Adobe plans to ship 64-bit Photoshop CS4 for Windows only; no 64-bit Mac version until CS5

“What does 64-bit computing mean, practically speaking? In a nutshell, it lets an application address very large amounts of memory–specifically, more than 4 gigabytes,” John Nack, Senior Product Manager, Adobe Photoshop, writes on his blog John Nack on Adobe.

Nack writes, “It’s also important to say what 64-bit doesn’t mean. It doesn’t make applications somehow run twice as fast. As Photoshop architect Scott Byer writes, “64-bit applications don’t magically get faster access to memory, or any of the other key things that would help most applications perform better.” In our testing, when an app isn’t using a large data set (one that would otherwise require memory swapping), the speedup due to running in 64-bit mode is around 8-12%.”

Nack writes, “What’s Adobe doing with Photoshop? In the interest of giving customers guidance as early as possible, we have some news to share on this point: in addition to offering 32-bit-native versions for Mac OS X and 32-bit Windows, just as we do today, we plan to ship the next version of Photoshop as 64-bit-native for Windows 64-bit OSes only.”

MacDailyNews Note: Related articles:
Apple does 64-bit right, Microsoft… not so much – August 03, 2007
Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard is 64-bit done right, unlike Microsoft’s Windows Vista kludge – August 14, 2006
Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger operating system is a true 64-bit environment – April 21, 2005

Nack writes, “The development is frankly bittersweet for us: On the one hand we’re delighted to be breaking new ground with Photoshop, and when processing very large files on a suitably equipped machine, Photoshop x64 realizes some big performance gains… On the other hand, we work very hard at maintaining parity across platforms, and it’s a drag that the Mac x64 revision will take longer to deliver. We will get there, but not in CS4. (Our goal is to ship a 64-bit Mac version with Photoshop CS5, but we’ll be better able to assess that goal as we get farther along in the development process.)”

Nack writes, “On the Mac Photoshop (like the rest of the Creative Suite, not to mention applications like Apple’s Final Cut Pro and iTunes) relies on Apple’s Carbon technology. Apple’s OS team was busy enabling a 64-bit version of Carbon, a prerequisite for letting Carbon-based apps run 64-bit-native.”

Nack writes, “At the WWDC show last June, however, Adobe & other developers learned that Apple had decided to stop their Carbon 64 efforts. This means that 64-bit Mac apps need to be written to use Cocoa (as Lightroom is) instead of Carbon. This means that we’ll need to rewrite large parts of Photoshop and its plug-ins (potentially affecting over a million lines of code) to move it from Carbon to Cocoa.”

Nack writes, “Now let me be very clear about something: It’s entirely Apple’s call about what’s best for the Mac OS and how to spend their engineering cycles. Like any development team, they have finite resources & need to spend them judiciously. They’ve decided that Carbon 64 doesn’t belong on their roadmap, and we respect their decision. It’s up to Adobe to adapt to the new plan.”

Nack writes, “As soon as we got the news in June, we began adjusting our product development plans. No one has ever ported an application the size of Photoshop from Carbon to Cocoa (as I mentioned earlier, after 9 years as an Apple product Final Cut Pro remains Carbon-based), so we’re dealing with unknown territory. We began training our engineers to rewrite code in Objective C (instead of C++), and they began prototyping select areas to get a better view of the overall effort.”

“In short, Adobe has been taking prompt, pragmatic steps to enable 64-bit Photoshop as quickly as possible on both Mac and Windows. It’s a great feature, not a magic bullet, and we’re delivering the functionality as quickly as each platform permits,” Nack writes.

More in Nack’s full blog post here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple CEO Steve Jobs has repeatedly told developers at multiple WWDC events for years now that the future of Mac OS X development is Xcode. Adobe was told to move to Cocoa years ago. They didn’t. Hence the massive delay in getting native Photoshop and other apps for Intel-powered Macs.

For years now, ever since the Adobe prefers PCs over Macs incident, we have believed that Adobe isn’t as attentive to Mac users as they should be. This latest escapade has not helped to change our minds.

Okay, so let’s play along with Nack and pretend for a moment that having/not having Adobe’s Flash on Apple’s mobile WiFi Multi-Touch platform (iPhone/iPod touch) has absolutely nothing at all to do with this and see what we’re left with: Adobe is late on the Mac, their code is old, they had notice to update long ago, but they only made half-hearted attempts to get their code in shape for the future.

Why is Adobe so far behind on the Mac? Because they thought the Mac was dead. But, they were wrong. Dead wrong.

MacDailyNews Note: MacDailyNews has been using Pixelmator (US$59) exclusively in place of Adobe Photoshop since early December 2007 for online graphics. Obviously, we highly recommend Pixelmator. Pixelmator harnesses the full power of Mac OS X. It takes advantage not only of Core Image, Open GL and Automator, it also supports ColorSync, Spotlight and many other Mac OS X technologies. Pixelmator was built exclusively for Mac OS X using Cocoa — and it shows. Pixelmator supports over 100 different file formats and can easily open and save Photoshop files with layers. Plus, it is “demoware,” so you can try it before you buy. Read more in our article: Pixelmator gives Adobe Photoshop Elements a run for its money – March 10, 2008


  1. Adobe is acting just like Palm, a day late and a dollar short is just fine. 🙁

    Apple has been 64 bit for some time. While Windows has a 64 bit version in Vista, almost no one is using it. So just who does Adobe plan to sell their software to???? All 6 of the Vista 64 users???

    Just a thought.


  2. Did Adobe just signed a death sentence for Photoshop? Aperture, Pixel and Iris seem like a possible replacement for the raster image editor. I just need someone to come up with an Illustrator replacement to get me out of Adobe creative suite.

  3. It seems like Adobe is pulling a Quark. Quark didn’t do a serious upgrade of QuarkXpress for years and guess what? Adobe stepped in and cleaned their clock with InDesign.

    Now the shoe is on the other foot, as they say.

  4. I do understand that Adobe had no desire to completely re-write Photoshop from scratch just, well, because. I’m sure no one here would be impressed if Microsoft tried to force everyone to shift to their new Office file format (let alone having to rewrite everything to do so). I’m leaning towards Adobe here. Apple shouldn’t have just canceled carbon so suddenly and Adobe should not be blamed for not getting any warning from Apple.

  5. Adobe and Apple are more competitors than collaborators these days. The more features that go into Aperture or Logic Pro, or Final Cut, the more Adobe stresses out. This is no different than the media companies relationship with Apple.

    Just go on the user forums for Apple and Adobe and you’ll hear this attitude through their customers. Aperture users hate Adobe, and Photoshop/lightroom users hate Aperture. As this is an Apple forum, we hate Adobe.

  6. Being a heave adobe suite user… this upsets me. I was really hoping I could allocate a lot more than just 3GB of ram in photoshop within CS3 but they didn’t make it 64 bit so I “assumed” it would be in CS4. Sadly I shouldn’t assume as you know the saying goes… Maybe they will realize that REAL designers use a MAC not some shitty windows OS.

  7. I’ve about had it with Adobe. Not only are they late, AGAIN… almost 2 years for Intel/Mac versions… but their upgrade fees are pure gouge-fests. They just want to squeeze Mac users for more cash. The heck with them. I’ll wait until CS5. I usually skip a version anyway.

    When I finally decided to buy the CS3 upgrade I had 3 FULL licenses to Adobe CS apps: Photoshop, Acrobat pro and Freehand. After finding no info on a 3-product upgrade price, I called Adobe. So, owning THREE license to separate products got me the FULL upgrade price as if I owned only ONE.

    Now THAT SUCKS!!! (almost as bad as Acrobat Pro 8’s interface!)

    If there were any better alternatives to Photoshop and Acrobat Pro, I’d jump! Unfortunately, I’ve got to stay “compatible”.

    Any Suggestions?

  8. Adobe owes it’s existence to the Macintosh.
    One other thing Adobe hates is the PDF functions built into OS X.
    When my Windoze friends see how quick and easy it is to save & email something as a PDF their jaws drop.

  9. I just hope this is the final straw and Apple FINALLY just buys Adobe and slowly phases out windoze versions. It’s not just THAT. Buying Adobe gives Apple control of the PDF format and Flash. They could then end the abomination that is “flash video” once and for all.

    This is LONG overdue.

  10. Apple put Adobe on the map. This is the effort they put out for Apple in return. Adobe crawls in bed with The Dark Side and snuggles up.

    I’ve been disappointed in Adobe for the last 5 years, but what’s the alternative? Quark? Adobe is the lesser of 2 evils.

  11. pixelmator is crap , i had it and it was buggy slow and useless

    now i’ve got pe6

    which is

    buggy , fairly rapid , and ok

    what IS odd is the save for web page is exactly the same as the pe2 screen


  12. Actually this is a pure carbon/Cocoa issue. Adobe should have upgraded their entire system to the new Cocoa when the G5 PowerPC’s came out. Instead they stuck with OS 9 technology for Mac’s. if Adobe had switched to Cocoa back then the transition to Intel would have been quick and easy.

    Adobe has learned that the hard way.

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