Why Apple <i>isn't</i> leaving the pro market

Why Apple <i>isn't</i> leaving the pro market

Summary: FCPX was rewritten - at great expense - to give it the power pros will need for the next decade. Boneheaded mistakes aside, Apple's direction is clear - and Adobe and Avid won't like it.

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All the wailing over the new Final Cut Pro X can't obscure the facts: FCPX was rewritten - at great expense - to give it the power pros will need for the next decade. If this is "abandoning" I'm going with them.

In addition to my storage work here and on StorageMojo I've been producing industrial videos using Final Cut for several years. I'm not a heads-down TV or film editor but I understand why people are steamed.

The fundamental issue is that FCPX is not a drop-in replacement for FCP. It's missing dozens of features, like multi-cam support and tape ingest, that pros expect.

And Big Mistake, Apple stopped selling FCS, with all the pro features, and the dominant NLE (non-linear editor) today. So pros feel like they're being thrown out the door rather than given a stairway to heaven.

It's the architecture, not the features But step back from missing features and look at what Apple has done. They've re-written FCPX with an architecture that only pros need!

Key features include:

  • 64-bit architecture. Addresses more than 4GB of RAM. Aunty Em doesn't need that, but pros already do, even if they don't know it.
  • Multi-processor support with GCD. Rumor has it that a new 16-core (32 virtual cores) Mac Pro is due next month. The old FCP saw almost no benefit from more than 6. Grand Central Dispatch brings multi-processing to the rest of us.
  • Background GPU & CPU rendering. Takes advantage of the incredible performance of modern GPUs and multi-core CPUs.
  • 4k media support. How many 4k consumer camcorders are there? None - and there won't be for 10 years.
  • Object storage. 99.9% of pros have no idea what this is or why they should care, but as video content and archive capacity explodes, this is the only way to fly.
  • Cheap scale-out storage. Xsan costs $999 per seat today and next month it is free! Including the Xsan cluster file system in OS X Lion and in OS X Lion Server for $50 is huge for video shops.

These aren't features that Dad needs for a soccer game video. These are a foundation for feature and capability growth for more than the next decade.

Where Apple screwed up Apple's marketing missed the boat. And maybe engineering could have used another 3 months to fix feature deficits. But real men ship.

Some key mistakes:

  • Shutting down FCP. People feel like they have no choice - and creatives love choice.
  • Over-selling. "Built from the ground up for professional editors" is true architecturally, but missing features put lie to the claim.
  • Lousy positioning. Once you stop selling the old product the new product has to be "it." So instead of calling it what it is - an architectural revamp like Snow Leopard was - Apple had to position it as the "new" FCP.
  • No FCP 7 import. I can't easily migrate, AND all my old work is marooned on a no-longer-supported platform. Good thinking, Apple.

The Storage Bits take Apple just went through this same issue with QuickTime and handled it better. The "new" QuickTime Player has major feature deficits compared to the 15 year old version. But since you can still use both, it isn't an issue.

Buying FCPX doesn't force you to stop using FCS, but not being able to get a new copy - with support - invites digital claustrophobia. For people who've built their livelihoods on FCP the fear is exponential.

But concerns that Apple is leaving the pro market just don't square with the facts. Apple spent millions to re-write their flagship creative product, packing it with features iPhone shooters will never need, to leave the market?

Looking at Thunderbolt, the architectural work in OS X and FCPX pricing it's obvious that far from leaving the pro market, Apple intends to own even more of it. From the Apple II on, Apple has always sought to foster the creative market.

To suggest that Steve Jobs, largest single shareholder in Disney, longtime CEO of Pixar, invested millions in FCPX to quit the market is silly. Yes, they've made some boneheaded mistakes with the FCPX launch.

But losing the pro market won't be one of them.

Comments welcome, of course. I'm in the middle of a project right now so I won't be upgrading to FCPX for a while. If you want to learn filmmaking, check out the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking.

Topics: Storage, Apple, CXO, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

About

Robin Harris has been a computer buff for over 35 years and selling and marketing data storage for over 30 years in companies large and small.

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19 comments
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  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Thank you! Finally, someone has come out and laid out the facts. So much is talked about the features that are missing, everyone is forgetting the fact that there is a reason it's a brand new application - it's built to be much more modern. And almost all of the basic editing features from FCP7 are still there, they're just moved around.

    I think Apple is leaving a portion of the professional market - those that work in production houses and in broadcast environments - but Avid is much better suited for most of those situations anyway. For "the rest of us", the tens of thousands of other professionals out there that don't necessarily depend on collaborative editing or multicam editing - and yes, we still count as professionals even though we don't depend on those features - the new Final Cut is a leap forward. One that was executed messily by Apple, but a leap forward nonetheless.
    swruler9284
    • Transitions are always difficult

      I agree apple could have done a better job here.

      The big news is the utilization of the newer SL technologies. There was amazing power in the much undervalued SL. Some of these features will be talked up when W8 is release sometime next year;-)
      Richard Flude
      • Microsoft will be talking up what?

        @Richard Flude

        Maybe I'm missing something here...
        LiquidLearner
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    The problem is many of the old FCP7 idioms aren't in FCPX (it has new ones), so you can't "make it work", you can't know what was in the editors head when they created the project - this isn't a one-to-one mapping.

    This is a problem that has no easy solution, either Apple were bound by the paradigm of FCP7 and couldn't fundamentally change it, or you can't migrate projects.

    They chose "can't migrate projects". Is this a massive pain? Yep.

    But like removing the floppy disk from the original iMac, I think they were right to do it.

    Personally, I think they should have kept selling FCP7 and even fixing bugs, but have explained FCPX is the future (like Mac OS X was the future in the latter days of Mac OS 9). Then people could have kept using FCP7 for existing projects or new projects that needed the features missing from FCPX. Now you can't add FCP7 workstations if you need them because you can't buy FCP7! This is a problem.

    If Apple had done this I think everyone would have applauded their bravery in re-imagining video editing, and marvelled at their technological masterpiece (even if for many projects they had to use trusty old FCP7). There would be excitement, and buzz around "the future of video editing" rather than head scratching and finger pointing.

    I hope Apple can salvage this, because if FCPX is the future, then the future looks bright. I think all they really need to do is figure out a way to allow people to buy more copies of FCPX if they need them (they should throw in FCPX - the more people can see it, the more they will like it, and gravitate toward it when they are able).
    jeremychappell
    • You are right. Apple should have kept FCP7 in addition to FCP X

      @jeremychappell

      I think Apple forgot one tiny ittsy bitsy thing. The "Boys and Girls" who edited "The Lord Of The Rings" and other block buster movies used FCP. One doesn't throw professionals like that under the bus. Professionals usually refuse to abandon the tools used to make their living for something "newer and better".

      In time FCP X will be better than FCP 7 but until then .. This has been a relatively rare "oops" by Apple.
      kenosha77a
  • Talk to the hand

    Maybe we should ask Steve Ballmer how well the 'real men ship' argument went down with customers purchasing VISTA?<br><br>Maybe Apple isn't deliberately leaving the pro market ... but the pro market will be leaving Apple?<br><br>Does sound like the typical Apple culture though: choice - 'talk to the hand'.
    jacksonjohn
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Really great article, even though I do very little even iMovie editing myself!

    The whole fuss has been crazy, it's not like support for FCP7 is going away for a year, but it could certainly have been launched better. However, many concerns have been addressed on their FAQ, features will be plugged by Apple, and those that aren't will be by third parties. All, I'm sure within a timeframe before FCP7 support expires.

    Perhaps what Apple could have done is offered to sell FCP7 at the same price, and offer a cross-grade to the new FCP when additional features are available, hopefully within 6-12 months, then everyone is catered for and happy :)
    alex.cumbers@...
    • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

      @alex.cumbers@...

      You call it a fuss but for the companies that have invested in an infrastructure that requires legacy projects and cross platform file transfers and immediate integration, this is a disaster. Workarounds are not an answer. Waiting is not an option. Using the program that was outdated 2 years ago seems to be the only solution. Is that the answer when there are several other solutions currently available that plug into the existing workflow and work immediately? The real question is can any enterprise operation rely on Apple in the future? If you work as a single system, one computer, one man operation, then Final Cut X might be just what you need and just what they were marketing to. If you are the supervisor of a postproduction studio and you spent two years convincing your bosses to migrate from Avid, and the last six months convincing them that their aging software will be updated soon, you might be a little nervous right now.
      jgo1961
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Well, I'm sorry to say that to me it looks like i-moviepro, but before you throw things at me, let me explain what I mean by that because it's not necessarily an insult.

    FCP-X isn't an upgrade of FCP, it's a new product. If it were an upgrade it would allow old projects to be imported; it doesn't so it isn't. What it is though is a new product, a totally new product aimed at a new user group. It's not aimed the estalbished pros for reasons which should be pretty clear by now and as you say it's not aimed at i-movie dad filming little johhny on the beach either, it is aimed at some new group in between these two. Such a group probably definately exists and could well represent the future culture of mass video production, but it's the future, it's not what exists now.

    Fine, so it's a new product and as such it shouldn't be called FCP because it isn't FCP and doesn't appeal to FCP users.

    What should happen and happen PDQ is Apple must re-issue FCP7 (the suite) and reassure the users that there will be an FCP8 whch takes them along - keeping the much loved (and frankly enjoyable) user interface and allowing the import of old projects whilst moving to a 64 bit design in the same way as Premiere has done. Keep FCPX but ideally rebrand it as something new and grow a whole new user group.

    But the big thing Apple will have to learn - again PDQ - is never, ever, do this again. This mistake could well cost Apple the coverted place in the creative media industry they have enjoyed for so long, no-one in their right minds would buy into a company that treats its customers like they have done.

    For my part a small order of 5 FCP suites is now on hold and won't be going ahead just yet due entirely to this bone headed move. I'm not the only sale they've lost.
    NR23Derek
  • They're leaving some pros

    The discussion of this issue just keeps becoming a "what the definition of 'pro' is" thing - the professionals who are most vocal about FCP X are the film and broadcast editors.

    However they are not nearly the majority of the pros that use FCP7 - many more are people who's work is editing things like corporate and event videos. People who can more easily adapt their workflows and who are more likely to work alone and within a single application or suite.

    To Apple these professionals (of which I am one) represent a very small portion of the overall FCP7 market, and an even smaller portion of the potential FCPX market. But, to those professionals Apple is basically one of two big players. Broadly speaking (it varies from market-to-market) if you talk to a film or TV editor there's a 50/50 chance they are working on FCP7 (or 6), if not then they are using Avid Media Composer.

    So for Apple to move away from these editors isn't a big deal for them (especially given the new users who will like FCPX), but for those editors it's is basically the number two product just dropping out of the market.

    There are many articles about just how FCPX is not suitable to that market (and may never be suitable in some ways), but we are just a small number of the "professionals" using FCP7 in our work.

    While FCPX will be updated and improved, I really find it hard to believe that Apple sees this small market as a priority. I simply don't think FCPX will become a big player in film or television post-production again. And I really doubt they care about that.
    DylanReeve
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Thanks for a rational take on the FCPX fiasco. Yes, Apple completely botched the rollout by positioning FCPX as a FCP7 replacement instead of the foundation for a future FCP7 replacement.

    Check out this article for another excellent analysis

    http://techvessel.tv/?p=940

    From an ex-Avid employee, Mike Bernardo:

    "Even though the FCPX rollout seemingly exposes Apple?s hubris, I?m glad they did it. They seem to be the only company capable of pushing boundaries. I have no doubt FCPX will eventually catch up to where FCP7 was in terms of features and capability.

    When I was at Avid, I worked on a few internal projects trying to solve this exact problem ? we saw Apple coming after us from the low end and knew it was only a matter of time before they reached Avid?s capabilities.

    We worked on building ?next generation? editor software. New UI, new technical foundation that would take advantage of multiple CPUs and GPUs. Unfortunately these efforts ultimately went nowhere, since the company as a whole was too timid and worried about disenfranchising the existing customer base ? exactly the problem Apple is facing now."
    Synthmeister
  • Arrogance

    I find it funny how people with no experience in professional editing feel entitled to tell editors that they "don't get it" and that Apple's programmers know more about the needs of professional editors than we do.

    It's a bit like saying that racing drivers should just shut up and drive their car the way car factory workers tell them to.

    Yes, FCP 7 was slow, and yes, it was a 32-bit application. It needed to be rewritten. Adobe did the same with Premiere CS5, but, guess what, Premiere CS5 can load the projects from previous versions just fine (it can even load projects from FCP 7!) . It can still capture from and export to professional tape formats, with full timecode support. It can still export named audio tracks for dubbing. And it has just about every other professional feature that FCP 7 had and FCP X dropped.

    At least with Shake Apple had the decency to just kill it, instead of trying to pass off Motion (which is a fine program, but not a high-end compositing package) as "Shake X". It wasn't the end of the world; people just moved from Shake to Nuke, Fusion, etc.. But it did show you couldn't trust Apple to support the high-end market.

    Final Cut Studio was the last truly professional software made by Apple, and it was feeling progressively out of place.

    FCP X is effectively iMovie Pro. It's developed from the iMovie code and the only projects it can import are from iMovie. Clearly Apple realizes it's aimed at a different market from FCP 7 / FCS 3, otherwise import from FCP 7 would have been included (the ability to open, replicate and modify existing projects is essential in the entertainment and broadcast world, where the same show or movie can have 5 or 6 different versions, some made years later, to adapt it to new markets).

    The fact that Apple also decided to kill of Color is further evidence they're not interested in the high-end professional market (broadcast / film industry). It's just more profitable to sell 20 million copies of iMovie Pro (FCP X) to "enthusiasts" and wedding videographers (who complain a lot less about bugs) than 1 million copies to TV and film professionals. Apple used to be a creator of advanced tools for digital artists. These days they're in the business of making money. And if that means dropping Shake, Color and FCP, and focusing on iMovie and shiny plastic toys, that's what they're going to do, and they have every right to do it.
    RFC3251
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Some facts that are missing in most analysis of the FCP X affair:<br><br>1 - As opposed to all Apple's previous (and future) hardware and software product releases FCP X didn't show up like a main event, splashed on Apple's site home page. It could be barely be seems on the news strip.<br><br>2 - Logic Studio is also well hidden on Apple's site. /Library/Application Support has a Pro Apps directory. Apple's site doesn't. <br><br>3 - Xserve was announced as discontinued in November and discontinued earlier this year. The "replacement" is ridiculous if regarded from a Pro point of view.<br><br>4 - It seems that Lion Server will follow the same path.<br><br>Sell a lot, cheap, as opposed to sell a few items and charge for them. That's , doubtless is Apple's current position. No Pro product fits this scenario.
    baixogavea@...
  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    Your reasons for thinking that the architecture is built for Pro's is slightly off on a few points...<br><br>1) 64bit. Of course it's 64bit. That means nothing. Apple has dropped support for 32bit processers with Lion, so I would be very suppressed if apple makes a single new 32bit application.<br><br>2) Multi processer support. Again, with 8 core processors just around the corner, and 12 probably within 2 years, apple would be handicapping consumers if they didn't program in GCD.<br><br>3) Background GPU & CPU rendering. Apple's method of native format support in FCPX requires background rendering to function at all. Everything is transcoded to ProRes in the background, or your output options are severely limited. (or so I've been told).<br><br>4) 4k media support. I agree, this seems like a pro feature, but there are definitely going to be consumer cameras that shoot higher then 1080p resolution within 10 years. Consumer HD is only 8 years old... look how far we've come in that time. Besides, almost every consumer camera now has far more then 2 megapixels. Consumer camcorders that shoot stills beyond 4k are in existence, and it seems like half of them have 5 megapixel CMOS sensors.

    Edit: See? http://www.fdtimes.com/news/jvc/jvc-4k/

    <br><br><br>My opinion is that this is a Prosumer oriented app which apple was hoping pros would continue to use, but I have no doubt that pros are not the main focus anymore. A quick look at apples revenue shows that apple makes more money from iPads then from all their computers combined, and more money from iPhones then iPads plus computers. if all OSX hardware comprises a mere %18, how much of that comes from pros? <br><br>Apple has no reason to continue to make pro only products. They want to make consumer products that pros can use. Unfortunately, with FCPX, they failed. <br><br>Supposedly, Multi-cam isn't coming until "the next major release" For anymore who needs multi-cam, that's a LONG time to wait. Are they going to continue using FCP7 for another year? FCP7 was a disappointment when it was released... Most pro's have already been waiting for 2 years.
    Jmcontra
  • Avid

    Great comments and pretty much solidified my first thoughts that it seems like a good time to switch to Avid for us. Love Apple, love the consumer products and can't imagine life without my iPhone apps but their pro products have never really got there and this is a good excuse to leave them.
    samhearn
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  • RE: Why Apple isn't leaving the pro market

    @Robin: FCP X is unusable in a sense that a significant number of professional post production shops can't use it in place of FCP7 because it's lacking critical features important to them. No offense but your use of FCP doesn't qualify as "pro" on many levels including the quality of the finished product.

    Clearly you don't have to trust me on that - most of these shops are actively looking for or found alternatives - where they'd much rather not.

    Your analysis therefore is rather misguided, I am afraid.
    Alex Gerulaitis
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