Beware Of The Platform That Is Not

Let’s look at photography (my hobby), arguably the most critical purchasing-driver of computers (after the ability to use the internet) by consumers. Media management (yes, on the desktop) remains more than a billion-dollar market opportunity.

Case in point: new announcements of Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture tout enhanced interoperability with third-party plugins to manage and edit your photographs. Don’t you feel right about that warm open-source-like karma of interoperability?

I don’t. Both vendors have deployed their next trick to customer imprisonment. And plenty of uninformed customers will fall for it. Here is why you shouldn’t:

1/ There is no need for another platform for photo management.
Photo editing capabilities of both applications are mediocre (no layer-based editing, no advanced local editing, etc.) and their asset management capabilities are little more than a replica of file system capabilities (even photographic attributes such as exposure, aperture, and other characteristics are maintained by the file-system metadata today). So, except for making beautiful photo albums and calendars, why else would you slug thousands of photographs in a proprietary asset management format that is less reliable than the underlying file-system and requires separate backup and archiving strategies to keep up.

2/ Plugins have worked for years on file-system-based photographs.
The announcement of the interoperability with plugins is ancient news as those third-party applications have worked with file-system based photographs for years. This is a platform on top of a platform, designed to milk more money out of customers and locks them into a proprietary technology stack. A prison with the windows open is still a prison.

3/ The operating system needs to evolve faster.
The pace of meaningful innovation of the Personal Computer OS is deplorable. Microsoft has not made the PC operating system much smarter over the last ten years, and that has opened the window of opportunity for Apple to surpass Microsoft in usability (rather than functionality). The ability to easily create and manage user-generated content such as Photography and Video has now become essential adoption drivers to the platform, OS-vendors have yet to respond to. Photographic capabilities should be built-in (not priced-on). These days the unique media experience of the platform is the differentiation that sells the computer (since they all do the internet quite well).

As a consumer, buying into separate photography management silos will cost you significant time and money (as the former CEO of a photo software company, researching the alternatives, I tried). My advice is to wait until an agile vendor steps up and turns media management into a core competency of the computing experience.

In the words of Ray Lane (partner at KPCB and former COO of Oracle) who once said customers are better off skipping some steps of innovation (in his case to skip client-server for three-tier internet architecture), I have just presented you with my reasoning to skip-over Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Not because I don’t like some of its functionality, but because it is strategically a dead-end street.

The next evolution of media management will soon eradicate the old one and deliver lasting differentiation to the vendor that owns it and provides a much, much better media experience to the consumer.

I am planning on having something to do with that.

Let’s lead the world by example with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.

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