be Photoshop. 

That doesn't mean Adobe is wrong for releasing Photoshop in its current incarnation. But there are already apps like Procreate that do more than Photoshop on the iPad, and those are available for a one-time purchase, instead of requiring a subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud.

Of course, Adobe had a response, and it makes a good point. Scott Belsky, the chief product officer for Adobe Creative Cloud tweeted that "if you try to make everybody happy with version 1, you'll either never ship or make nobody happy." Which is true, except Belsky gets one thing wrong. He mentions needing customer feedback to exceed expectations. Adobe hasn't even lived up to the expectations it set for itself. 

As a result, there's a huge disconnect between what people expected and what they got. And when that happens, it's doesn't matter how good of a reason you offer, you've still failed to meet expectations. And expectations are everything for a brand like Adobe. 

I'm sure that the team behind Photoshop will make it better. I have no doubt they'll learn from user feedback and build in features over time. In fact, if the future of Photoshop is anything like using Lightroom on an iPad, I'm on board. That app works exactly the same on the iPad as it does on my MacBook Pro, and it's incredible. 

And, Belsky is right that plenty of products have died because perfect is the enemy of good. But in this case, your product is Photoshop, which many people considered perfect already. That product isn't something new that no one has ever seen before. It's a product that millions of people use and depend on every day. 

Besides, the alternative to never shipping a product shouldn't be shipping something other than the product your customer expected.

Published on: Nov 11, 2019
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