Is Photoshop for Chrome OS going to kill GIMP?

Is Photoshop for Chrome OS going to kill GIMP?

There are two interesting points that seem to prey on people's minds today: is Project Photoshop Streaming for Chrome OS the first step to Photoshop on Linux? Will it, therefore, threaten GIMP in its own habitat? All good questions, let's dive into this.

Executive summary aka TL;DR

Don't panic. In fact, never panic.

Why did Adobe go for Chrome OS?

The first thing we need to understand is that being a de-facto monopolist in the graphic design market means that so far Adobe can do pretty much as they please. Here's some meaty data to confirm this. Back when we wrote on the Creative Cloud in May 2013, the latest information was that Adobe ended Q1 2013 with 479 thousand paid Creative Cloud members. And now here's an excerpt from their latest financial report:

Adobe exited Q2 [2014] with 2 million 308 thousand paid Creative Cloud subscriptions, an increase of 464 thousand when compared to the number of subscriptions as of the end of Q1 fiscal year 2014.

As you can see, Adobe increased Creative Cloud subscriptions by ca. 1.4 million users over a year despite all sorts of complaints about forcing users to give up and embrace the SaaS model.

Nothing is forever, of course, but it does look like Adobe is going to keep its market dominance for years to come.

So why Chrome OS? Basically, it's one of the ways Adobe is trying to stay relevant as a software vendor. Here's an interesting bit from NPD Group's report from July 2014:

Since the start of the year (January – May), Chromebook sales within the U.S. Commercial Channel increased 250 percent year-over-year and accounted for 35 percent of all channel notebooks sales. According to The NPD Group Distributor and Reseller Weekly Tracking Services, total notebook sales through the U.S. Commercial Channel increased 36 percent, desktop sales jumped 24 percent, and overall PC client volume rose by 1 million units so far this year. Windows notebook sales were flat and Macbook sales increased more than 20 percent.

Not too bad for a product that only started shipping in 2011. And then there's the whole topic of the Google Chrome browser that does have a major piece of the market's pie too.

Is this the beginning of Photoshop for Linux?

It seems to be one of the most common assumptions about this news so far: Chrome OS is Linux, ergo Photoshop for Chrome OS must be Photoshop for Linux. It also seems that Adobe's FAQ on Project Photoshop Streaming hasn't reached the masses yet, because it gives a pretty good idea:

Project Photoshop Streaming is identical to the Photoshop you’d install locally..., however, instead of being installed on your local machine, it is running in a virtualized environment so can be accessed from any Chrome browser or Chromebook.

In other words, Photoshop wasn't ported for the web or to Linux. It was "merely" adjusted to run in a virtualized environment and save all your project data to Google Drive. Moreover, Adobe has no immediate plans to replace desktop apps with virtualized apps:

Creative Cloud products will continue to be available as local download and install.

While this doesn't exclude the possibility of CC apps becoming true web apps in the future per se, this is simply not happening just yet. Neither is there any indication that Adobe is interested in porting Photoshop (or any other CC apps) to Linux.

Will this move threaten GIMP et al.?

Now that is a very sensible question. Here are some important considerations.

Pricing. Adobe is rolling out Project Photoshop Streaming to educational institutions first (North America only for now), with other target groups to follow. This makes a lot of sense: if you want loyal customers, start growing them early on.

Ideally, that's where free/libre applications are supposed to have an advance over proprietary ones even with academic licensing in place (Adobe provides an up to 60% discount for teachers and students on available subscription plans). But the topic of extrapolating skills acquired with GIMP to Photoshop, as well as being able to survive in a Adobe-centric (or, rather, PSD-centric) company is a huge can of nastily looking worms. Students expect to land a nice job, after all, what with student loans looming over them.

Performance and color fidelity. Since we are talking about a native app running in a virtualized environment, it looks like we are talking about VNC-like communication where you basically interact with JPEG screenshots of the actual user interface that a server keeps sending to you. That is, you get lags (digital painting, anyone?) and, potentially, JPEG compression artifacts. Providing reliable color management over network would be another tough task to accomplish. It's going to be interesting to see how Adobe will tackle this.

Vendor lock-in for file storage. Within the Streaming project, Photoshop was customized to save everything to Google Drive, which is only to be expected with Chrome OS. That's what you get for a $199 laptop that works as a thin client only.

Project data storage. Even with events like recent bump of available disk space at Dropbox up to 1TB for $10 a month, handling large bitmap project data from Photoshop is going to be an issue when it comes to cloud-based storages.

Not exactly a novel solution. In late 2013, rollApp released GIMP, Inkscape, and more free software as Chrome apps. This solution turned out to be a double-edged sword. There is no innovation there, as the company brings no added value to customers except forcing them to use cloud storage (and that's a questionable benefit). However customers appear to like what they get: the vast majority of reviews of both virtualized GIMP and Inkscape is positive despite of the aforementioned JPEG compression artifacts, interaction lags, and lack of updates (both GIMP and Inkscape provided by rollApp are badly out of date).

Summing it up

Don't panic about the threat for GIMP: there's still time, and Adobe most likely doesn't care all that much. And don't get too excited about Photoshop on Chrome OS either: there's much to be done yet.

With introduction of the Project Photoshop Streaming, Adobe is placing one vendor lock-in over another, which, admittedly, many will happily embrace, while others will stick to either Photoshop CC or earlier versions.

Should you adopt it, you are likely to deal with network latency, connectivity issues, and insufficient color fidelity as well. You might live happily with those deficiencies, you might be dragged off by GNU activists, kicking and screaming, or you might stay indifferent and keep using existing software. Either way, polishing this will take some time, and whatever free apps follow this route, they will have to deal with the exactly same issues.

It's rather obvious that web-based apps are getting smarter and more capable. In fullness of time, they might wipe out the software ecosystem as we know it. Which is why it's great to see free/libre projects such as Gravit and Metapolator emerging.

One breaking point for making this free/libre cloud-based software sustainable will be solving the data storage issue. Today, locking users to a particular cloud storage of data is practically the core of SaaS businesses, and it's not easy to devise a revenue model that would involve both free software and federated or self-hosted storages. It's entirely possible that in a future SaaS-dominated world, libre end-user software might stay marginalized.

It is, however, worth thinking about (especially if you are of radical FSF persuasion), how the entire community could grow reality check muscles and start figuring out, if there's a way to stay relevant, when SaaS is a dominant model. Because we'll live to see the day. In fact, it's about 8:30pm the day before.

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42 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. i would replace Gimp with Photoshop any day, i don’t care about supporting free software if it has no tools or the ability to do the work i need to do, is the reason i completely stop supporting MyPaint as they had no interest in making a windows build and don’t even point to me to that blogspot place with that guy doing builds, these don’t work

  2. Gimp, IMO, is a software without a idea behind it. It’s rather training room for programmers, where they can show that “we can do this, we can do that”.
    I’d love KRITA to be equipped with some photo features, including hosting for Adobe plugins.

  3. Alexandre Prokoudine 01 October 2014 at 12:35 am

    @Martin, strangely enough, there IS product vision behind GIMP:

  4. The only thing threatening GIMP, is GIMP itself. Every few years you hear about a new great feature/engine/algorithm/whatnot they want to implement, yet the roadmap was last updated nearly 1½ years ago and no real 2.10 release date in sight. At some point I lost interest and moved on …

  5. I don’t know how it is for designers, but from talking with professional photographers who have switched from GIMP to Photoshop, there was nothing in particular wrong with GIMP in itself, it was just that the rest of the community uses Photoshop, so all the tutorials are for Photoshop, and similarly the plugins and actions that the rest of the photographers recommend only work with the Adobe programs.

    That network effect is really hard to get around, and it won’t change without either working really hard to get stuff like gimp-sharp resurrected and improving the various Photoshop import features, or getting some killer features such that more pro photographers start using and recommending and making tutorials for GIMP (here I think Pat David is onto something).

  6. Alexandre Prokoudine 01 October 2014 at 1:08 pm


    yet the roadmap was last updated nearly 1½ years ago

    Sorry, can’t confirm that:

    “This page was last modified on 4 September 2014, at 00:21.”

    Should your comment be taken less literally, it still puzzles me, why exactly not updating the roadmap is a bad thing.

  7. Photoshop on linux or not, I really hope something will shake up the Gimp development. Gegl goodness was promised years (decade?) ago and there is still nothing really usable. The advanced resamplers crowdfunding currently looks like a scam. And the last exiting feature I remember was the single-window mode.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Gimp is more than good enough for a lot of tasks, but there is a lot of room for improvement and I have the feeling that the dev team really lacks ambitions.

  8. Alexandre Prokoudine 01 October 2014 at 3:21 pm


    Gegl goodness was promised years (decade?) ago and there is still nothing really usable.

    Up to 64bit per color channel processing? On-canvas filter preview? Support for up to 32bit per channel TIFF files? Reading/saving various HDR files?

    The advanced resamplers crowdfunding currently looks like a scam.

    Are you even serious?

    He got half the money and implemented half the resamplers he promised. How is that a scam?

    And the last exiting feature I remember was the single-window mode.

    Let me think. Apart from aforementioned features… Warp Transform tool instead of iWarp filter? Unified Transform tool? Nothing rings the bell really? :)

  9. My bad. But is this the development version? The last version available to common people is 2.8 and all those features are not here.
    When can we hope to get the next release?

    About the resamplers, I sincerely wasn’t trolling, the last time I checked the freedomsponsor page I read that he had a new job and no more time for this project despite the money earned. My apologies if I didn’t get the part in that 10m long webpage where he said about those two resamplers.

  10. Alexandre Prokoudine 01 October 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Yes, this is the development version. It’s hard to provide estimations without having people working on this full-time. But to give you idea:



    Comments at freedomsponsors are in the top-down order. The last comment where Nicolas writes what he completed is in the very bottom. Pressing the End key on your keyboard typically helps navigating there :)

  11. Thanks for your sarcasm ;)
    Anyway, giving money for a feature and still having nothing to play with nearly 2 years after isn’t really a nice experience. (and no thank you, I’m not interested in compiling any code)

    If the dev version is so full of good things, why don’t they release a 2.8.5 version?  2.8 came out in spring of 2012, it’s an eternity.

  12. Alexandre Prokoudine 01 October 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Sarcasm not intended.

    If you are not interested in compiling the code, you can use builds from

    In a nutshell, releasing 2.9.0 as the first step towards 2.10 means completing a few other things. The first link I provided in an earlier comment specifically addresses that.

  13. @Alexandre
    I was referring to the lower section “Expected availability of developed features” but I can see from the history that the date stated there (“Last updated: 25.05.2013”) is wrong.

    I just believe that in order to attract developers, you have to give some time frame in which they can expect their work to get to actual users (I did for some time install dev snapshots, but most people don’t). A road map that states a date in the not-to-distant future might help. One that states “nothing happened for over a year and we have no idea when something will happen” surely doesn’t help.

  14. It’s pretty depressing that free software will be more and more marginalized which means new generations of users won’t be going to use either because they can’t install it on their locked down system, and even if they can, they not going to like it because they’ve accustomed to proprietary software.

    If things continuing this way Free Software is going to be extinct silently. And I just can’t see trends to reverse it.

    I’m sort of content with free graphics tools, but I fear that over time, I won’t be able to install unless I became a hacker.

    I wish that there would be a way which makes Free software not only vegetate, but thrive relatively healthily, at least at 10% marketshare. I just can’t see it…

    By the way: what can I do to make Gimp’s UI better? I’m don’t want to demand features from other applications, just want to point out some things which I don’t like in the current UI.

  15. I replaced photoshop with gimp for production and after a few months, I could do all with it I wanted. When I have to work on photoshop, it is simply not as handy as gimp, sorry. So keep up the good work, gimp developers.

  16. Photoshop doesn’t have to kill what is already dead.

    I enjoy using GIMP, but the fact remains that with the small amount of time the few volunteers have available for gimp development, the port to GEGL will not happen anytime soon. Looking at the matrix showing the breakdown of what needs to be ported, you can see that they’ve barely made a dent. Even if they do manage to finish GEGL, they will be faced with the even bigger task of redesigning the UI to properly work with a non-destructive workflow as well as port to a newer toolkit.

    I don’t want to discourage the people who generously donate their time. But I just don’t see gimp getting past the GEGL obstacle without either corporate sponsorship, or a rockstar developer comming on board.

    Rockstar develpers are people like Boudewijn Rempt, Paul Davis, and Ton Rossendaal. And they are not easy to find.

  17. “Project Vision”. But not enough developers to bring them to fruition. I would also take Photoshop over Gimp. Better features, more intuitive. Works and integrates with the best photography plugins out there. And high bit color depth. Which I do need. Not 20 years from now. Also read that Adobe has taken down the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for the Linux platform. Linux devs need to start producing and marketing prosumer applications and stop forgetting about desktop enviroments.
    Link to Acrobat Reader news.

  18. I am reading about “staying relevant” and “marketing”. Am I the only one who makes free software because he likes doing it and feels good giving his work away? I don’t think that “marketshare” is anything we* should care about. It’s just not relevant. We* don’t get payed, we* don’t gain anything (besides annoying users) so everyone stop complaining. That is not how things work. Either help or be grateful to get something for free and STFU. We* don’t owe you anything.

    * When I say “we” I don’t want to imply that I can speak of the whole of the free software developer community but at least the ones I know personally share this view to some degree.

  19. @houz

    see, that’s why people is losing faith in Free software:

    ” Either help or be grateful to get something for free and STFU. We* don’t owe you anything.”

    we also don’t owe you jack shit, indeed a software is only as good as people make it and some are willing to believe in you and your stuff for nothing, i’m more than happy to pay 100 bucks for a good software like Paint Tool SAI than donating the same amount to MyPaint just for a port for Windows that work, i’m truly sorry for people like you that think people should be grateful for you to make something free because then you are not doing it because you like it, it’s because like 90% of the FOSS devs you just want to inflate your ego, and still even if people help you god knows when or how that help will influence the project at all, donations were never as good as hiring a developer

  20. Only thing that GIMP should have all time is layer effects to fully support .psd format and to speeeeeeeeeed up workflow.

  21. Adobe is a notoriously paranoid company. They rightly fear Microsoft or Apple

    In the early 2000’s GIMP might have had a chance but Adobe reacted.

    Photoshop is a moving target and kept improving.
    Photoshop Elements cleaned up the budget end of the market.
    The Creative Suite provided another cost advantage.

    Graphic designers seem to have few problems paying for software and billing their clients accordingly to recoup that cost.

    Cost is simply not as compelling as freedom. Even with their new subscription services I don’t think Adobe have squeezed their users too much yet that they will sacrifice convenience for freedom.

    Adobe are more worried about users sticking with older versions of their software, and not paying for upgrades or subscriptions than they are about anything else. (Adobe extinguished Macromedia, their biggest competitor. Microsoft Expression didn’t make much of an impact. Apple have only made a small dent with Final Cut and Pages.)

  22. Alexandre Prokoudine 06 October 2014 at 3:34 pm


    The word you are looking for is “sustainable”. At a certain point the amount of code to maintain + further development become too much for a project where only volunteers work in their spare time.

    Remember the Gooseberry project by Blender Foundation? A while ago Ton had promoted the idea that Blender doesn’t need more users than it already has for now. As the result of the Gooseberry fundraiser,  however, the Foundation ended up cutting their new animation movie plans down to size because of insufficient funding.

    Something to think about, no?

  23. @ Alexandre:
    > The word you are looking for is “sustainable”.
    > At a certain point the amount of code to maintain + further development become too much for a project where only volunteers work in their spare time.

    That’s it!
    Actually, It is just as simple as that… :-)

    IMHO, in the end, If you want a steady and fast development you are forced to hire full-time developers:
    Blender, Krita, LibreOffice, Qgis are just a few great successful examples regarding sponsored open source software…

    Many latest great features of Gimp have been sponsored by Google as well (through the Gsoc).
    Gimp development is *extremely slow* only because there is only Michael Natterer (aka Mitch) who works on it on a daily basis on his spare-time (mostly fixing bugs) [1]

    More to the topic, IMHO, you can’t seriously compare Gimp with Photoshop…
    I work with Gimp every day and it really serves my needs but I have no doubt that Photoshop is much more powerful…
    If you are “serious” about photography you mostly shoot in raw and, personally, I would opt for Rawtherapee or Darktable on Linux…

    At present, I suppose Adobe is not *economically* interested in fully porting Photoshop to Linux.
    From what I have read in the past [1] by Adobe developers, it looks like Linux, as a whole, is too much fragmented (Unity, Gnome, Kde, Cinnamon does it ring a bell?...).
    In addition, the user base is too small (around 1-2% of Desktop users) and little interested in paying for Photoshop.
    I reckon every Linux user would be happy to work with Photoshop on Linux for free (but paying for it is a very different matter…) :-)


  24. Instead of thinking in PhotoShop or other commercial software, we should discuss how to make GIMP better without looking those other closed-source programs, nor steer the GIMP development to what PhotoShop user want/wish. How can we make GIMP developers are more open to collaboration and external suggestions? How can we make development faster? Could open funding projects or get sponsors be useful like other OpenSource projects? How to get more developers interested in GIMP? How to get users more involved, promoting GIMP with help and creating more GIMP tutorials? Is there only users complaining about GIMP, or there are also developers who do not like how the project is aimed? If there are developers who are disappointed with the project, would be forking an option?

  25. Maybe than we will have layer effects in GIMP? For thousands year maybe?

  26. Quote “From what I have read in the past [1] by Adobe developers, it looks like Linux, as a whole, is too much fragmented (Unity, Gnome, Kde, Cinnamon does it ring a bell?...).”

    You don’t hear Mozilla devs or Libreoffice devs complaining about Linux having a variety of desktops. That’s choice! Adobe devs are just plain lazy, and think they have the power to dictate what platforms should do to support their agendas. Sorry Adobe!. You have to work around our platform, not vice versa. So start teaching your high paid lazy devs QT and GTK. Make them earn their high paid saleries!!.

  27. Alexandre Prokoudine 10 October 2014 at 8:37 am

    Adobe Reader for Linux is Gtk-based, Adobe Photoshop Album is Qt-based. You were saying? :)

  28. @Bob K.:
    >that’s choice! Adobe devs are just plain lazy, and think they have the power to dictate what platforms should do to support their agendas.

    Unfortunately, in my view, it is not that simple…
    Please, just read [1] carefully the posts by Chris Cox (he worked as a Photoshop programmer when the thread started on the Adobe forum).

    I paste here one of his reply:
    >Chris Cox Sep 24, 2010 3:48 PM (in response to djaighkub)
    > Again, we’ve done the research.  The profits aren’t there—very few Linux users are willing to pay for commercial software.
    > And the cost of entry is still high because of the fragmented Linux landscape.
    > The Linux world has to change before commercial software will have reason to invest in Linux ports.
    > And we haven’t seen much real change in the Linux market in several years.

    IMHO, every comparison with LibreOffice and Firefox (both working fine on Linux) does not make much sense.
    In short, because there are plenty of full time LibreOffice developers paid by company such as RedHat, Collabora (previously by Novell), Canonical etc to work and test LibreOffice on their Linux Distros (e.g. on Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSuse etc).
    Firefox (on behalf of Mozilla) has been heavily sponsored by Google in the past (and we are talking about millions of euros here…).

    Lately, Adobe has dismissed its support on Linux regarding its Adobe Reader software.
    I suppose because this software was not economically profitable either for the company…


  29. Both GIMP and Photoshop Chrome OS are great products. But since Photoshop is very well known, the Chrome OS extension is a smart move!

  30. Gimp is not a Photoshop alternative. It’s just another free tool that can get the job done in some cases. I don’t see anything that yet that can replace Photoshop.

  31. I am truly disagree . I think nothing can replace photo shop because the the features available in it couldn’t be replaced. thnaks

  32. so why adobe doesn’t make stable photoshop for OS Chrome? I think they must improve the version of its version so that stable if they wanna service us. If there is no changes for this version, they’ll fail.

  33. No, nothing can replace photoshop, almost in profesional ambiences. (sorry for my poor english)

  34. It’s not possible to kill Photoshop easily. I think Gimp is not the competitor of Photoshop. It seems same with Photoshop but has a difference.

  35. Photoshop will be around when GIMP dies… It is on a whole different level and gives users an experience not easilly replaced.

  36. Webbased programs are nice, but then I prefer to keep my data localy at my computer and not in the cloud. Not so critical data might be stored in the cloud.

  37. It may even seem that kill adobe Photoshop, but I doubt very much that to happen someday, very difficult that any image editor can overcome Photoshop

  38. It’s not possible to kill Photoshop easily.It is on a whole different level and gives users an experience not easily replaced.I think nothing can replace photo shop because the the features available in it couldn’t be replaced. thnaks

  39. Photoshop is a very vast and user friendly tools is it can not replace easily, but it (GIMP) can be second choice.

  40. Maybe than we will have layer effects in GIMP? Not so critical data might be stored in the cloud. Thanks

  41. I still like Photoshop, maybe this could be better, I’ll try it.