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Adobe Mulling Lightroom for iPad?

Adobe took its dispute with Apple over creating software for the iPhone and the iPad to a new level yesterday, moving into a very public arena with a print and online advertising campaign apparently intended to shame Apple for disallowing third-party middleware platforms on iPhone OS 4. Now, long-time Adobe Photoshop product manager John Nack says he’s been asked to lead the development of all-new Adobe imaging applications for tablet computing platforms…but in a blog post he expresses considerable doubt whether those applications have any future on the iPad.

“In many ways, the iPad is the computer I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Nack wrote. “I want to build the most amazing iPad imaging apps the world has ever seen. But will I be allowed to do so? And who decides?”

Nack’s comments are his own and, unlike Adobe founders’ new open letter on Apple and Flash, do not represent Adobe corporate policy. Instead of focusing on the middleware clause in the iPhone OS 4 licensing agreement, Nack instead ponders Apple’s famously opaque and arbitrary policies for accepting and rejecting applications for its App Store: would Apple let an Adobe Lightroom application for iPad go on sale? Nack notes that Apple refuses to carry Lightroom in its Apple retail stores, but that’s OK because Adobe can market the application through other retail channels. But with the App Store, there is only one retail channel. If Adobe were to create a brand new imaging program for the iPad that used interface elements in new ways (Nack notes “‘groundbreaking’ almost inherently means ‘inconsistent with what’s come before,'”) Apple might reject it for failing to follow interface conventions, or decide the program duplicates functionality of existing Apple programs (say, an iPad version of iPhoto). Or Apple might reject it for no apparent or consistent reason at all, as it has done with innumerable iPhone applications over the last two years.

The issues highlighted by Nack are similar to ones facing iPhone and iPad developers around the world: do they dare sink significant money, time, and resources into developing an application for the iPhone or iPad if there’s even an outside chance Apple will just say “no, thank you.” That decision has never been easy, and now that Apple is restricting iPhone/iPad development to Apple-native tools, it’s not as if a great deal of the work that goes into an iPhone or iPad application can necessarily be leveraged elsewhere.

Some are interpreting Nack’s blog entry as an announcement that Adobe is developing a version of Lightroom for iPad; however, from the tone, it seems clear Adobe is considering a version of Lightroom for Android-based tablet devices.

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