Adobe’s Creative SDK Brings Key Creative Cloud Features To Third-Party Apps

As part of its larger Creative Cloud update and hardware launch, Adobe today announced an SDK that will soon bring some of the cloud-based features available in the company’s new mobile apps to third-party iOS developers.

This is a huge step for Adobe: Not only do these apps mark the first time that the company is doing computation in the cloud, but soon, any mobile image-editing app can make use of key Photoshop features, such as context-aware fill and the upright tool.

As Adobe’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of its Digital Media Business Unit David Wadhwani told me last week, this SDK marks a major shift for Adobe in how it thinks about its products. “The way we used to think about innovation was to put it in the box and ship it,” he said. “Now we think of our innovation as a platform.”

Depending on the computational load, the SDK will run some services on the client, but when a feature needs so much power that it can’t effectively run on a tablet or phone, Adobe will do the computation in the cloud and send the results back to the phone.

As Wadhwani told me, the company isn’t afraid that apps built on top of the Creative SDK could cannibalize its own mobile apps. “We have to be confident enough not to worry about this,” he told me. He hopes that developers will use the SDK to write anything from simple consumer apps to scientific visualizations. He also stressed that this was almost an inevitable move for the company.

Usage patterns among creatives have changed and while they want to use mobile apps, many of them don’t support the file formats most of them use (for Adobe, that means PSD) and don’t fit into the overall workflow. The SDK will do all of this, so in many ways, the idea here is to keep creatives within Adobe’s ecosystem, even as they use third-party applications.

For now, the Creative SDK will only be available to a select number of developers. Adobe expects to launch a public beta in the coming months, but the exact timing remains uncertain and will probably depend on the feedback the company gets from its early testers.

Adobe isn’t talking about how it will price access to the service. Wadhwani told me that there is no exact business model for this service just yet, but chances are the pricing will look similar to that of other cloud-based developer services.