Story of Adobe & Apple High-Value Digital Image Applications, Adobe's angst developing for the iPad, and how Microsoft missed this battle

This is not a data center post, but one about competition and innovation.

If you are a high-end photographer person you use the RAW imaging format, a higher quality image format vs. JPEG.

A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image, or motion picture film scanner. Raw files are so named because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal colorspace where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a "positive" file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation, which often encodes the image in a device-dependent colorspace.

The RAW Imaging apps are dominated by Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Apple Aperture.  With Adobe in the dominant position with Photoshop Lightroom

Digital camera raw file support

The camera raw functionality in Adobe® Photoshop® software provides fast and easy access to the raw image formats produced by many leading professional and midrange digital cameras. By working with these "digital negatives," you can achieve the results you want with greater artistic control and flexibility while still maintaining the original raw files.

The battle between Apple and Adobe is about Flash now, and affects other Adobe products. As one of Adobe's product managers points out their Photoshop Lightroom user base has requested an iPad version, but there is no guarantees Apple will approve a Lightroom application.

Adobe announces angst-laden iPad software effort

by Stephen Shankland

Adobe has begun a new effort to bring imaging software such as Lightroom to the iPad and other tablet computers--but the leader of the work also is fretting over the control Apple has over it.

"I love making great Mac software, and after eight years product-managing Photoshop, I've been asked to help lead the development of new Adobe applications, written from scratch for tablet computers. In many ways, the iPad is the computer I've been waiting for my whole life," Adobe's John Nack said in a blog post Thursday. "I want to build the most amazing iPad imaging apps the world has ever seen."

Adobe's John Nack blog post continues.

These aren't idle questions. When the iPad was introduced, I asked what apps you'd like to see Adobe build for it. Among the 300 or so replies were many, many requests for a mobile version of Lightroom. I think that such an app could be brilliant, and many photographers tell me that its existence would motivate them to buy iPads.

Would Apple let Lightroom for iPad ship? It's almost impossible to know. Sometimes they approve apps, then spontaneously remove them for "duplicat[ing] features that come with the iPhone." Other times they allow competitors (apps for Netflix, Kindle, etc.), or enable some apps (e.g. Playboy) while removing similar ones. Maybe they'd let Lightroom ship for a while, but if it started pulling too far ahead of Aperture--well, lights out.

If you are a RAW image user, of which I am for the past ten years, buying a Canon G1 in 2000, let me tell you the story of how Microsoft missed the RAW imaging opportunity, and doesn't have a RAW imaging application even though Microsoft hired Adobe's Lightroom architect Mark Hamburg.

Canon G1 Review, Phil Askey, September 2000

Adobe Lightroom is the one application I use most often with photos.

Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 2 offers powerful new and enhanced features across the entire program to help you streamline your digital photography workflow. Sort and find the photos you want faster, target specific photo areas for more precise adjustments, showcase your talent using more flexible printing templates, and more.

When you look at the history of Lightroom you see mention of Mark Hamburg who Microsoft hired/poached in April 2008.


In 2002, veteran Photoshop developer Mark Hamburg began a new project, code-named “Shadowland". Hamburg reached out to Andrei Herasimchuk, former interface designer for the Adobe Creative Suite, to get the project off the ground. [1] The new project was a deliberate departure from many of Adobe’s established conventions. 40% of Photoshop Lightroom is written using the Lua scripting language.


Posted by Martin Evening

markh.jpgNews has been announced that Mark Hamburg has decided to leave Adobe after having worked at the company for over 17 years. Mark joined Adobe in the Fall of 1990, not long after Photoshop 1.0 was released and was instrumental in devising many of the ‘wow’ features we have all come to love and rely on daily when we work with Photoshop.

Mark left the Photoshop team after Photoshop 7 shipped and went to work developing a new paradigm in image processing which would finally ship as the product named Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The irony of all this is back in 2000 I was working with a team of people at Microsoft who had a vision for RAW imaging use in Windows as a way to bring professional photography to Windows vs. the Mac.  And, the person we had on our team was Mark Hamburg's boss's boss who worked for me.  We had a bunch of other visionaries who understood the quality of images was a huge opportunity vs. JPEG.  But, it was hard to justify the market in 2000-2001.  Once Adobe and Apple shipped their RAW Imaging Applications, Lightroom and Aperture, there was now data to show the size of the market.  So around 2006 Microsoft starts trying to build a RAW imaging application group.

To make this more ironic when Mark Hamburg joined Microsoft, the executives asked Mark who they should hire to add to their development team, and Mark named his previous boss's boss, and said oh BTW he used to work for Microsoft and Adobe, but he works for Google now.  This the same guy who worked for me on RAW imaging in 2000, and likes to stay out of limelight, so you can't find him in a Google Search.  So, Microsoft tries to hire the imaging expert to leave Google, and there is a small group of us hoping he makes the move, but he says no, deciding Microsoft is not for him.  Shortly, after Mark Hamburg leaves Microsoft going back to Adobe.

Adobe's John Nack proudly blogged about Mark  Hamburg's return to Adobe.

Mark Hamburg returns to Adobe

Well, that didn't take so long, did it? :-)

After 17 years on the Photoshop & Lightroom teams, Mark Hamburg left Adobe last year to join Microsoft and work on improving the Windows user experience (as he found it "really annoying"). I'm happy to say that after that brief sojourn, he'sreturning to the Adobe Digital Imaging team. Welcome back, Mark! [Via]

Oh, and to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who wrote at the time of Mark's departure:

Microsoft's competitor to Adobe Lightroom gets another champion... My bet is Hamburg will be instrumental in helping Microsoft bring to market its Photoshop Lightroom competitor.

Er, not so much.

Why did I write this post? 

Because it reminds me of the difficulties of being innovative when people look at you as if you are crazy.  "Where is the data and market research to support what you are proposing?"  My response would like to be "By the time the marketing data exists, you'll have the information to build an obsolete solution. Get out of the way."

Which reminds me the biggest reason we couldn't get RAW Imaging applications going is the lack of an established market and other groups saying they were the ones responsible for imaging applications.

Also, I should write a post on being innovative and lessons learned from friends like Gary Starkweather.

In 1969, Starkweather invented the laser printer at Xerox's Webster research center. He collaborated on the first fully functional laser printing system at Xerox PARC in 1971.[1][2]

At Apple Computer in the 1990s, Starkweather invented color management technology,[3] and led the development of Colorsync 1.0. Starkweather joined Microsoft Research in 1997, where he works on display technology.[4]