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Pro vs. Consumer: How iLife ’11 Blurs the Lines

As a musician, I’ll never forget seeing Apple’s professional music studio software Logic (s aapl) for the first time and thinking, “Here we go baby!” Back then, GarageBand paled in comparison, so any semi-pro audio technician would only use it for quick work. But iLife ’11 is blurring the line between the two programs.

iLife Narrows the Gap

Apple’s professional apps (Logic, Aperture, Final Cut) have had several complete makeovers and a dramatic drop in price since I first started using Logic. Ten years ago, could you have found a fully-loaded “Nashville-quality” recording suite with effects and tools galore for $499? Not a chance.


Even more surprising is that iLife is quietly creeping up the feature parity path. With the release of each new version of the media suite, starting especially with iLife ’08, I’ve noticed a trend: Apple is blurring the line between professional and consumer features. Remember when Faces first allowed you to automatically identity people in iPhoto? What a great feature! Did Aperture have it? Not for over a year. What about how easy it was to use iMovie? We had to wait a bit for Final Cut to catch up.
With the Wednesday release of iLife ’11, boasting movie trailers, advanced photo maps, and even more guitar effects than before, you have to wonder, is Apple breaking down the line between what we typically call professional and consumer software?

Flex Time, not just for Logic users anymore.

Expanding the Creative Talent Pool

GarageBand ’11 boasts the Flex Time feature that lets you quickly make changes to timing and tempo. While you had to buy Logic only days ago to utilize this amazing tool, now Aunt Susie can fix her parakeet’s faulty rhythm on her iMac, too.

For now, I’m actually on board with Apple’s drive towards simplicity and ease of use. Logic 8? A pain to operate. GarageBand ’11? You’d be surprised how close it comes to Logic’s quality, minus the massive learning-curve headache. While Aperture has its place, iPhoto allows me seamless editing and organization. And Final Cut? Well, I can’t boast much knowledge there, but iMovie sure does the trick for my purposes.

Maybe the day will come when pro and consumer app divisions are no longer necessary. Will we lose some features we once considered vitally important? Probably. But how much more will we gain in terms of the quality of content produced? How many great creators will be given the chance to create without excessive time commitment and learning barriers?

The Garden Path

No matter what you think about Apple’s growing influence over the software that appears on its platforms, iLife ’11 is one step further in the blurring of the pro/consumer line. But as that line fades, what do we lose in the bargain? Do high-end tools get cut to avoid confusing less skilled users? Do we trade the ability to do more things for less granular control over each thing we can do? Mac-based pros especially need to watch carefully as Apple software continues to evolve, and let the Mac-maker know if it swings too far in the direction of simplicity.

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5 Responses to “Pro vs. Consumer: How iLife ’11 Blurs the Lines”

  1. I HATE the new iPhoto. I did not research, just went with it. I want to take it off. Please help. I do not want to loose all my photos in iphoto. What to do now? I think it is the worse more Apple could do to a person.

    All I want to do is get it out, shred this CD, and go back to the older one.

  2. The only part of iLife I use is iPhoto and I don’t consider the addition of bloatware eye candy to be either an improvement or heading in a professional direction. No professional software threatens the existence of data from a previous issue when you up-date. Iphoto has done this with the last two iterations. It cost me hours of re keywording the last time and I understand that the latest edition, that you think so much of, has cost some people all or part of their library. That is neither professional or acceptable.

    Perhaps if Apple would spend a little more time working on Macs and a little less time with iTunes and iOS these catastrophes would not happen.

  3. I agree for the most part, Josh, well said! But I’m a professional photographer and for a long time Photoshop has been seen as one of the safety mechanisms keeping the masses of amateur photographers at bay (at least for the photographers whose processing defines their style – which is a whole other discussion). Hopefully iPhoto will stay with the “enough but not too much” trend it’s been on.

  4. UPGRADE ALERT!

    DISASTER ALERT!

    Don’t upgrade to iLife 11 without making a backup copy of your iPhoto library! iPhoto 11 alters the library structure so you can’t go back to iPhoto 09 — and believe me, if you used Keywords, Smart Albums with Keywords or edited in iPhoto you will downgrade back to iPhoto 09.

    Apple, for all intents and purposes , has reduced iPhoto to not much more than eye candy for slide shows and allowed more better social networking integration. THIS UPGRADE IS A DISASTER IF YOU USE IT TO ORGANIZE, CATALOG AND EDIT MORE THAN A FEW PHOTOS.

    Some of the bad…

    The ability to view keywords in any views (Event, Photo, Albums, Smart Albums) was eliminated in iPhoto 11 — a HUGE disaster. Having to click each photograph to see if it has a keyword is ridiculous! The only place keywords show is in the new Info column to the right of the photo viewing panel. It makes iPhoto almost unusable to catalog pictures. While looking at a group of photos you can’t tell if a keyword has been assigned, or if it was, what it is without selecting each individual photo — how stupid is that?

    Other bad moves…

    – In Editing, removing the pallets for Effects and Adjust and putting Quick Fixes behind a button (if they are not in view) forces additional mouse clicks. Creates time waste vs. previous iPhoto versions.

    – Adding the column for Information and Editing wastes desktop space.

    – Removing most of the contextual menu items (such as Show File) wastes time. Forces mousing up to the Menu Bar.

    – Selecting a photo for external editing creates a new Original photo in the Library with the same name, date, keywords, etc. Is this a bug? If you like things organized (isn’t that what iphoto is for?) adding a copy with the same name forces you to have to delete one of the photos, rename it, remove/edit keywords. It creates work!

    If the external edit was initiated from within an album, you now have 2 duplicate photos in the Album, forcing you to delete one of them — again, a waste of time. If you use Keywords in Smart Albums, you have to remember to remove the Keywords or both pictures will show in the Smart Album.

    I prefer the old way, if I want a duplicate photo I’ll duplicate it myself — not be forced to accept an exact duplicate of the photo with same name, keywords, etc.

    – What happened to opt-cmd-delete from within an Album to move the photo to the trash?

    I could go on.