2017-2018 Digital Photography Software News

Kolor Shutting Down

The makers of my preferred panorama software stitching program, Autopano Pro (also known as Autopano Giga) just announced that the program "will no longer be [available] for sale from Kolor.com." No reason was given for the shutdown, though the wording seems to suggest that the product may be picked up by someone else. Accounts and download links for existing users will remain active, as will customer support. Update: GoPro acquired Color back in 2015, and the Autopano code drives GoPro's 360° video player.

This brings up a topic that hasn't been much discussed recently, and certainly not in terms of photographic software: consolidation and contraction. 

The camera market is getting smaller. The number of folk willing to pay for enthusiast and pro software for digital cameras is likely contracting. It certainly isn't growing enough to sustain the players already active. 

Thus, I find it hard to believe that all the software vendors we currently have are going to survive. Indeed, you may notice that you see an awful lot of "press" about new versions and updates on the many photography-related sites, particularly the rumor sites. Those "stories" are almost all driven by affiliate link promotions that are pushed hard by the remaining companies. To a large degree, many of the "stories" you see about software updates are really paid promotions.

The need to have all these software upgrades is the same reason why Adobe went to their subscriber-based service in the first place: the need for ongoing revenue to support further development. I know a lot of you poo-poohed Adobe for the subscriber model, but technically, we have the same thing going with almost all of the current offerings from companies such as DxO, Topaz, OnOne, and Skylum, to name just four. They're just calling it an update instead of a subscription. Skylum Aurora HDR for example, is now iterating every year, as are many other software products (e.g. OnOne Raw). 

The primary difference, which I've argued from the beginning was a mistake by Adobe, is that you can get off the upgrade train at any time and still have working software from the others, but you can't with Adobe (Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC only partially work when you let a subscription expire). Thing is, if enough of you get off an update train, that train eventually comes to a stop and is removed from the tracks, as we've just seen with Autopano, and we've seen before with other products, as well. 

So what's going to happen is continued aggregation. You can already see that: DxO picked up Nik Tools and has already aggregated that into a new version of their product, which, of course, you'll need to pay for an upgrade to get. Skylum really started (as MacPhun) with a suite of plug-ins, now they're basically down to two products they strongly promote and update, one of which—Luminar—aggregated a lot of the plug-in bits. 

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of a number of software programs that don't tend to get a lot of promotion (e.g. Autopano, Photo Mechanic, Intensify, Piccure+, etc.). Two of those are no longer available to purchase (though they still work).

There's nothing new here: the software business has—pretty much from the beginning of personal computers—been lean, smart programmers coming up with something new versus established, large companies with enough size to keep a sales/marketing effort visible and active. I've been part of both in my career, and I've seen the needs of both. 

Simple statement: support companies you want to see continue. But also support those that establish the standard. Thus, I continue to try and buy smaller software company offerings, and I use Adobe CC.

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