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Sudden Impact?
Posted Oct 20, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Two interesting announcements on the photo software side came over the transom in late September. First was Ulead's PhotoImpact 10, which provides direct competition to Photoshop in the "imaging aficionado" space, as Ulead likes to call it. Traditionally, these have been pro tools that through their ubiquity (more Photoshop's than PhotoImpact's) have occasionally been shoehorned into surface-scratching consumer use. Sure, you can import your digital photos, resize 'em, reshape 'em, and crop 'em for printing or sending out over the Web, but those tasks were more easily accomplished in consumer tools. You'd also be missing out on all the effects-application and layering for which these pro image editor products were designed. And the latest version of PhotoImpact adds several intriguing features for the high-end set, specifically a new High Dynamic Range (HDR) engine that extends an image's "perceivable range of light"; with HDR, users can paint out all manner of undesirable visual elements from an image that they may have just had to live with before.

But what's especially interesting in the new release is the way PhotoImpact 10 is either trying to bridge the gap between pro and consumer image software use, or simply responding to the cradle-to-grave expectations created by ubiquitous consumer tools, with a new menu system with categorized commands for easier navigation (shades of Roxio's Creator 7), and access to Ulead's consumer Digital Camera Wizard from within the PhotoImpact image editor.

In reaching out to the consumer crowd, and incorporating the all-things-to-all-people attitude of the latest crop of consumer media tools (check out ArcSoft's new release for the latest omnimedia consumer software suite), Adobe may have gone Ulead one better with the latest release of Photoshop Elements (the trimmed-down, but not dumbed-down, version of Photoshop). A mid-September Sonic Solutions announcement revealed that the latest licensing of Sonic's AuthorScript DVD engine will endow Photoshop Elements 3.0 with the ability to author photo slideshows to VideoCD. I have no clue why they didn't go all the way and offer actual DVD-Video authoring—since DVD-Video, not VideoCD, is the established consumer medium of choice for slideshows on disc—but in any event it's interesting to see Adobe going that route, even if they stopped a little short. One has to wonder how far they'll take it in another sense, whether the next edition of Photoshop CS will offer slideshows. Though its core audience won't care, what's to stop Adobe from throwing it in? That said, there's a reasonable argument that the more pro tools emulate consumer tools (or at least blur the line between them) the first thing they'll accomplish is engendering mediocrity on the pro side. But I don't think we have to worry about that just yet.

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