Apple’s iPhoto vs. Google’s Picasa: Technology and Strategy

With the closure of Macworld’09, Apple unveiled enhanced iPhoto software with facial recognition. iPhoto allows to keep track of your photos by “who, where, and when” with facial recognition and Geo-tagging. It also allows to enhance/edit your photos and share them online or in print. 

Each piece of the software is not new, for example, Google Picasa released their facial recognition feature on early September of 2008. How could Apple’s iPhoto compete with Google’s Picasa, considering Picasa is totally free to end users? Steve Jobs again fully leverages his vision and Apple’s strengths in technology (Human-Computer Interaction – HCI and Computer Vision) and System Integration for business.

  • Technology (Computer Vision and Human-Computer Interaction)

As iPhone is made popular by its multi-touch HCI technology, iPhoto relies heavily on its image processing and computer vision technologies. iPhoto recognizes who you are by facial recognition, and enhances/edits your snapshots with special effects. 

For facial recognition, iPhoto provides a user friendly interface using relevance feedback technique in image retrieval, i.e., a user can manually confirm if facial recognition result is correct or not, and then the feedback is used to further refine facial recognition algorithm. In this sense, iPhoto’s interface is better than that of Picasa. 

Image editing includes some nice features, such as removing red-eye, and brush-outing or retouching problem areas using image inpainting technique. 

One more feature worth to mention is iMovie’s video stabilization feature (though it is not a part of iPhoto – iMovie is a part of iLife). The stabilization feature is nice, but very slow due to intensive motion estimation. 

  • Business Strategy (System Intergration)

As iPhone integrates hardware pieces – multi-touch screen, cell phone, iPod (music), etc., Apple’s iLife’09 integrates software pieces – iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand and iWeb. 

Although iPhoto’s features are very similar to Picasa, the latter does not have video editing/stabilization features and others.

Although many third-party iPhone applications may cover one of the image editing pieces of iPhoto, but do not have all. 

That is how Apple is doing business with integration of multiple features or products into one package. The iLife package sells $79 ($99 Family Pack). Picasa’s business model may rely on online advertising in the future, along with Google’s strategy, though it is not clear for the moment. It may be the time for Google to think about it.


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