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11/28/2006
03:26 PM
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Tabblo A Blow To iPhoto

The company releases a browser-based book editor that offers the ability to collaboratively assemble and print photo books online.

Content-creation applications continue to move online, a migration that threatens to topple the dominant computing platforms from Apple and Microsoft, not to mention Adobe.

Borrowing one of the most appealing features of Apple's desktop photo management and printing application, iPhoto, Internet photo startup Tabblo on Tuesday released its own browser-based book editor that offers the ability to collaboratively assemble and print photo books online.

Companies like Shutterfly have been offering online photo services for years, but the paradigm for content creation was create locally, store remotely. Where such sites once seemed to complement desktop computing applications, an increasing number of recent ones look like replacements for desktop media-creation applications.

Video editing, for example, long the province of high-priced pro-level apps, has moved online with a vengeance, with sites like EyeSpot.com, JumpCut.com, and MovieMasher.com treading on territory only recently conquered by the likes of Apple's iMovie.

It's a trend that analyst Rob Enderle says "is particularly scary for Apple because it's a hardware company. It's one of the difficulties you face with a vertically integrated market model."

When applications live online, hardware hardly matters. To some extent, the same can be said about operating systems.

Apple's response, tying its software to its hardware, worked with the iPod. But Enderle sees Apple having trouble doing the same thing for its other desktop apps because, unlike iTunes, they don't work on Windows.

"Their key software should be platform agnostic," says Enderle. "Eventually they're going to come to that conclusion, but it may come too late. You want to do it before customers move online."

Tabblo CEO Antonio Rodriguez isn't aiming to take Apple down, though having served as VP of engineering at MyPublisher, which assembled books customers ordered through iPhoto, he has clearly taken something from Apple's example. "Tabblo started out of this notion that there was going to be this massive migration online because most of the interesting content was being created on the Web," he says.

As for Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, "it's not that they don't get it," Rodriguez explains. "As platform companies, they feel their strength is the rich client."

With more and more applications moving online, the rich client, the carefully crafted local application, may find itself increasingly impoverished as users take their media assets and run online apps.

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