Emerging Tech


Despite Apple’s Aperture Fumble, the Photos for OS X End Goal Could Win It All

There’s a lot riding on Apple’s new Photos for Mac OS X app. At WWDC,Apple briefly showed off an early version of its upcoming Photos app,which will integrate with iCloud and the iOS 8-based Photos app with theiCloud Photo Library service.

Naturally, this plan raised some questions about Apple’s iPhoto andAperture products.

Late last week, Apple revealed that it has stopped developing newfeatures for Aperture and iPhoto. Instead, the company is focusing onPhotos for OS X. The move away from iPhoto makes sense — why havemultiple consumer storage and editing apps? — but the death ofAperture was an outright blow to professional photographers who tookthe plunge and invested in it.

By investment, I don’tmean the US$80 the app costs: Professionals and prosumers have putthousands of hours into learning the app, and they have amassed untoldnumbers of photos and gigabytes of data using it.

They’re not happy.

Meanwhile, What About iPhoto?

Consumers, on the other hand, are less likely to be in love withiPhoto. I believe most Mac customers use it because it’s Apple’sbuilt-in solution and it works as a storage locker and editing appreasonably well, with reasonable cohesion with iPhones. Again,reasonably well. My iPhoto library is 111 GB with more than 21,000photos. It was clunky and slow until I upgraded my MacBook Pro’s harddrive from the standard disk drive to a solid state drive. Now it’sjust clunky.

Why? Here’s one example. Getting into and out of the edit moderequires you to constantly pay attention. First, you have to find theEdit button, which is in the bottom right corner. Next, you have aclunky editing sidebar with three tabs that goes back and forthbetween quick fixes like crop or straighten, a few sad little effectsto choose from, and the ability to adjust exposure, contrast,saturation, etc.

None of them are awful, but they lack a cohesivefeel. Plus, the right side column takes up way too much valuablescreen real estate. What’s worse is that every time you try to go backto your Events to get a new photo, you leave the Editing featurebehind. It’s not persistent unless you remain within a particularevent. That’s maddening.

How about iPhoto — the iOS app — for your iPhone or iPad? Doesanyone actually use that thing? I briefly tried it out but could notcome up with any reason I should bother with it when the CameraRoll contained my photos, and all sorts of nifty third-party apps letme edit and enhance them quickly and easily enough.

So Apple has a fractured photo-management problem. By coming up with aPhotos app for iOS 8 — with iCloud Photo Library storage and syncingcapabilities — alongside a new, similarly functioning Photos for OS Xapp, Apple has the potential to fix its problem with photo cohesionfor its consumers.

Will Apple Turn a Cold Shoulder to the Pros?

It already has. When Apple announced thecessation of development of Aperture, it was through a bland statementto TheLoop, which naturally caused a ruckus with Aperture fans, whichled to a vague statement to ArsTechnica assuring the community that Photos for OS X would includeprofessional-grade features like image search, editing, effects, andsupport for third-party extensions.

Vague, no?

Meanwhile, customers will have to wait until early 2015 to get the newPhotos for OS X app. With so little real information, Apple haseffectively turned its back on professional photographers. This iseither intentional — in order to foster a sense of anger andfrustration that could lead to a wealth of information posted onlineabout what professional photographers (or prosumers) really care about — or Apple just dropped the ball in favor of supporting themasses.

Either way, Apple pulled a textbook move on how to come off ascold and uncaring. Apparently, fabulous customer experiences are nowfocused on the least common denominator of its customer base.

I’m sure it all makes perfect business sense — and therein lies the opportunity.

Apple Can’t Compete with Adobe Lightroom Anyway

Adobe Lightroom has been gaining a following of appreciativecustomers. They might not like buying it as part of a subscriptionservice with Adobe’s Creative Cloud or as a licensing deal thatrequires an annual commitment, but customer satisfaction seems verygood. Maybe Aperture sales have been lackluster, and maybe Apple justcan’t truly break into the prosumer market with Aperture or with enoughprofessionals to make Aperture successful.

If Apple can’t create a separate professional-grade product that itcan convince people to buy, why have it? Why not double-down onrethinking and rebuilding photo editing, management and sharing?

That’s the good that can come out of all this. Hundreds ofmillions of Apple customers are taking photos like never before.They’re editing them, saving them and sharing them. Making it easy tofind, edit and share photos is a very big deal. Potentially, it’s farmore important than satisfying the Aperture-grade pros.


Photos speak to humans in personal and inspiring ways. If Apple givesthe right photo-management solution to hundreds of millions ofcustomers, they’ll become even more embedded with Apple products. IfApple creates photo management that gets out of the way, the customersatisfaction gains will be enormous.

Better Yet, Apple Is Opening Up

The key to Apple’s massive photo retooling, though, is in how Applehas opened up its own apps to third-party app developers. With iOS 8– and Photos for OS X next year — app developers can create awesomeextensions. These extensions will essentially give you customcontrols, offering special filters and effects — or even professional-grade tools.

Sharing and integration with otherapps will feel more seamless. This is actually a big step forward forApple. The company is relinquishing a good bit of user experiencecontrol in favor of customization and third-party extension ofcapabilities.

It has the potential to unleash a new wave of creativity fromdevelopers — and consumers.

Will Photos for OS X be enough to placate the professionals? Willdevelopers create extensions that will serve their needs? Maybe — maybenot. However, the big win for Apple will be with most everyone else –prosumers on down to foodies who just want to pin a pretty plate oflobster for their friends to drool over.

Two Sad Things Remain

What’s really sad through all this “opportunity” is two-fold: First,for a company that’s having a hard time figuring out what to do with$150 billion in cash, why couldn’t Apple give its Aperture customers abit more love by enhancing the application? Why not win them over tothe new Photos for OS X app with awesome extensions when the app wasreleased? I’m just surprised at the fumble — it’s like Apple pickedits head up to look at the goal and forgot about the ball.

The second bit of sadness? We’ve got to wait until 2015 before thenew Photos for OS X comes out.

Chris Maxcer

TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

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