I am no developer but for years we used gimp to edit high resolution large
imagery sets. Orthorectified aerial photography for GIS and engineering
applications. We ultimately moved to Photoshop even against my wishes since I
thought the majority of our issues could be solved if we persistently addressed
them. Management on the other hand saw it in another light.

NOTE: I am not debating the merits of GIMP vs PS. Im pointing out real problems
within the bounds of the question that has been asked. 

Quoting Mark Shuttleworth <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>:
>  - Is the GIMP a good platform to build on to try to achieve these goals?
>  - What functionality would need to be added to the GIMP to challenge 
> Photoshop?

First thing is what I think is memory management. GIMP can not deal with large
rasters. Im talking 500MB and up. It even has issues with smaller ones. Anyone
that disagrees with this obviously has not seriously tried to edit these types
of files for hours. Yes, we have machines with the required ram, cpu, disk,
swap, etc. Versus Photoshop... There is no comparison. PS 7.x works and works
well. GIMP just doesnt. And yes I tried cinepaint and FilmGIMP. No go. And no I
have not tried compiling gimp for x86 64bit but then whats the point? PS works
on 32bit and lets face it 90+% of the machines gimp is going to run on are
32bit. I have GIMP 1.2.1 compiled and running on a Tru64 4.0f ES40 with 4
667cpus and 16GB of ram in it. On it the memory issues are even worse. I never
bothered to try and get it working better since its not a practical solution anyhow.

Image redraw and processing. The image redraw with large data sets is slow. I
have seen gimp 2.0 in action and it appears to be significantly faster than the
1.2-1.3 series. It is still long from being comparable to Photoshop 7.x.

Filters are just not as fast for the most part. Some are actually faster but a
good example is the plain old sharpening mask with preview and including
applying and redraw. It take about 5 times longer in GIMP on the same machine
and file.

TIFF tags such as world coordinates, projection systems and such. GIMP should
not trash this information. I could have swore at one time GIMP did not but it
seems to do it again or now does it. Photoshop has always destroyed this
information. I suppose this could very well require just a recompile of gimp
with newer tiff libs or perhaps the geotiff libs(if that can be done).

I personally like the GIMP a lot. I use it with everything else in life but at
work on large imagery it just isnt going to happen. It kicks butt for web
graphics, home photo manip and art.  It has a ways to go though to be on par
with Photoshop 7.x and it makes sense. PS has been around for 4-5 times longer
then GIMP has it not? They have had a lot more time to develope it and for the
time frame in which gimp has developed it level of maturity is really quite amazing.

Ill put on my flame retardant gear just in case...

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