Adobe's Lightroom app for iOS is yet another step to Post-PC

We're at the dawn of a Post-PC age, at least according to Adobe [ADBE], which is developing a companion Apple [AAPL] iOS app for Photoshop Lightroom, putting the Mac/PC even further into the background.

[ABOVE: Scott Kelby's The Grid episode featuring Adobe's iPad Lightroom app demo.]

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The app represents a big step toward cloud-based, connected solutions in which the PC/Mac you use to do the heavy lifting becomes an object you hardly ever need to touch.

I don't want to be too starry-eyed: What Adobe is demonstrating doesn't go the whole way toward this future (it's only in development), but it is a step in that direction.

You see, what the app does is enable Lightroom users to edit low-res versions (in the DNG Smart Previews format) of their pictures on their iDevice. The app then syncs these edits with a user's primary Mac or PC, implementing these edits on the image the next time the user launches Lightroom on their computer.

As reported on Scott Kelby's The Grid (via The Verge), Adobe's Tom Hogarty demonstrated the Lightroom app. He used this to work on a large RAW image, adjusting shadows, highlights and color temperature.

For and against

Naysayers will say "nay," observing that a computer is still required, arguing that this negates the claim of Post-PC.

I'd argue that Adobe's app (which is still in development and not yet available) puts the mobile device in between the photographer and his/her computer. The mobile device becomes the primary interface, while the computer gets demoted into a new role as a machine that handles the heavy lifting, like a truck.

Post-PC is not an all or nothing state.

The complete obliteration of PCs and Macs isn't mandated, it just means that the primary computing device people will reach for becomes the phone or tablet. It means the computer is relegated to handling those tasks for which an app isn't available and/or those tasks your mobile device lacks the processing power to transact.

Software as service

It suggests a future in which many of us won't even need a computer: We'll simply rent time on remote computers access to which is supplied as a service by software developers such as Adobe.

That model means you might work on an image on your iPad and then send the edits to the remote Lightroom server farm. Your edits would be applied to the original (lossless) image and the results made available, probably online.

It's plain to see Adobe is working in that direction. Its Creative Cloud service hints at this. Sure, right now it enables you to download the company's creative applications to your computer, but in future it's easy to imagine it will also offer online-hosted SaaS provision of the full power of its creative applications.

You know, many of us cling onto the old model of computing because it's what we're used to and humans are sometimes resistant to change.

But things have changed.

Next generation

Gen-X and Gen-Y computer users are fully immersed in technology, they accept these tools as a part of life. We share ideas using Facebook and Twitter and dream of making a viral video as a cash-generating step toward living an "easy life."

The new crop of digital natives don't see a problem using cloud-based storage services such as Dropbox, and are far less resistant to paying for online software and services. We carry iPads, iPhones and Android devices and are accustomed to reaching for these things for a growing number of computing and human needs. Read a book? Listen to a tune? Chat with a friend? Video conferencing? Use an iPad.

This familiarity with pervasive technology means this audience is prepared to adopt new models of software development and provision. The notion that all that needs to be done is to upload full resolution images to (perhaps) Creative Cloud in order to edit those pictures at leisure wherever one happens to be on a mobile device is attractive to these natives.

The other side of this equation is that the Lightroom app is a professional-focused solution, because it is Lightroom. Adobe's move to develop an iOS companion to its app shows that, in future, all manner of high-end computing tasks are likely to be made possible on your iPad or other device.

This means the argument that mobile devices won't handle professional tasks may have been true a few years ago, but it's becoming less true. It was only ever a challenge to be resolved, after all.

All we're waiting for now is for Apple to figure out how to create a similar solution (using a low res format such as Pro Res) for Final Cut editing, and for Microsoft to get over its endless internal meetings on the matter and do what must be done to bring a version of Office to iOS.

Once these steps are taken then there will be very little need to reach for a PC or Mac as the machine of first resort. And that's all it takes to say we've gone all "Post-PC."

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