Adobe Buys Aviary To Speed Push Into Mobile

Adobe, maker of the widely used Photoshop digital photo-editing software, has acquired New York-based Aviary, a private company that offers its own photo editing apps for mobile devices.

The new unit will advance Adobe’s moves toward the use of mobile devices as creative workstations, on par with the desktop computers now used by most design professionals, said Scott Belsky, a vice president for San Jose, CA-based Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) in a blog post about the Aviary purchase.

“This acquisition is both a complement and an accelerant to our vision for mobile creativity,” Belsky wrote. Adobe has its own free mobile app, Photoshop Express, and recently launched Adobe Photoshop Mix, a mobile app for iOS.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which brings Adobe a community of millions of mobile users. Aviary claims that 100 million people have downloaded its Aviary Photo Editor app for iOS and Android. The company also invites outside developers to customize its photo editing system and embed it in third-party apps. Aviary estimates that 15 billion photos have been edited on thousands of apps powered by its photo-editing software.

The big-picture goal for Adobe is to integrate Aviary users into its Creative Cloud, a Web-based platform where designers and photographers can create and store projects using Adobe digital publishing tools. Adobe has also begun to open the Creative Cloud to other outside developers of graphic design apps. In June, Adobe shared its software development kit, Creative SDK, with a limited number of developer partners in private beta.

Updates on that effort will be unveiled Oct. 6, and Adobe anticipates a beta launch of Creative SDK within months. The idea is to pull more developers and designers under the Adobe tent. In the Creative Cloud, users and developers might soon be able to work seamlessly across mobile devices as well as desktop computers, with Adobe’s apps as well as third-party tools, Belsky wrote. Aviary’s team will provide expertise to realize that vision of a vibrant developer ecosystem for Adobe.

Adobe will incorporate Aviary’s software development kit into Creative SDK. The company plans to add new services, such as the option for users to save their design projects to Creative Cloud in Adobe file formats, to use Photoshop, and to connect their work across devices and desktop computers.

Belsky knows something about joining a software behemoth from a startup—he was a co-founder of Behance, an online showcase and job marketplace for photographers and designers that was acquired by Adobe in 2012. Behance has since become Adobe’s New York outpost, which led to Belsky and Aviary CEO Tobias Peggs hashing out the acquisition over hours of talks.

“Together we will build and connect the next generation of creative applications,” Peggs wrote in a blog post Monday, when the deal was announced. “Already, our teams are brainstorming on things that we can accomplish together.”

Aviary was co-founded March 2007 by Avi Muchnick, Israel Derdik and Michael Galpert, with seed money from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The company released its first Web software in 2007, but later retired those programs to focus on mobile technology, launching its first mobile apps in 2012. Other investors include Spark Capital and Walgreens.

In 2013, Aviary branched out into the advertising arena with mobile photos connected to brands including Gap, Disney, and RedBull. Aviary does not disclose its revenues. Adobe, whose revenues for the 2013 fiscal year topped $4 billion, has extended its digital publishing realm into advertising management and analytics.

Adobe’s acquisition of Aviary marks a shift in creative digital technology, Peggs and Belsky said in a joint e-mail to Xconomy.

“People are embracing mobile editing in ever-increasing numbers, as is evidenced by the more than 15 billion photos that have been edited using Aviary’s software over the years,” they wrote. “People want to edit in the place where they captured the moment, and they want mobile access to robust tools that unlock their creative freedom.”

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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