I would like to see a "new" version of "photoshop" substantially change the workflow paradigm, whatever the resulting toolset is. Specifically, I think we, as image processing folks, tend to work on an image sequentially - whatever that sequence is. Open raw image > make adjustments > send to Photoshop > apply adjustment layers with masks > reduce image size > output sharpen, etc.
Whatever. The idea is, there is a sequence to the workflow and, often, portions of that sequence require revisiting, revision, branching into a new variation, etc.
I think a node-based workflow, where one can piece together these operations in a logical flow, and revisit, rearrange, preview and create variations, with a real-time preview of any and all node outputs, would be a nice paradigm shift. I would have no problem working on a "smart preview" version of an image, from raw conversion, all the way to output sharpening at final resolution, with the ability to render portions of it all along the node chain to see a 100% res sample to check my work. Once my node chain is set up and I like the preview of the resulting changes, I could render a full-res version. This is pretty standard for many render/modeling applications and video/compositing. There is no reason why 2d image workflow has to be any different.
I think that 2D image workflow could benefit from this approach as well because it would promote variation - just create a branch off of the workflow and develop it separately. It would ease automation - you can visualize your process and simply add an input node as a directory of images in front of your established chain of nodes to batch process images. It could leverage the nascent "Smart Preview" raw technology that appears to be developing for the Cloud sync and smart device editing workflow. THis node-based workflow fully preserves the "non-destructive" aspect of editing - the node-based edits are "parametric" until you finally commit to rendering them as full-res output - the original image is untouched, even if you chose to make pixel-based changes - this could be a node where a rendered proxy is part of the workflow, etc.. You could add output nodes along the way to render draft images of the stages of the edits, instead of having to save sequential PSDs to potentially have to revisit and revise. The entire creative process is archived and editable - you could have template node structures for commonly used tasks, or commonly shot lighting conditions, looks, etc. You could even save that entire node chain as ... you guessed it, a node, for use in other more complex chains - this would be like an action, but more flexible.
Of course, I would hope people could write their own nodes and third-party developers could write all sorts of "plug-ins" (nodes) or adapt currently existing products into a node-based form. I see Lightroom as a node in this paradigm.
I apologize if this has already been mentioned in this thread, I know I am not inventing anything new here. However, if there is to be a new photoshop, or yet-to-be-named image editor, I think a new workflow approach is in order and would save huge amounts of time and effort in the image processing workflow.
best - thanks jeff for starting this thread - I appreciate the chance to participate.