What's the best way to bring a powerful app designed for Windows PCs and Macs to the iPad?
Graphics kingpin Adobe has been experimenting with multiple answers to that question. In the case of Photoshop, it offers Photoshop Express (free and basic) and Photoshop Touch (lots of power features for $10). Both are standalone apps that don't assume you own and use any other version of Photoshop.
With Lightroom--its excellent program that includes features for quickly managing and tweaking photos, carving off a different niche for itself than Photoshop--Adobe is trying still another approach. Lightroom Mobile, which the company is announcing today, isn't a beast unto itself. Instead, it's designed to work in conjunction with the Windows or Mac version, and requires one of Adobe's software subscription plans--either Creative Cloud, which starts at $20 a month, or the Photoshop Photography Program, which offers Photoshop, Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile for $10 a month.
Once you've got Lightroom on a computer and an iPad, you can sync images back and forth over the Internet with just a few clicks. Gigantic space-hogging photos in formats such as RAW stay on the PC; you work with smaller versions on the tablet. There's also a new feature that lets you view the photos you've chosen to sync in any web browser.
Adobe thinks that some Lightroom aficionados will use the iPad for browsing and simple edits even if they've got a computer handy. Judging from a preview I got, it'll be a fun and efficient way to do so. Its interface looks clean and contemporary, a decided upgrade over the merely O.K. one on Photoshop Touch.
Lightroom Mobile seems to be ambitious and capable, so as far as I can tell, Adobe's decision to make it an appendage of the desktop version is more of a philosophical and business choice than a technical one. The company says that the goal with this first version is to start a conversation with its customers about how they want to see Lightroom evolve as a mobile product. It also says that iPhone and Android versions are in the works.
I'm glad Lightroom Mobile is here--but as a guy who uses an iPad to work with lots of photos that never wind up on a computer, I vote for it becoming more fully autonomous at some point.