Last week, the eagerly awaited Final Cut Pro X was released to very little fanfare but an awful lot of heated debate.
David Pogue's initial enthusiastic review of the product in the NYT was the subject of much ire from professional videographers. I have to say from the get go I feel a tad sorry for Pogue. He's a glass half full guy when it comes to Apple products as one of Steve Jobs favored sons who seems to get the latest and greatest from Apple ahead of others. But on this one he walked into a veritable crapstorm. In his follow up piece, Pogue starts:
In 10 years of writing Times columns, I’ve never encountered anything quite like this.
In Thursday’s paper, I reviewed Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, a professional video-editing program. It’s not an update of the existing Final Cut, which is by far the most popular such program; it’s completely new and radically redesigned. It looks different, its strengths are different — and after one day of using it, many professional video editors are running through the streets with pitchforks.
Pogue was clearly stunned but bravely attempted to address the major issues outlined by respondents. Richard Harrington then crafted a long and detailed response to the responses Pogue published, adding more gasoline to the raging fire. Finally, Devid Chen weighed in with the question: Final Cut Pro X: Did Apple Just Walk Away From the Professional Video Editing Market?
In essence, professional videographers are saying that FCP-X is really iMovie Pro and that Apple has abandoned the professional market in favor of a much lower priced but crippled product that will be readily affordable by the prosumer.
I've been using FCP-X for some projects and these are a few thoughts from me as a prosumer. It is OK for what it does. The output is reasonable and yes there's a lot more control than with iMovie but...you really have to add in Compressor to get the output format choices needed in today's confusing video world. That's $49 extra on top of the $299 Apple wants for FCP-X. If you're into fancy titling etc then you also need Motion - another $49. So the real price for anyone who wants to step up from iMovie as a prosumer is $399. Still way better than the previous $1,000 pricing but it is offset by being way below the functional completeness of the previous version.
Plus, it sprays gigabytes of files onto your hard disk. A 22 minute movie composited from two video files chewed 38GB by the time the job was finished. On the plus side, it is far easier to understand than previous versions and should therefore appeal to the market that Pogue was trying to address. Which brings us back to the professionals in the house who genuinely believe Apple has dropped the ball big time on this one. But - there is another way to look at this which provides lessons for many in the enterprise apps space.
For some time now, colleagues have been debating the merits of next generation apps behaving like consumer apps. However, once you get below the surface of the buzzword compliant conversations there is precious little understanding of what this really means beyond what seems to me a slapping of a social layer onto the enterprise pig's face.
I don't for example have a clue what people mean when they talk about next gen apps being more like Facebook. Do they mean the UI, the UX? Do they mean the simplicity of use? Do they mean the addictive nature of Farmville etc? What about functionality?
Those conversations seem to murkily stir what we are seeing in the social apps space with a general panning of enterprise apps as being clunky, difficult and unappealing. There is a seemingly weird set of ideas that somehow subsume the OLTP based systems we all need - like accounting and billing - as relics of the past that somehow magically do whatever they do while we all mess about on Twitter in our socially engaged world - allegedly. That's simply not happening. Period. Even the enthusiastic handwaving from the usual E2.0 conference suspects cannot hide the fact that much of what we are hearing in the social space we've heard repeated for at least the last three years. In other words, precious little real progress.
However, the one example I have seen which makes sense to me - SAP Sales OnDemand - barely warrants a mention. Comparisons to FCP-X are worthwhile. While some think SAP SOD is a waste of time, those that have test driven it see it as a genuine step forward. It is an example of how apps might progress and become both useful and enjoyable while including relevant social elements. Most important, it was a ground up build. The same as FCP-X. SAP SOD doesn't contain everything that an on-demand CRM app might - the same as FCP-X doesn't for professionals. But it is likely to get into a LOT of hands, just as I expect FCP-X will.
There the comparisons have to end because while Apple is making FCP-X only available as an iTunes/AppStore download, SAP has yet to figure out whether it will take the AppStore approach to selling these new classes of application. Yet that is exactly what enterprise apps vendors should be doing as part of their general regeneration and rethinking of enterprise apps as more functionality moves into the internet cloud.
Some will argue that we already have that with Intuit's Marketplace and Salesforce's AppExchange but those are barely scratching the surface of what is possible. Still others will argue that Apple's approach to selling FCP-X is retrograde, maintaining a form of lock-in to iTunes. Does anyone honestly believe that enterprise vendors who talk 'open' actually mean it? Of course they don't.
It's not all one sided. There are some lessons that enterprise can teach our consumery colleagues. Chen notes that:
More damningly, Apple is no longer selling Final Cut Pro 7 and has not announced any plans to continue supporting it. This means that millions of people who have spent years building their livelihoods around learning and using Final Cut Pro can no longer have confidence that they will be able to depend on this software for the foreseeable future.
Does that sound familiar? Think Oracle, Itanium and HP.
Regardless of the pros and cons of FCP-X, Apple has been brave in attempting to bridge the gap between consumers and professionals. It will be patched up later to get closer to professional needs. That's already happening with updates coming from Apple. But will enterprise apps vendors be brave enough to take that same kind of step?
They could look at the SME market for inspiration. The last couple of weeks I've spent time interviewing customers who consistently tell me they like accounting the SaaS way. Can you believe that? And why? The complexity that bedevils apps is hidden while their need to have good, reliable information they can understand is being met. From all I can tell, the incumbents are being creamed in the SME space by these new contenders. If they can do it then why not the big boys? Has their chance passed them by?