Is Apple Building A Photoshop Replacement?

by James R. Stoup Aug 02, 2007

Am I the only one who ever wondered why Apple made Aperture? Doesn’t it seem a little out of place? It doesn’t fit in with iLife or iWork because they are designed for the consumer, not the professional. Likewise it doesn’t fit with in with the Final Cut Studio package because that is a video editing suite and doesn’t have a thing in the world to do with photos. Aperture certainly isn’t a natural extension of OS X, so no need to try and bundle the two together. And it doesn’t fit in with Apple’s web development, iPod, iPhone, .Mac or iTunes strategies either. So why did they build it? Why bother investing so much time and money into a project that doesn’t fit with any other product you sell? And if that wasn’t enough, Adobe, the king of all things image-related, is releasing a competing product! I ask again, why do it?

When Aperture was first released I remember thinking two things. First, that Adobe was going to have to respond aggressively (and they did, it was called Lightroom in case you missed it) to protect their interest in this field. And even though it wasn’t a direct competitor to Photoshop, it did have some of its features. Thus, professionals might find a place on their dock for it, even if it was just beside Photoshop instead of replacing it. In fact, Adobe had to see this for what it was, namely an attempt by Apple to encroach upon their territory. Which brings me to my second point.

I couldn’t figure out why Apple would antagonize such a critical partner. Because, let’s face it, that’s what they did. They created a product that was completely independent of all their current software endeavors knowing full well that Adobe would see it is a threat. Now, how big a threat is up for debate, but it was a threat nonetheless. So why would they do it? Why not just focus on the iPod/iPhone/iTunes business? After all, that is where all of the excitement is at the moment. Why try and enter a market that already has a dominant player?

Here is my guess, I think Apple is putting together a suite of applications, very similar to Final Cut Studio, whose focus is images rather than video. And at the center of this suite will be a replacement for Photoshop that will be tightly integrated with Aperture. I didn’t think Apple would do this until the iPhone came out and it was revealed that it didn’t support flash. How is that relevant you ask? By not supporting flash Apple is trying to diminish Adobe’s grip on the web. Putting aside all of the problems inherent with flash, I think Apple wants the iPhone (and its future plans for the web) to be based on either a) its own technology, or if it can’t swing that, b) open standards. Flash, I’m afraid, doesn’t fall into either of those categories. But lets get back to Photoshop for a moment. Apple is going to use this new image editing suite as a club against Adobe. I’m not completely sure why yet, but apparently Apple has decided that things will go smoother for them if Adobe isn’t in the way.

So, here is my prediction. Before next June I think Apple will announce its Photoshop killer. Then, in June, I think they will announce a product to compete with Dreamweaver. Eventually, these products will all be bundled together and sold along side Final Cut Studio. I’m not sure how Adobe plans to counter this, but I don’t think it looks good for them.


  • Hang on… why does it have to be so complicated?

    Why did Apple create Aperture? Maybe it was the hoards of professional photographers (core Apple users) complaining about crappy imaging apps and hugely inefficient workflows.

    Can’t Aperture just be an app that elegantly addresses serious workflow issues for advanced photographers? Oh, yeah… that’s pretty boring for an app to be practical rather than the seed for some great speculation about Apple product development…

    I take it you don’t do much digital photography with RAW formats? Prior to Aperture, there was one app on the market that offered a well thought out RAW workflow: Phase One’s Capture One Pro. But it’s such a niche product because all it really does (and does well) is RAW conversion. With the boom in digital photography and the huge numbers of people moving from point and shoots to digital SLRs, it’s only logical that many will be experimenting with RAW formats. And even though pros have been working with RAW for years, they’ve been frustrated with the painful workflow RAW conversion apps have offered. But RAW conversion is only one aspect of the digital imaging workflow black hole…. There’s also the (not so) small matter of image management - being able to store and find specific photos years down the road. Who wants to use another expensive app just for that step? So Apple takes advantage of features like Core Image and Spotlight and steps in with Aperture, an app that actually addresses the frustrations of professional digital photographers. It makes editing easy, keywording easy, RAW conversion easy and archiving your huge image library - easy. What other app does that? (oh, yeah… Lightroom, I guess).

    Aperture offers simplification of the imaging process. Photoshop offers complex, specialized solutions for those who need and know how to use it. Aperture attempts to be a one stop digital imaging solution (edit, convert/enhance, archive). Photoshop is a piece of the digital imaging process.

    Just a second… is it possible that Aperture is already a Photoshop replacement? But I’ll let you in on a little secret - so are most RAW conversion apps. A photographer who is able to consistently create technically sound RAW images and convert them in (insert name of your favorite RAW converter), has for the most part a finished product at that point… no real need to go to Photoshop.

    My guess is you’ll see Apple add functions to Aperture to make it more complete for 95% of the things normally done to images in Photoshop… but the need for an image editing suite? I’m not convinced about that.

    R Scheffler had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Adobe gets up the nose of Apple in more ways than one.

    In Acrobat, I have just looked up the Properties of the PDF manual provided by Apple entitled “Soundtrack Pro Effects Reference”. This document dated June 4, 2007 was created in Adobe FrameMaker for the Mac.

    Now Adobe discontinued the Mac version of FrameMaker in 2004. This means that Apple’s tech writers have to fire up obsolete machines running OS 9 in order to prepare their manuals.

    This must serve as a regular reminder within Apple itself of Adobe’s hubris. So they should not be surprised when nemesis arrives.

    Lloyd_George had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I wouldn’t have a clue if they will do that, but I do think Apple felt burned before when 3rd party developers dropped Apple support. This was done by both Adobe and Microsoft both in fact and in threat at various times with various products. Steve Jobs likes to be the master of his own destiny, not beholden to threats from other companies, he’s been there before.

    countach had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 11
  • Beeblebrox writes: Doesn’t that mean that Apple can’t and shouldn’t be trusted either?

    Consumer freedom to choose keeps these companies in check.

    As for who is most trustworthy.  The question depends on what platform you prefer.  From your comments, it’s obvious that you disdain Macintosh and probably prefer Windows or Linux.  (If you’re a Mac user, then you’re putting yourself through unhealthy stress when other alternatives are so readily available.)

    I’ve found Apple usually does right by its operating system, hence I trust Apple with my preferred platform.  I could care as much about Windows or Linux as those communities care about Mac, that is to say I don’t care about them at all.  But then, as I said earlier, consumer’s make their own choices, hence there’s no need for fanophobia.

    HG had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I’m excited about pixelmator.

    Benji had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Apple released Final Cut too. Do you not think that doing so may have pissed off the makers of Premire at the time? Who was that again? Oh, yeah. Adobe.

    ahmlco had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 6
  • Me too, Benji.

    Probably be a while before it’s a Photoshop challenger, but when it arrives definitely will be a valid alternative to Photoshop Elements.

    It hasn’t been released yet but check out its web site, it looks promising.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 03, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • I never thought on the subject before, so after read this I began to think that maybe that will come true, but, it is not better to other 3rd party software maker to build the “photoshop competition”?, I’m a fan of all Apple but competition is good for end user anyway and I think that a 3rd party can do good to the mac platform, just hope if that Apple make some unusual move toward high quality image editing make it well and let 3rd party makes their own moves on the matter, let’s wait and see what happens…

    beto had this to say on Aug 06, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Apple released Final Cut too. Do you not think that doing so may have pissed off the makers of Premire at the time? Who was that again? Oh, yeah. Adobe.

    Adobe had major difficulties developing Premiere for Mac owing to a large, disorganised and poorly maintained codebase and poor cross-platform strategy. It would be more accurate to say that Apple was compelled to develop its own solution in that space due to the poor outlook of Premiere on Mac. Fortunately this has turned out to be one of the real Mac software gems and has since played a key strategic part in the Mac renaissance of the last 5 years. The shift towards Final Cut Pro in film and media has been seismic and has happened entirely in the last 5/6 years.

    Anyway I don’t care what The Man at Adobe might have felt. In this case Apple’s entry into the market has been very valuable for reigniting competition and ultimately increasing production efficiency and lowering barriers to entry, and this applies across the board from indie films to King Kong.

    Benji had this to say on Aug 06, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Any app that takes 2 minutes to boot up needs competition.

    I also don’t need to see the name of every person who ever worked on it.  Sheesh!  It’s just like today’s movie credits: Even the broom sweepers are probably credited!

    And why in the world did Adobe feel the need to replace the native browser with its own “Browser”?  Instead of integrating seamlessly with the built-in folder/file browser APIs, they wrote their own!

    I hope _somebody_ writes an easier-to-use image editing program for the Mac.

    Oh Google Dev Team: please please please please port Picasa to the Mac.  Please?

    aks had this to say on Aug 17, 2007 Posts: 4
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