May 10, 2006

A Brief History of Aperture, or “How Not To Do A Product Launch 101″

Source: ars technica
Written by Dave Girard

It is no secret that I wasn’t a fan of Aperture 1.0. From the outright broken things like 8-bit TIFF export and EXIF data stripping on output to the Zen take on a manual (there is no documentation”), everything about Aperture 1.0 pointed to an unrealistic deadline and a QA department with their monitors off. While the EXIF bug was fixed with the OS X 10.4.6 update, the problems I saw in Aperture 1.0 were sadly only the tip of the iceberg and eventually users’ different workflows exposed numerous additional flaws, some nastier than others. After inconsistent responses to some angry customers who wanted their money back, the whole thing got even uglier.

By all accounts, the Aperture 1.0 launch was a big fart with Apple doing its best to light PR matches wherever it could. All this while a few loud defenders, their eyes filled with the hazy glow of RDF, held their position that Aperture’s faults were minor compared to its benefits and its price tag was small for professional photographers, who sneeze 500-dollar bills. I wasn’t so convinced and there was a good post in the immense review discussion thread by someone not so convinced by the excuses: “Give me your images and I’ll ruin them for half the price.” The whole premise of Aperture is that it is to be the hub of downloading, sorting, tagging, rating, commenting, and processing images for output and no amount of PR spin could hide the fact that Aperture failed at being a professional-level RAW processor.

But, as I wrote in the review follow-up, I believed Aperture still had an incredible amount of potential and was definitely not dead in the water. It is a well-thought out and a powerful program all around but its severe problems tipped the scales towards the four out of ten that 1.0 received. Even with all this talk of Apple’s alleged shake-up of the Aperture team, I never gave much weight to the idea that its days were numbered. As much as I can believe that it has fundamental code problems, it’s not a fundamentally flawed product from a usability and workflow standpoint; Aperture 1.0 was simply riddled with critical bugs and the RAW conversion quality was sub-par. Sure, that sounds major but it’s not something that can’t be fixed and Apple’s hoping this is the release that fixes it all and screams “this thing is here to stay.” In addition to the fixes and feature updates, Apple also dropped the price of Aperture from $500 to $300 and is offering a $200 voucher at the Apple store to anyone who purchased Aperture 1.0. That’s good news so we’re back to see if they’ve got it all together now with Aperture 1.1.1.

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