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Adobe apologizes for botched Lightroom update, issues fix

A new version fixes a severe crash problem in the photo editing and cataloging software, but Adobe still must mollify customers unhappy with features that were removed.

Adobe Lightroom lets people edit and catalog photos. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe Systems has apologized for releasing a bug-plagued update to its Lightroom software but still faces customer wrath over changes to the program for editing and cataloging photos.

The new Lightroom, version 2015.10 for Adobe's Creative Cloud subscribers, or version 6.2 for those buying a perpetual license to the software, was supposed to bring a handful of improvements when it arrived October 5. Among them were flexibility when removing haze from photos, the ability to correct problems with many new lenses and a simplified process to import photos into Lightroom's catalog.

Instead, the release brought a crash-inducing bug related to the new import function and displeasure that the import function stripped out some useful features. Adobe fixed the bug with an update Friday, and Tom Hogarty, Adobe's director of product management for photography, apologized for mishandling communications about changes to features.

"I'd like to personally apologize for the quality of the Lightroom 6.2 release," Hogarty said. "The team will continue to work hard to earn your trust back in subsequent releases, and I look forward to reigniting the type of dialog we started in 2006," when Adobe refined the first release of Lightroom over a 14-month public beta testing period.

Since its emergence nine years ago, Lightroom has become a powerful force in digital photography -- powerful enough to get Apple to scrap competitor Aperture in 2014. But the Lightroom incident shows that even the powerful can't afford to drift out of contact with customers.

San Jose, California-based Adobe is trying to coax those customers toward subscriptions with monthly payments: $10 for Lightroom and Photoshop, or $50 for those photography programs and Adobe's growing collection of digital design tools for video, animation, illustration and more. Monthly payments makes it easier for Adobe to issue frequent small updates to its software, but it also means that dissatisfied customers who have committed to full-year subscriptions end up stewing as they pay over and over for something they're unhappy with.

One angry customer is Daniel Malmberg, a professional sports photographer.

"The new import module is a big step in the wrong direction," he said Sunday in a response to Adobe's apology. "My confidence for Adobe is absolutely rock bottom. Too bad I can't cancel my subscription of the full Adobe Creative Cloud until July next year."

Adobe has made it clear it won't step back from the simplified photo-import process. "Customers were universally unable to decipher the Import dialog without getting frustrated," Sharad Mangalick, Adobe's senior product manager for digital imaging, said in a blog post.

Hogarty wouldn't commit to restoring any particular features, but he did promise to listen to customers.

"These changes were not communicated properly or openly before launch," he said. "In making these changes without a broader dialog I've failed the original core values of the product and the team."