Autodesk makes web app push with Pixlr buy

3D design pioneer Autodesk has signalled its intention to branch out into the world of web apps, buying web-based image editing service Pixlr for an undisclosed sum.

Pixlr, which started in Sweden in 2008 to provide image editing tools that run entirely in a web browser, has proven a popular service. Available in Google's Chrome Store, Pixlr provides one of the most powerful image editing suites available to users of the company's Chrome OS cloud computing platform.

Impressively, the service even offers the ability to open Adobe Photoshop files, making it one of the few web apps that could feasibly be of use to a professional graphic design or photographer. It's this compatibility that was likely the linchpin for
Autodesk's offer.

The deal, which sees the Pixlr founders join Autodesk, will see the service married to Autodesk's SketchBook Pro Desktop. Users of SketchBook Pro will be giving the ability to read and write new image formats including PXD, while Pixlr will be upgraded to include compatibility with SketchBook files while remaining free to use.

"Lots of people - not just creative professionals - want to express themselves visually," Autodesk's vice president of consumer products Samir Hanna explained. "Combining image editing capabilities with sketching capabilities provides new avenues for rich visual expression. We also intend to marry the Pixlr team’s web development experience with our expertise in mobile app development to help people everywhere be creative on the devices of their choice."

That latter function could be a killer feature: currently, users wanting to make use of image editing tools on their tablets are using Adobe's Photoshop app. While impressive enough, it lacks much of the power available in Pixlr. A tablet-friendly Pixlr app, therefore, could prove to be a real winner for Autodesk.

Autodesk has thus far not given any timescale for when such an app might appear.