Adobe Announces Carousel For Cross-Device Photo Management

Last month at Photoshop World, Adobe announced the release of Adobe Carousel™ for iOS and Mac OS X devices. Carousel is a cross-device application for browsing, adjusting and sharing photography with synchronization in the cloud for multiple devices. It’s definitely a consumer product, and I’ll explain its severe limitations on working with professional photography, but the notable aspect is its focus on the iPad, iOS and (eventually) other mobile and tablet devices.

“With Adobe Carousel we are extending the power of Adobe’s imaging expertise beyond the desktop and onto tablets and smartphones, delivering instant access to your complete photo library and the freedom to edit and share photos anywhere, any time,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products, Adobe. “Thanks to Adobe Carousel, users never need to worry about wasting time syncing, remembering if a photo was saved to a particular device, or worrying about maxing out storage on their iPhone or iPad.”

Adobe has a really slick way to marry the cloud and device storage with Carousel. Images are hosted on the main computer but they’re copied to the cloud’s servers immediately and Adobe’s system distributes the copies on demand to other devices. The press demo showed images being uploaded to Carousel and available on other devices almost immediately. Chris Quek, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Carousel, called it a “content-aware mesh.” This system also allows users to edit images at the same time and merge their changes, though I think doing so can lead to wild results.

Carousel is currently available for Apple iOS devices only, which is intriguing to me since Adobe has a colder relationship with Apple compared to other device manufacturers such as Google (Android) and BlackBerry. Adobe’s efforts have shifted around as the tablet and mobile device landscape fluctuates, and they are protecting their Flash Platform product as well as investing in technology like iOS and HTML5, with projects like Project ROME (now defunct) and Edge, which generates HTML5 animations.

Carousel seems like a product that was developed only for iOS to go after the iPad market, and it was decided later to embrace the “create once, publish anywhere” mantra and extend it to Android and Windows Phone. Carousel is expected to reach those platforms in 2012, and in the future I expect there might be a web application to complement these device-specific apps—an internal prototype does exist within Adobe.

Carousel is a subscription-based service and 30 days are complimentary. After that, it will be $59.99/year or $5.99/month. You can import unlimited photos, with no cap on file sizes, and manage them on unlimited devices, but you can only have five carousels and they can be shared with only five people each. Another limitation is Carousel only handles JPEG images. This was asked about quite a bit by my press colleagues during the demo, but the press attendees were generally pro or prosumer photographers shooting RAW images. Adobe has squarely targeted the consumer market with Carousel, and it doesn’t surprise me that JPEGs from point-and-shoot and mobile device camera are the main focus. For the same reason, professional color management and detailed ratings/flags are not really a part of Carousel, though you can “favorite” an image.

Carousel looks like a fun product to me but the photo management market already has a lot of solutions—from Picasa and Flickr to social media tools like Facebook, which I’ve read has more of the public’s photos than any other service. Carousel’s strengths is in its integration with Apple products—you can import from Aperture and iPhoto, and iPhone pics can go to Carousel automatically—and its smooth synchronization capabilities. It also has decent cropping and adjustment tools, which not every service offers. However, the other services have a strong head start and Adobe didn’t do itself any favors by delaying the release to Android. It’s hard to tell where Carousel will be in five years, but Adobe is at least on the right path.