Friday, June 27, 2014

Apple kills Aperture. Observations.

In an alternate universe….

Today in a terse but clear posting on the Aperture web site Tim Cook apologized for the difficult decision to end Apple’s competition in the professional and prosumer photography market. He promised to fully cooperate with Adobe on a migration path to Lightroom that would convert Aperture non-destructive edit metadata to Lightroom format. All image metadata would be preserved. Group, Album and Smart Album functionality would suffer, but Adobe promised to improve their tools to ease the transition. Aperture sales were immediately discontinued. Support through Yosemite and ongoing RAW image updates for new cameras was promised through 2016. Users were saddened but appreciated Apple’s professional approach….

That would be a pleasant universe.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the announcement that Aperture was dead, and that Apple was effectively abandoning professional photography, appeared via Jim Dalrymple’s blog. Aperture remained on sale in the App Store while muddled Apple clarifications showed up in various blogs. Some said saying there would be support through Yosemite, others hinted at helping Adobe with migration to Lightroom. As end-of-life announcements go it was a complete screw-up.

Oh - but users of Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro “should not worry about their apps—they will continue as normal”.


The impact on heavy users of Aperture is heard to overstate. That’s why Gruber’s “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” earned his feed a Gordon-death-click. Maybe I’ll return someday, but The Loop covers the same ground and is a bit less irritating - albeit equally uncritical of Apple. I’m sure Gruber is devastated.

I won’t dwell on the migration path ahead, though it makes my excruciating transition from iPhoto look like a walk in the park. As of today none of my 20,000 or so non-destructive image edits will convert to Lightroom, much less album/image relationships, image/project, folder/image/project, folder/project comments, geo-tags and more. I won’t even mention Videos (which were never well supported in Aperture or iPhoto).

I’m not doing anything for a while, but one immediate impact is that I won’t be buying any camera that Aperture doesn’t currently support. If Aperture will indeed work on Yosemite then I’ve got years to convert — and I won’t be upgrading to Yosemite if there’s any doubt about Aperture support. (Which means no major Apple hardware purchases next year.)

Beyond Apple’s announcement fiasco, I was struck by the generally dismissive commentary — as though it were a trivial move to go to Lightroom. Happily, now that I’ve killed Daring Fireball, I can say the blogs I follow are relatively realistic about the impact of Aperture’s demise.

It’s not just Aperture users who have grounds to worry. Given Apple’s software record over the past 5 years (iBooks, iMovie, Podcast, Aperture 1, etc) what’s the chance Photos will be safe for serious iPhoto users before 2018? iPhoto users are back in Apple photo management limbo.

On a larger front I’ve written before of Data Lock, and of how the “Cloud” is making data lock even stronger. I knew the risk I took with iPhoto 2 11 years ago [1]; a path that has led to the dead end of

The way Apple executed Aperture’s termination is a rich lesson in the consequences of data lock (a risk I understood when I signed up with iPhoto long years ago). Does anyone think it will be possible to move from Apple’s next generation Photo app to Lightroom? That’s a far harder problem than moving from Aperture to Lightroom — and that’s nearly inconceivable at the moment.

I can’t do much about the way Apple handled this transition — other than spare myself the temptation of a camera purchase. I can, however, reduce my purchases of Apple products — especially Apple software. I have no faith in Apple at all.

[1] From my ancient web page on digital photography

Problems: iPhoto 2 through 5

iPhoto has longstanding problems. I knew of them when I started with iPhoto 2, but I took the gamble that the large user community, and the prominence of Apple's multimedia iLife suite, would pressure Apple to improve the product. That hasn't worked. If you're a PC user you should not switch to a Mac for digital photo management, instead I'd recommend Picasa (free from Google). If you're a Mac user, take a close look at iView MediaPro -- though that's a risky choice too (small market, hard for vendor to compete against iLife).

If you proceed with iPhoto, know the risks …

Data Lock - You can check in, but you can't check out.
You can export images -- though it's tricky to export both originals and modifications. You can't, however, migrate your albums, smart albums, comments, keywords, captions, etc. etc. I thought iView MediaPro would take advantage of this and sell and import utility, but they haven't. So when you use iPhoto, you marry iPhoto…

Update 6/28/2014Clark Goble responds with more eloquence

as Apple pushes more and more the lock-in of iCloud, of iBooks, and of iTunes video, why should we trust Apple if they don’t have a way to get the data out? This is the thing that some activists have preached for years and most of us have discounted.5 But now I think it’s a real question Apple has unintentionally made very significant. Why should I trust Apple not to lose interest in iBooks if sales drop? (Which apparently they have) iTunes Music isn’t a big deal because there’s no DRM. But the rest? Why should I store files in iWork?

Can we trust Apple? The cavalier way Apple is responding is telling us, no we can’t. And that’s a shame because they could easily have made this announcement in a way that said we could

I particularly appreciated his footnotes…

… I remember Apple fans ridiculing people trusting Microsoft with Plays For Sure DRM when that product collapsed and people lost their data. Many of those same people are pretty flippant about locked data today. ↩

I doubt rumors of Apple adding a Lightroom export will include being able to port both your raw data files and the adjustments you made to the files. You’ll either have to export as TIFFs or lose your adjustments simply because the math won’t be exactly the same. Heck, I’m skeptical they’ll export anything beyond metadata and files… 


Keno said...

Well, you know what they say about Apple: "you'll only be able to do what we will allow you, and we will charge you heaps".

James Katt said...

Export all of your Aperture image edits are JPEGs with the name appended with "FINAL".

Then you can add these to your original photos so you know which one is original and which one was modified.

Then you transition to another system for organizing and editing your photos.