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Mon, 09 Jan 2006
Lightroom vs Aperture

Well, we haven't even had the Stevenote, and already MacWorld is interesting. So Adobe has released a beta of Lightroom, which is a direct competitor to Aperture. I've played around with it a little bit, and it's definitely beta. If I hadn't seen Aperture, I'd be impressed.

I suppose that if I were cynical I'd say that we now have two beta quality pro photographer tools to choose from. But I actually don't think that . I am not one of the many people (and there do appear to be many) who are having problems with Aperture. It is a little sluggish on my Powerbook, but other than that, it is fitting the bill. From the little playing that I did with Lightroom, some things are faster than on Aperture, but there are also some things which are kind of slow. The areas that are obviously weaker (at the moment) in Lightroom are metadata/keyword handling, and project style organization. The areas that are obviously stronger are in the develop module -- all the stuff related to adjusting an image -- and I have to same from a quick look, that it does look a lot stronger in this respect.

Lightroom puts a lot of pressure on Apple to improve Aperture and to do it pretty quickly. And the reverse is also true (that's why we're seeing a public beta). Unfortunately, I see Apple being at a disadvantage and here are some reasons why:

1. Apple has already released Aperture, so people have to pay a decent amount of money in order to get it, and it has some pretty widely publicized flaws. Lightroom is free until the end of 2006 (roughly -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see it slide into 2007 -- it's going to be interesting to see whether the introduction of the Windows version slows down the velocity of the Mac version). So this is probably going to blunt sales of Aperture unless Apple does a lot to address the problems in Aperture, and do it visibly, and continuously. People are going to see Lightroom visibly improve over the next year. Will Aperture users see the same? Let me put it this way. If I don't, that's going to play a large factor in whether I will be an Aperture customer on the day that Lightroom ships.

2. I (who have had no major issues with Aperture) have been very disappointed with how Apple has handled the problems with Aperture. Yes, we got a 1.0.1 update pretty fast, and I hope that's indicative of what we'll continue to see. However, that's not enough. There are no Apple responses in the Apple support forums. Threads there have been closed/removed (which looks bad for Apple even if participants in the thread were violating the terms of service). There is no indication that customers requests/issues/etc are being heard. Contrast this with the Lightroom forums, where the developers are out and soliciting feedback and participating in the community. This is pretty important to me, and while we'll have to see what the Lightroom community looks like, the forums already seem to be going in a good direction.

3. Adobe is loudly saying that they are going to make an SDK available. This is also highly important, because it provides a way for Lightroom to grow. It will be interesting to see whether Adobe can provide the SDK in a way that allows for a user innovation toolkit.

4. It's going to be much easier for Lightroom to integrate with Photoshop -- something that some Aperture users are complaining about

On the feature, polish and implementation front Apple and Adobe are now racing against each other. But from where I sit, Apple is way behind on dealing with its user and developer (if there is an SDK or plugin API) community. I like Aperture, and from what I've seen of Lightroom, there are still aspects of Aperture that I prefer. But Apple really needs to work on the community around Aperture. As I've written in previous posts, I'm not opposed to the idea of paying for software. But when I do, I expect the producer to talk to me, to listen to my issues, and to do something about it.

[23:50] | [computers/operating_systems/macosx] | # | TB | F | G | 4 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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