Nine years ago Apple released Aperture, their “professional level” photo editing and management software for Mac computers and I watched several acquaintances embrace this program with unparalleled enthusiasm. Windows users had to wait a couple of years for Adobe to respond with Photoshop Lightroom, a somewhat similar program for non-destructive editing and file management which was made available on both Windows and Mac platforms. Yesterday Apple announced it will cease development of Aperture and focus instead on the just announced “Photos for OS X” application due early next year to run on both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. There are numerous discussions on the web regarding ramifications of this move (Thom Hogan, TechCrunch, and CNet).
It will take time to sort out all the implications of this change. Will Photos for OS X be as robust as Aperture and satisfy “professional level” still photographers? Is this a sign that Apple is abandoning its professional still photo customers while still supporting professional videographers with continued development of Final Cut Pro X along with a long-overdue new Mac Pro workstation (which seems optimized toward video production needs but which of course can also be used for still work). Has the cloud now become so centric in Apple’s business strategy that everything will be funneled through it? And what are the options for serious still photographers who have used Aperture for years and have a huge, valuable database of optimized image files with no clear (as yet) migration avenue? To some degree this can be viewed as part of the fallout from greater emphasis by large electronics companies on mobile communications in general (including cloud storage). If that’s where the money is, that’s where some will focus almost exclusively.
Many are claiming a windfall for Adobe. Indeed, several discussions claim Apple is working directly with Adobe to create a supported migration path to Lightroom, but how this materializes, and whether the process will somehow preserve the many thousands of RAW file metadata adjustments is far from certain. Whatever eventuates, professional still photographers now relying on Aperture have a lot of decisions to make in the coming months.