Adobe has acquired Aviary. Good or bad?

When I saw last night that image editing start-up Aviary had been acquired by image editing behemoth Adobe my initial reaction was 'Hmm. Great for the Aviary team; but I'm not sure it's so great for consumers.' Fifteen or so hours on from that, and my opinion hasn't changed considerably. I'd probably augment it with 'Smart move by Adobe.' Using the term 'start-up' to describe Aviary might not be entirely accurate, but it's a question of interpretation, I suppose. It has been around since 2007 and its code has been used to edit over 10 billion photos. Even if you don't use its smartphone app to adjust your images, you might well have come across its editing tools that have been built into platforms such as Flickr and Mailchimp using its software development kit.

Great for Aviary

If part of the definition of 'start-up' is the intention to see your company acquired by another one, then Aviary at least meets that criterion. Judging by Aviary CEO Tobias Peggs' effusive blog post announcing the acquisition, this is all their Christmases, Chanukahs, and Eids rolled into one. And that's even without the agreed fee being disclosed.

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The Aviary offices are close to those of Behance, which was acquired by Adobe in 2013. Their proximity meant the Aviary people talked a lot with Scott Belsky, Behance's co-founder who now serves as Adobe's VP of Products and Community, and 'it became obvious that we shared a strong vision for mobile creativity. It became even more obvious that we should join forces, accelerate combined efforts and better serve even more app developers and even more people wanting to be creative on mobile.' Aviary is all about allowing people to be creative, through its own apps and through its SDK. It thinks it can better do this by partnering with Adobe.

Smart move by Adobe

Apart from Aviary's app being a peach and Adobe being keen to expand its mobile prowess, Aviary's SDK is well established. Adobe's isn't: it launched as a beta in June. According to Scott Belsky: 'We have high hopes for the Creative SDK and are thrilled that Aviary will infuse wisdom, technology, and reach to new developers.' Provided that the likes of Flickr, Mailchimp, and Shopify don't run screaming, Adobe has made a calculated acquisition to expand itself into a market where it didn't have a strong foothold. For anyone familiar with the English Premier League, it feels a little like accusations of Manchester City buying its way to football titles rather than building its own team. If you can't beat the opposition, buy it.

Not so great for consumers?

We know that I'm cynical; it says so in my Twitter bio. Thus from my cynical consumer standpoint, I wonder how beneficial this is for Aviary's users. The Aviary and Adobe teams are enthusiastic for what they can build together, but in trying to merge two company's visions into one coherent strategy how much creativity will be sacrificed and how much will consumer choice suffer? To what degree might smaller company 'Let's do this!' mentality be eclipsed by corporate hierarchy? Might Aviary become less accessible as it is absorbed into Adobe's Creative Cloud?

My visceral reaction is that while there are potential benefits to be harnessed from the acquisition, there are plenty of pitfalls, too. I'd like to be proved wrong. I hate the see a good thing fail and I really like Aviary.

However, whether Aviary was 'right' to sell or not isn't within my purview, not really. It's a company, it's not the NHS. It acts in its best interests, not mine. I wish them all the best.

Wander - an app to let you explore the world through pictures

Did you know that there are 518 photography apps in Apple's App Store? (I checked this evening.) And that there are 222 paid-for photography apps in the Android Marketplace? That's a lot of photography-related technology floating around attempting to sidle its way into our lives. If something is going to take off and make it onto our screens and stay there, it needs to be a bit special, a bit different. Your average photo-sharing or photo-editing app just won't cut it. So I'm holding out a bit more hope than usual for Wander, which does seem to have the requisite degree of different.

I suppose that you could think of Wander as being a more technologically sophisticated version of having a pen-pal. Someone from half a world away will pop up on your screen and if you want, you can connect and then begin to share daily life and where you live through daily photo challenges over the course of a week. Maybe you'll enjoy lunch together or explore how you travel pictorially.

Your pal, or guide, might be from one of 80 countries, and the chances are that you'll begin to want to talk about things in more depth and learn more about their lives. To help that along there's linguistic support for English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Right now, Wander is only available on the iPhone, but an Android version is on its way. The app is free to download and getting started is simple. You have to answer a few basic questions - after all, you probably don't want to be offered a connection with someone ten miles up the road - and that's it. There's a whole new world waiting to be discovered, all through pictures on your phone.