Another One Bites the Dust

(commentary)

Maybe. 

Jim Dalrymple—who’s as connected to anyone at Apple and a source of regular confirmation and denials of particular Apple rumors—posted today on his The Loop Web site that Apple has discontinued work on future versions of Aperture. (Loop refers to the location of what was originally the Apple development buildings, now the main buildings while Apple develops their new headquarters.)

Immediately the panic started. I’m not sure that panic is warranted. I’m going to be careful to only base what I’m about to write on what is publicly known at this point, including the screen shot that was posted on the Loop. Go ahead, take a look at it. I’ll wait.

What’s happening, I believe, is that Apple is changing everything about how they handle photos. Jim could have as easily wrote “Apple is discontinuing development on iPhoto.” Or iPhoto Stream. Oh, wait, he did. 

At the WWDC conference, Apple was mostly forthcoming on what is about to happen: with the roll-out of iOS 8 and MacOS Yosemite, we’re going to get something called iCloud Photos, and the goal is that all your photos are available on all Apple devices in the same way. Edits made in one place are reflected everywhere.  

The open question has been “what do you edit with”? That’s been the unclear part, though at the WWDC Apple also introduced the notion that third parties could add features to whatever that was (e.g. plug-ins). 

Okay, that screen shot? It’s apparently a screen shot of the unclear part, an application Apple is currently calling Photos. Notice all that stuff down the right side? Look a lot like Aperture’s controls, does it? It certainly doesn’t look like iPhoto’s controls, which are highly limited and not direct. So I’m guessing that the editing abilities in what Apple produces next are going to be close to what we had in Aperture. 

It’s the cataloging, key wording, and database aspects of Aperture that are likely to go away. But are they really going away, or are they moving somewhere else? Note one of the thing’s in quotes on The Loop: “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS.” Hmm. Does that sound like Aperture’s abilities go away completely? Not to me. It sounds like Apple has decided that the database of images and information about them lives in iCloud. Then each device has an “editor” called Photos that interacts with that. And third parties can extend the abilities in Photos. 

So I’m not panicking at all. What Jim posted is 100% consistent with the publicly available information about Apple’s next steps, and does not necessarily mean that if you’re using Aperture you’re going to be screwed soon. It very well may mean that we’re getting closer to the workflow that we all want.

Finally, it seems that every Tom (not Thom) Dick and Harry seems compelled to add that this is a wonderful turn of events for Adobe. Really? If all your photos are in iCloud Photos and you’re using Apple’s Photos software with third party plug-ins to work with it, how is that better for Adobe? Lightroom is a monolithic, standalone product that still has a slightly inconvenient relationship with Photoshop. 

Watch how fast Adobe tries to copy what Apple is doing. Indeed, Adobe’s convoluted mobile offerings (Lightroom Mobile, Photoshop Mobile, etc.) are attempts to figure it out before someone else gets there. Based upon what I’ve seen to date, I don’t think Adobe has a clearer view of the world they want to get to than Apple does. 

The only question in my mind is whether Apple can pull it all off. I think they can, and oh, did you get the hint that Photos is a free app for iOS and OS-X? How’s that help Adobe?

Update: Adobe has checked in on the subject: "Put simply we're doubling down on our investments in Lightroom and the new Creative Cloud Photography plan and you can expect to see a rich roadmap of rapid innovation for desktop, web and device workflows in the coming weeks, months and years.” Okay, folks, if you take that at face value, I’ve got some prime shorefront properly in Florida I’d like to sell you. 

First, a company Adobe’s size doesn’t double anything in less than 24 hours of a rumor about a competitor. Second, if Apple were really getting out of the business, you don’t spend more money on your offering, as you don’t have a competitor to worry about—it would be really bad ROI to spend more. Instead, you cut your expenses and try to milk the situation for everything you can extract. 

What you’re seeing is some sly PR wording from Adobe. The reason why Adobe has to double down (and already knows they have to) is because of what Apple is doing! Apple very well may get to their mobile/desktop/cloud trio working together seamlessly before Adobe does. Apple will get there in early 2015. When will Adobe? ;~) 

So, nice PR spin. But Adobe is behind in the race. 

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