Thanks to the efforts of 500,000 digital-imaging enthusiasts and professionals--as well as some folks who actually got paid to work on it--Adobe Lightroom 1.0 today left its beta status behind to begin its new life as a $299 retail software package. Slated for availability in mid-February, early adopters of the raw-workflow tool will be able to snap it up for $199 until April 30.
I spent some quality time with the final software last night, and for the most part like it very much, both for its workflow capabilities and its nondestructive retouching tools. What struck me, however, was how much it benefited from the input of half a million devoted users; compared to the initial, anemic beta we saw a year ago, it looks and feels like a much different product. Despite the nomenclature, Lightroom didn't really go through a beta cycle; in a typical beta cycle, much more of the product's capabilities and interface are fixed before it starts, and much of the non-bug-related user feedback is saved for the next update of the product. This case really seemed like a true crowdsourced project, and an interesting case study of the way application development is adapting to changing times.
Which all begs the question: how good is the product? I hope to have my review of version 1.0 up by the end of this week, so stay tuned.