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6/30/2014
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Apple Kills Aperture Photo App

Apple will replace Aperture with OS X Yosemite's built-in Photos app, but the company says it remains committed to its professional customers.

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Apple announced last week that it is ceasing development on Aperture, its professional photo-editing application. Last updated in 2011, when Apple added 64-bit support, Aperture will be replaced by the new Photos app in the upcoming OS X Yosemite.

Both Aperture and iPhoto -- the consumer-oriented photo app that comes in Apple's iLife suite -- will be replaced by the new app, which will debut in early 2015. OS X Yosemite will ship this fall, so Aperture users won't have immediate access to the replacement. Apple said even though Aperture will not receive additional updates, it will be compatible with OS X Yosemite.

The news was first reported by the website The Loop. In a statement sent to InformationWeek, Apple confirmed, "With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture." The company said users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to the new Photos for OS X app.

Apple's upcoming Photos for OS X app
Apple's upcoming Photos for OS X app

Apple's decision to kill Aperture has already sparked concerns among users that the company intends to drop professional apps and instead focus on easy-to-use, consumer-oriented software. Apple has faced this sort of concern before. In the first half of 2011, Apple announced Final Cut Pro X, a revamp of its popular video editing software, to substantial fanfare. When the app reached users a few months later, however, many balked at the unfamiliar UI, which some compared to iMovie, and an incomplete list of pro-oriented features. Final Cut Pro X was even lampooned by Conan O'Brien.

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Since then, Apple has added more advanced features to Final Cut. The software is still popular among many film and video professionals, and has arguably gained new support thanks to its close integration with Apple's Mac Pro. But while Apple was maturing its new app, many users switched to alternatives such as Adobe Premier.

By dropping Aperture, Apple could similarly lose enthusiast and pro customers to Adobe. In a thread on the photography site DPReview, many commenters on Friday were discussing whether Apple intended to water down its photo tools. Some argued that Aperture had already fallen behind Lightroom, Adobe's equivalent product.

But Apple isn't necessarily abandoning professionals. On Friday, the company issued updates to Final Cut X, Motion 5, and other pro apps. Given the timing, it's possible Apple wants to reassure users who were dismayed over Aperture's demise.

Apple stated that it doesn't intend to drop its other pro apps. The company declined to specify which Aperture features will or won't appear in Photos for OS X, but if Apple bakes popular Aperture functions into OS X's out-of-box tools, it won't have turned its back on professional photographers. In online forums, some Aperture users wondered if Adobe's Lightroom would remain a standalone app now that Aperture has folded. Though Lightroom can be purchased under a standalone license, Adobe has shifted most of its products -- including Photoshop, which many Lightroom customers also use -- to its subscription Creative Cloud service. That said, the company has previously indicated it will continue to support Lightroom as a standalone app. If comparably deep functionality becomes available to Apple users for free, the company could retain a large chunk of the Aperture user base. But if the new app is focused mostly on syncing with the iPhone's camera and the company's new iCloud Photo Library cloud storage service, the outcome could be much different.

For its part, Adobe clearly senses an opportunity. The company quickly responded to Apple's announcement with a blog post that encouraged Aperture uses to check out Lightroom. "Put simply, we're doubling down on our investments in Lightroom 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," Adobe VP for digital imaging products Winston Hendrickson wrote. "We also continue to invest actively on the iOS and OS X platforms, and are committed to helping interested iPhoto and Aperture customers migrate to our rich solution across desktop, device, and web workflows."

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 12:33:36 PM
Aperture Update
Apple reps have made a few more comments that make it sounds like a lot of Aperture's deep toolset will be preserved in the new OS X Photos app. Apple is also evidently going to let third party developers play.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 12:38:47 PM
Re: Arrested Development
I have Lightroom as a standalone product, and I have been using it since version 2. For me it works great; I only need to catalog still images (tens of thousands of them), and it's very good at that. The workflow is pretty straightforward and the quality is good. As with all the third party tools, the biggest issue is the RAW conversion - Canon and Nikon both keep their RAW file formats secret, so any tools that read the have to effectively reverse engineer them and that means that each tool has its own little twist on the output. As mentioned by another commenter, Aperture was considered to have a marginally better RAW conversion than Lightroom, but as they also mentioned, I'd stand by Lightroom's excellent noise reduction algorithms very happily.

What I can't do is compare it in depth to Aperture though...
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/30/2014 | 5:55:02 PM
Re: Arrested Development
How do you like Lightroom? I'd consider it for its Lua-based scripting. But I don't want subscription-based software.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/30/2014 | 10:30:41 AM
Re: Arrested Development
Good points.

On the one hand, Apple might not see why it should bother competing with Lightroom. Lightroom comes free with the complete Creative Cloud packages, which are basically mandatory for a lot of art/film/design/photo professionals. Apple isn't going to try to compete head-to-head with everything Adobe makes, so to an extent, Lightroom is going to have a bult-in user base no matter what Apple does. Even if you want to use Final Cut Pro X instead of Premier, for example, it's hard to ditch Photoshop-- and if you're going to use Photoshop, you're gonna get Lightroom for free.

On the other hand, even if a lot of people are already using Lightroom, if Apple's new Photo tools are easy to use and fairly powerful, a lot of Mac users might switch over. Even if you already have Lightroom, if you have a Mac, the new Photos app will be free, so it's not like Apple has to convince you to buy a new piece of software. If the Photos app does 95% of what Lightroom does and is easier to use, that might tip the scales, at least for Mac users. I also wonder how much functionality Apple will leave open for third-party plug-ins. If they let the developer community fill in whatever functionality is missing from the core Photos app, that might help Apple compete.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 10:12:49 AM
Re: Arrested Development
Good comments, thank you. The only thing is, if there's a gap between the official news that Aperture really is dead, and the creation of a replacement product, people may fill that gap with other products like Lightroom, after which chances are you won't get the back.

It's a little bit like Apple Maps on iOS - kill off the built-in product, but the replacement isn't up to the same level (so it's not really a replacement), and doesn't reach that level for another year, during which time people have got very used to Google Maps, thank you...

Still, if Apple integrates great photo management and editing into the OS, I guess even a long term LR user like myself will have to consider whether to shift to the integrated solution rather than running addition cost software. Hmm.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/30/2014 | 10:09:06 AM
Re: Arrested Development
Aperture is pretty good. If I recall correctly, it added some really useful features, like using brushes to locally apply certain effects, before Lightroom did. I also like the default RAW conversion settings in Aperture better than the ones in Lightroom, and I think Aperture is, on the whole, a little cleaner and more intuitive. I think Lightroom handles noise and sharpening better, but I like how Aperture handles colors. But Lightroom is still fairly easy to use, and has slowly crept ahead on features. Some cool plug-ins (e.g. MagicBullet) aren't compatible with the newest version of Aperture either.

But the vibe I got from Apple wasn't necessarily that they're abandoning Pro photographers-- more like, photos have become such a big part of most users' digital experiences that Apple decided to bake photo features more directly into OS X. We'll see if they live up to that. Given the way Final Cut Pro X has evolved, I suspect the first version of the Photos app will fall in prosumer territory. 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 10:01:18 AM
Arrested Development
It sounds like the writing was on the wall for a while, if there were no updates since 2011. I don't use Aperture, so I wasn't aware of that, but it surely wasn't a good sign so I have to assume that Aperture users cannot be as surprise as they're making out.

I happen to use Adobe Lightroom (because I only had a PC when I started out, so it was the only option). I don't like Adobe's move towards a subscription model for everything, and one conspiracy theory out there (which is sadly believable) is that without the competition of Apple selling Aperture as a standalone product still, Adobe may choose to shift Lightroom to a subscription-ONLY model, which would suck.

Adobe for their part are doing what you'd expect, which is to start making noises to appeal to disgruntled Aperture users. It's interesting though that in this story there's more inforation than in others I've read, especially regarding  the move of those features new iLife app in OSX - but after a big gap. That would be a killer move against Lightroom - effectively making Aperture (or equivalent) free and standard - except if it's not being developed any more, then what's going on? I'm confused :) 
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