Apple: Aperture not a Photoshop competitor

Apple on Wednesday entered into a new market segment with the announcement of its first professional-level photography application: Aperture. Once the sole domain of Adobe Systems’ Photoshop, Aperture appeals to photographers by simplifying the workflow issues many professionals have encountered over the years.

“I was blown away,” renowned sports photography Heinz Kluetmeier, told MacCentral after Apple’s event in New York. “I think it’s going to revolutionize photography because it is going to let photographers do what they do best — take pictures.”

Even though Aperture seems to be squaring off with Adobe’s market leading Photoshop, Apple executives said the application is not meant to compete with Adobe.

“We are positioning this as an all-in-one solution,” said Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Marketing. “We know photographers use Photoshop, so we integrated support into Aperture.”

Schoeben explained that Aperture supports Photoshop’s PSD files. Specifically, Aperture can open and manipulate the files, but it cannot work with individual layers.

Adobe representatives were not immediately available to comment.

“Photoshop is a versatile application and there is some overlap with Aperture,” said NPD analyst Ross Rubin. “However, Aperture is really about workflow, while Photoshop is used for things like compositing. Certainly this is addressing issues for a significant amount of the Photoshop user base. If I were Adobe, I would consider this a shot across my bow.”

Apple said that Aperture opens up a whole new category for photo applications. The company set out to eliminate many of the issues that pros have been facing over the years as they move from their familiar print workflow to the digital workspace.

“This is a one of a kind application,” said Schoeben. “This is really an entire new category. We take making a new application very seriously — we look at how it should work, not how it has evolved in the market over the years.”

Schoeben said during his presentation announcing Aperture that people will look back on today as the day that things really changed for photographers.

Among its many features, Aperture works with RAW images natively throughout the application. There is no intermediate conversion process and the application uses a nondestructive image-processing engine, which leaves the original image untouched.

“People have been bragging about RAW for too long — we felt it was time to deliver,” said Schoeben.

In addition to its backend power, Aperture has a well thought out interface that allows photographers to view and manipulate images in full-screen mode. Tools appear using the keyboard or your mouse and have the familiar Apple transitions when working with images.

“We are Apple — we put a lot of work into the finishing touches; a lot of companies just don’t get that,” said Schoeben.

Aperture was not the only product announcement on Wednesday. Among other hardware, Apple introduced dual core Power Mac G5s. The new Power Macs come eight months before Apple is expected to release its first Intel-based Macintosh, next June.

Depending on the application being tested, Apple said the new high-end Power Mac G5 “Quad” system, which features two dual-core PowerPC processors, could see speed increases of 43 percent to 60 percent or higher. Even with the Intel Macs so close Apple said they were not going to sit back and not update their current line of computers.

“We are going to innovate on the PowerPC and we will bring great value to our customers,” said David Moody, Apple’s vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing.

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