Dec 15, 2023 - Technology
Human Intelligence

How AI changes the game for software makers

Photo illustration of Zeev Farbman, CEO and co-founder of Lightricks, next to graphic shapes and screenshot of the photo editing app

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photos: Lightricks

Over the last decade Lightricks has expanded from an app that snazzes up selfies into a mobile image and video editing suite that aims to rival Adobe, at least among consumers. Now, CEO Zeev Farbman is seeing the business he built challenged by a new rival: the power of generative AI.

Why it matters: The new technology is making trivial some of the work that used to require specialized software and expertise. That puts a double burden on software makers, who must now simultaneously incorporate AI into existing products and identify new problems to solve.

  • "It's clearly a complete game-changer, meaning that we completely need to revisit our technological stack because it's obsolete," Farbman told Axios. "It's true for us. It's true for Adobe, Autodesk, any toolmaker."

Catch up quick: Lightricks, an Israeli company best known for tools like Facetune and Photoleap, was early among mobile app startups in evolving from cheap, one-time-purchase apps that did a single trick to more powerful tools that justified — and required — an ongoing subscription.

The big picture: Farbman says he imagines Lightricks' primary market — photo editing — will soon be a commodity.

  • "Photos is almost like a solved domain, meaning pretty soon in the future there's not going to be a competitive advantage to anyone there."

At the same time, he said, the work done by tools from Adobe, Autodesk and Unity, which once occupied their own niches, is increasingly overlapping.

  • "All these lines are going to become completely blurry because the same underlying tech is going to drive all of that," Farbman said.

Yes, but: As quickly as the generative shift is happening, there is still demand for existing software, forcing companies like Lightricks to divide efforts between keeping the current user base happy and figuring out which problems to tackle next.

  • "It's a delayed thing," Farbman said. "You're still able to sell your kind of classical software — but you realize, not for long."

Between the lines: Even figuring out what to do next is a challenge when the software world, and the assumptions that underly it, are changing so fast.

  • One shift that Farbman sees is a move away from general-purpose software created to allow large groups of people to do a task toward very personalized tools created on the fly to allow a specific person to do a particular task at a given moment.
  • "It sounds like science fiction, but it seems more and more doable," Farbman said.
  • For now, Farbman says, Lightricks' staff of more than 500 is divided into four business units, with one of those solely devoted to new business areas, including an unannounced product the company hopes to launch soon.

Of note: Lightricks is also having to deal with the fact that its home country is at war. Farbman said that 20% of his staff is in the Israeli army reserves.

  • "It is very challenging," he said. "I really hope that somehow humanity will be able to get to [its] better side soon."
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