Adobe’s Photoshop Express First Of Many Hosted Apps

Adobe has decided to jump on the free consumer service bandwagon with the release of its new Photoshop Express online photo organizer and photo editor. Because Adobe also will store the photos (up to 2 gigabytes), it’s also the first big test of Adobe’s custom-built hosting infrastructure.

In a conference call to demo the Express software (which is really sweet vs. what’s on offer from the photo-editing software that comes with a digital camera, Picasa, or even displaying photos via Flickr) Doug Mack, VP of consumer and hosted solutions, said Adobe had built out a hosting infrastructure to support Express starting a year ago. He declined to go into the costs of the system, but said Adobe would be offering even more hosted applications in the future.

So I called Adobe for more information. Spokesman Geoff Baum declined to offer me much additional detail. He did, however, say the web-hosting infrastructure was entirely separate from Adobe’s internal IT, and that it was built to be reliable and to scale for many users.

Photoshop Express will be the first big test of the hosting platform, but in the next six to 12 months “more premium services within the same web environment” will also be hosted. I’m guessing that in addition to paying for more storage, the flagship Photoshop program and Photoshop Elements might also find themselves with online services.

Since building out a solid hosting platform isn’t cheap, Adobe has plans to make it pay beyond just charging a bit more for online storage. Baum said Adobe will make the investment pay through upselling services, potential advertising, and OEM deals with other companies, such as one in which a company licenses a component of the Photoshop Express software.

The services hosted on the newly built infrastructure may not be making money today, but it’s clear Adobe has gotten the web services religion and plans to integrate those services into its popular software packages. “This is an important direction for the company and something we wanted to control and scale as necessary,” Baum said. “[Not outsourcing] it is mainly an indication that hosted services are important to what we’re doing.”

It’s an ethos that I hope will play out across Adobe’s other software programs, especially given the potential for competition from companies such as iScribd. When Adobe launched its hybrid rich Internet application development platform AIR, CTO Kevin Lynch told Wired:

“The other effect is hosted services. Software is moving from being packaged, where you develop for a particular operating system and put it in a box, to being developed and distributed over the internet and being designed to run across operating systems. That’s where all the innovation has moved to. Software isn’t as OS-specific anymore, it’s moving to rich Internet applications. It’s a sea change in how software in general is being built.”

Adobe is clearly preparing for that sea change within its own product portfolio.