Whither Aperture?

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Apple's recent announcement to discontinue further development on both iPhoto and Aperture in favour of Photos coming in OS X 10.10 and IOS 8 may not have industry wide impact, but it certainly raises questions and speculation (much of it goofy) for customers.  Here's what I see.Many years ago, Apple took the path to a professional photographic editor and catalog manager.  At about the same time, Adobe released the beta of the product we know as Lightroom.  Aperture was unsurprisingly, OS X specific whereas Lightroom was available for both Windows and OS X.  Both turned out pretty great.  Over the last couple of years, Apple has taken flack for not really pressing hard on Aperture, despite continually updating the product, just not with big version numbers.  With the recent announcement, there's all manner of hyperbole that Apple is abandoning serious photographers. Apple understands where it gets its money, and that is the consumer market.  When they moved from Final Cut Pro Studio 7 to Final Cut Pro X, pros went batshit crazy waving torches and pitchforks.  FCP X wasn't bad, it simply was not as feature rich as FCP7 and it completely changed the workflow model for Non-Linear Video Editing.  The masses exited and went to Premiere Pro or Avid or something and the death gong was sounded far and wide for FCP X.  Apple handled it badly basically cutting its nose off to spite its face.  In the background they continued to work on FCP X and today's edition is all the things it should be.  It still has a more consumer oriented NLE workflow, but its death was greatly exaggerated.

Aperture will be supported on OS X 10.10   Customer libraries will continue to work.  Aperture users don't have to jump ship right now and in fact doing so is way premature for a couple of reasons.  What Apple won't do is take Aperture forward past support for 10.10.  So breathe easier and relax a bit.

Why Would Apple Do This To Us?

Simply, Apple believes that photos and photo management are integral to the operating system not an application.  When they merged the iPhoto and Aperture library modules, this was a strong indicator that directionally, Apple wanted to create separation between the editor and the catalog.  Photos which is going to be part of 10.10 is built using a developer tool called PhotoKit.  PhotoKit makes the image library part of the OS and makes the assets therein available to any application capable of making a call against PhotoKit.  This means that future editors won't need their own catalog or library module because these core services will be in the OS.  They are truly core services.

Photos will be unlikely to have all the edit functionality of Aperture on first release.  We'll get a better sense of what V1 looks like as OS X 10.10 moves through the formal developer process, but I think it would be premature to assume an Aperture V4 is going to appear inside Photos.

Your existing Aperture will work in 10.10   If I were an Apple Developer and was working with the developer preview and if I had Aperture installed on such a machine, then I would be able to say that it works just fine.  But, I'm not allowed to say such a thing.

Why Not Move Right Now?

Apple's library system for iPhoto and Aperture is a non-trivial beast. You could install Lightroom or Capture One right now.  Importing all your Aperture libraries is possible but to say it is ugly, slow and painful would be to grant it flowers and candy.  It's in the best interest of Adobe to get to work right now on a migration utility to move (safely and non-destructively) your images from an Aperture library to a Lightroom library.  Don't expect Lightroom to read the Aperture library natively, I really don't see that happening or being good for anyone in the long term.  The folks behind Capture One could look to do the same.  That migration is going to be key for the current big guns and they will have a limited window to do so.

Why?  Simply because Apple will offer a migration from their current library to the OS bound asset library in short order.   They have to do that, so the window of opportunity for a competitor to do a lift and drop out of the Aperture library to their own system is most attractive before Apple gets the new product out.  After that it's a different game again, because the new library architecture won't look like the current one on the Apple side, and I would not expect either Lightroom or Capture One to sacrifice their own library modules in favour of the OS X centric library in 10.10   Unlike Aperture, they work on Windows too, and Windows will not have Apple's new image asset functionality native to the OS.

But My Plugins Won't Work

This is a bunch of poop as far as I can tell.  Aperture isn't changing, so there's no cost to the plugin vendors that work with Aperture today from continuing to do so in the short term.  Once Apple gets the new library system into the dev channel, the plugin vendors will be all over that because it will give them yet another route to the images, with the ability to bypass Lightroom's library completely.  OnOneSoftware already runs completely standalone as do the Topaz tools.  Neither have a library system.  Apple will hand them full access to one.  Win for the plugins.

But Apple is Going All Cloud Everywhere and I Have Too Many Photos

This is yet another line of poop spewed by people who didn't fully read the announcement.  Is Apple committed to iCloud Drive?  Yes.  Will it be cheaper than alternatives?  Current guidance says heck yes.  Will it work beautifully?  I hope so, but Apple has not exactly knocked cloud out of the park in prior attempts.  More to the point. Apple understands that consumers like stuff on all their devices and cloud is a perfect way to do that.  At no time has Apple said all your data would be in the cloud.  You will get to pick and choose, just like every other cloud service.  Your photos will be where you decide for them to be.

So What Should I Do Photo Video Guy?

As the blind master said to Kwai Chang Caine, "patience grasshopper"  Or I think he did.  It was a long time ago.  If you are an Aperture user, keep using it.  It still works.  It will work for a long while yet.  If you aren't an Aperture user, now is NOT the time to switch or start.  If you are really concerned, take a class or hire a mentor to teach you Lightroom.  Download the 30 day free trial and poke around.  It's not the editor that is way different, it's the library and you REALLY want to get the library set up right the first time, otherwise the pain is manifest.  You can even start using Lightroom for your new stuff if you feel compelled to do so, but you really want to wait for someone to get a library porting tool out there because moving the content of your Aperture library to make it an import into Lightroom, while possible, is no one's definition of fast or fun.  You can do it, but you can also remove your own appendix with a scalpel, vodka and a hand mirror.  Can and should are not the same thing.  And if you aren't really pushing Aperture all that hard, just wait to see what comes in Photos when OS X 10.10 comes out.  If all your work is basic edits or Instapuke style filters, odds are pretty good that Photos will do all you want AND it will definitely have a library conversion tool.

Later.

PS Folks ask me why I hate Instagram.  First it's cheap repetitive crap and couldn't find its way to creative art with a map and a plane ticket.  Second the terms of service state that you agree to surrender your ownership to your content forever and ever amen.  Third it is owned by the greatest collection of privacy thieves and general scumbags in the interwebs, aka Fakebook.  And I hate those guys more than Instagram.   But I am an equal opportunity curmudgeon, I hate every organization who expects anyone to voluntarily surrender their intellectual property in exchange for identity theft and endless spam.

Although there are folks whose idea of creative art is an Instagram of their lunch salad and their intellectual property is mostly worthless so there you go.  But they aren't reading this.