Photos versus photos…

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Tim Cook’s opinion on Google Photos

Photos – I have thousands of them, and being an Apple user, I’ve always trusted Apple software to organise and display them.

Over the years, Apple’s venerable Photos Mac application has grown from a sleek, polished app with great editing tools, spawned a serious Photoshop-like killer (Aperture), but has since withered to a bloated, slow, skeumorphic mess, and poor Aperture has been unceremoniously discontinued, leaving Adobe to soak up the bitter ex-Aperture users.

From this mess, is born a brand new Apple Photos app and a brand new viewpoint of where Apple sees photos on the Mac going.

Well – it’s a 1.0 that’s for sure. It takes some getting used to, and it needs a 1.x update, but if there’s one it is – it’s fast, and the editing tools are amazing, not Aperture-amazing, but a great start.

Alongside Apple’s Photos, comes a new Google Photos app, named well, Google Photos. Being from Google, the King of Search®, it’s based online. By all accounts the editing tools are not stellar, and your photos are compressed in various forms, along with other limitations that are inherent in this online approach.

I’m skimming briefly over the actual apps, because let’s face it, there’s not a lot to say about them – they hold your photos in one place and allow you some editing tools that not many people know how to use anyway.

Apple, to their credit, has hit upon a novel approach here – the various editing tools are simply point and click, with a drop down menu if you want to tweak, but in my view the problem with everyone’s photos, regardless of platform is that we have too many of them to edit, tag, file, and sort through, and it’s Google that potentially raised the bar here.

The problem with everyone’s photos, regardless of platform is that we have too many of them to edit, tag, file and sort through.

This brings me to the main crux of Apple Photos versus Google Photos – it’s the philosophy behind the apps, in terms of where they are stored and how you search for them, and it illustrates the philosophy behind Apple versus Google.

Apple’s approach is obvious. Apple makes hardware, they make money on hardware (lots of it) and they want you to buy more of it. So it follows that Apple Photos editing tools are top-notch and your photos stay on your hardware, with the potential upload to the cloud (which you have to pay for) is a secondary concern.

Google’s approach is obvious. Google is an advertising company, they make money (lots of it) through targeted ads, and they want to serve you as many targeted, relevant ads as they can. This is not for Google’s users benefit, this is to benefit Google so that they can attract advertisers with accurate user behaviour profiles, so they can make money. The uploading to the cloud part is a primary concern to their business.

The philosophy behind Apple and Google’s approach is based upon inherent concerns that stem from their business models (despite what they say to the contrary), and it helps that there’s a point of difference between them, so users have to make a choice and be potentially locked into either service.

The problem for me here is transparency.

Apple’s consumer-facing statement is that they are concerned about their user’s privacy, and will not jeopardise that to make money. Any money you give to Apple is transparent and up-front, you pay for hardware, software and services – and that’s it.

Google’s consumer-facing statement says that they want to organise the world’s information to help it’s users, everything they provide is free – and that’s it.

Now, there’s an army of Google users out there that know only too well that Google’s approach comes at a price – they are mining and exploiting your behaviour online, with sometimes unsettling results.

It may be an army, but it’s a drop in the ocean to the vast majority of Google users – they simply don’t know or care what’s Google is doing.

What Google have done is basically put your photos into a sealed-off version of the web. They’ve leveraged the mature tools they have for search into a very attractive package. Your average Joe can’t surf and turf through your photos (yet, but that’s only and online exploit away), but the behavioural data that’s in them is fair game to advertisers.

The vast majority of Google users don’t care about this, but that’s because they don’t know what’s happening.

Apple’s business plan is transparent – you pay for services and walk away – that’s the truth.

Google’s business plan is opaque – you get everything for free and walk away – that’s a lie.

Most tech pundits have conceded that nobody cares – but we don’t really know that, and we won’t know that until Google is completely transparent about what they are doing with your info.

If the average Google user was presented with a dialog box stating clearly what Google will do with the info after you’ve just signed up for one of their free services (be it email, surfing habits or photos of your kids), we all might start caring about this.

Google will never do this, so it’s up to Apple to make people aware and to start caring again.

Apple says that you can have all the benefits of Google’s approach without giving up your privacy. I’m not convinced of that – I say to Apple, instead of talking about it, you need to just do it – then you can talk about it.

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