Empires rise, and they fall. The world they conquer eventually throws up a challenger or two, rebels for one cause or another, and no matter how strong the empire, they all do crumble after a while. For the Adobe dynasty, and their gem in the crown Photoshop in particular, such a challenger has finally arisen. Enter Affinity Photo, a Mac only photo-editing software launched today in the Apple App Store by Serif.
Now, Affinity Photo, for all that it has got right, probably won’t herald the end of Adobe’s supremacy. Yes, the gauntlet has been laid down, and Serif have presented Adobe with a challenge more serious than any they have faced before now. However, the best Affinity Photo can hope to accomplish is cause disruption for now, and that too will be slow, if steady. Displacement, if it occurs at all, will be years down the road, especially because Serif have chosen not to tap the market of Windows users.
The Disruption Challenge
Wikipedia defines a disruptive innovation as one “… that creates a new market by applying a different set of values, which ultimately (and unexpectedly) overtakes an existing market.” There are multiple and distinct factors to consider here, each of which may help us forecast the impact of Affinity Photo on Adobe Photoshop in particular, and the larger Adobe empire in general.
Let us examine each factor, even though it’s early days yet, and Adobe have yet to issue a response – one which, given their history, should be considerable indeed.
The Creation of a New Market
For years upon years now, the single, undisputed choice for designers, digital artists, and photo editors across the planet has been software created by Adobe. The days of incontestable supremacy are soon over though, with Serif challenging their supremacy at every turn. First, they released the Affinity Designer as a direct alternative for Mac users to Adobe Illustrator, and now they have launched Affinity Photo to contest Adobe Photoshop’s dominance.
There have been other challengers to Adobe Photoshop recently too, such as GIMP and Pixlr – both free-to-use online software, and though worthy, they lack the distinction necessary to truly disrupt the world of graphic design and photo editing. Canva, Pixelmator, and PaintShop Pro have all caused a shift in the market too, yet none of them possess the features, the innovation, and the technological advancement necessary to displace Adobe.
A new market will be created with the launch of Affinity Photo – that is beyond doubt. The design and photo editing world will be irrevocably transformed, much like the lower-priced Ford Model T, a mass produced automobile, forever changed the transportation market. Affinity Photo looks, by all indications, set to dominate the Mac half of the market, and that alone would cause massive disruption for Adobe. There is more at play here though, as there always is.
A Different Set of Values
There is a variety of values companies such as Adobe and Serif can pitch – the dedication to quality, a commitment to innovation, the motivation towards excellence, and the desire to achieve absolute customer satisfaction. Serif have spent the past 5 years developing Affinity Photo, and with its launch, they have comprehensively redefined each of those values.
In contrast to most pretenders to the throne, Serif aimed for software which is not a watered-down version of Adobe Photoshop. Instead, Affinity Photo is pure quality – its fast, its sophisticated – and it has a range of high-end capabilities, including ICC color management, RAW processing, 16-bits per channel editing, and PSD import and export.
Serif put the beta period to optimum use too, by paying attention to what their user community was saying, and have in turn delivered a product designed to offer a more productive workflow. The enhanced productivity is possible, in particular, because of the remarkable speed of Affinity Photo, which is a product of the latest Apple technologies, including Core Graphics, OpenGL, and Grand Central Dispatch.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the Affinity Photo costs only $50 – a one-time fee upon purchase, and even that only from 23rd July. From its launch to then, it can be purchased at a special price of $40. The most affordable Adobe package, on the other hand, will cost you $110 per year. Even so, can Affinity Photo really overtake the existing market for Adobe Photoshop?
To Overcome the Existing Market
Affinity Photo, as potentially disruptive an innovation as it is, was launched for Mac only. Therefore, Windows users will continue to rely on Adobe products, and the existing market, though transformed, will continue to … well, exist. However, other factors need to be considered here, such as Adobe’s response to Affinity Photo’s launch, whether Serif will ever create a version for Windows, and even if they don’t, what about the market composed of Mac users?
The challenge for Adobe here, if they are to fight this disruption and not find themselves lost to it, is to respond with a new product of their own. A product which can not only go toe-to-toe with Affinity Photo in terms of technology, features, and performance, but one that can match it for price too. They no longer enjoy sole domain over the world of designers, digital artists, and photo editors. They need to respond to this challenge, and challenge it with vigor.
The Bottom Line
For as long as their products are so grossly over-priced, as evident from Affinity Photo’s launch, and still continue to lack behind in performance, they cannot hope to compete with Serif in this new market. If Adobe cannot rise to the occasion, then the disruption will truly and inevitably, and soon enough, be complete. Serif will ascend to the throne, displace Adobe’s empire, and rule until yet challenger rises in rebellion to their dominance.