The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Why Google is giving away the Nik Collection

March 25, 2016 by jay
Google Nik Collection logo

When Lesa posted the news about Google giving away the Nik Collection of Photoshop plugins here and on her Facebook fan page, we began fielding questions about why Google is doing this. I have some thoughts on it, but before giving my educated guesses, please let me introduce myself:

I'm Jay Nelson, Lesa's husband. From 1992 to 2013 I wrote, edited and published Design Tools Monthly, the executive summary of graphic design news. Now I review software for Macworld, Photoshop User, CreativePro and other publications, author the occasonal video training title and speak at industry events. I also publish The Skinny Book series of ebooks that Lesa writes.

During the 24 years that I've written about changes in the graphic arts industry, I've seen several examples of company acquisitions that look similar to what Google has done with the former Nik Software. I watched Microsoft, Adobe and Quark all acquire an underperforming company that had a unique product. In many cases, the sequence of events went something like this:

  1. Big company acquires small company, with its products and developers.
  2. Big company places development of smaller company's former products on hold.
  3. Customers wait and wonder about the future of the products.
  4. Eventually, an updated version of the product may be released — often based on work that was already in progress before the acquisition.
  5. Finally, the products either disappear or are given away to customers, with no further updates made.

It seems that the goal of the big company was to acquire the smaller company's technology and people, to use them in the big company's current or future products. And because of the clash of cultures (people at smaller companies rarely adapt to the goals and culture of larger companies that acquire them), and the big company's lack of understanding or valuing what the smaller company was attempting to acccomplish, the old products die.

Now, I have no inside knowledge of the people or events involved with Google's acquisition of Nik Software. I just recognize an historical trend when I see it.

My advice to fans of the Google Nik Collection is to use the heck out of these plugins, knowing that there may never be another update. And for people who haven't yet discovered them, here's my advice: don't invest too much time in mastering them — they may not work with future versions of Photoshop or your computer's operating system.