Photoshop CS4 is everywhere! Is it real? When will it happen? Should I care? Before my friends and fans start asking, I thought I'd address what I currently know about it, my opinion about what will happen, and what you can and should do about it.
There are several new CS4 branded Adobe beta products available for public consumption. I received an invitation to the 2008 Worldwide Adobe Training Partner Summit. Here's what Adobe says about it, "The Summit is your introduction to Adobe Creative Suite 4, prior to the product launch!" So why is Jack Nack bent out of shape when speculation begins regarding the next release of Photoshop or the Adobe Creative Suite? Once Adobe throws out beta products with CS4 in the name, what else can they expect?
The truth is that I'm just settling in with Photoshop CS3. I'm happy with CS3; it works great for me. I'm still learning how to use the video and 3-D options added to CS3 Extended. Based on what I've seen of the next version of Photoshop (jump to 18 minutes for the details), it will only be a must-have upgrade for Photoshop geeks like me. But wait, I'm not saying don't upgrade just yet. There's much more to this story.
I have a theory as to the seemingly rushed Photoshop upgrade (Adobe has always said the time table for upgrades to its applications is 18 to 24 months). The date currently floating around is October 1, 2008; that's almost exactly 18 months after the release of Photoshop CS3. Adobe wants to get CS4 out the door because they're already working on CS5 (or whatever they will call it). CS5 will be a complete rewrite of Photoshop due to changes to the programming architecture made by Apple and Adobe's desire to move to a 64-bit architecture. A rewrite of an application as complicated as Photoshop is certainly a big job, and my guess is that Adobe wants to get started on that project immediately; it will most likely take two and a half years to complete.
Oh yeah, a complete rewrite? Well, don't expect that version of Photoshop to be sweet when it comes out of the box. That first version will have problems. How can a program with millions of lines of code completely rewritten not have issues (Vista anyone)? It will take at least one, and maybe two, updates before all users will be happy with functionality and compatibility issues.
Here's my educated guess for a timetable: Photoshop CS4 will be released no later than the first week (or so) of January 2009 (Adobe will start taking orders in December 2008). After that, don't expect to see the next version of Photoshop before January 2011. Also, don't expect to see those much needed updates that will make the total rewrite a cool, stable, and fast application until May 2011 (yeah, that's three years from now).
So to my friends and fans still using Photoshop CS2, what do I say? I recommend upgrading to Photoshop CS4 because it will be the best version of Photoshop for some time to come. And I don't think you want to be using CS2 until 2011, especially if you are running on an Intel-based Mac. Stay tuned for more on this story.