Apple is abandoning the professional market

Apple appears to be abandoning the professional market in favor of the more lucrative consumer market. And that may actually be a good thing.
Written by Scott Raymond, Inactive

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The arguments, the recriminations, the breakups and reunions. After a long, stormy relationship, it looks like Apple is finally calling it quits with their professional customers.

Apple: It's... it's just not working out. I think it's time we started seeing other people. ProMarket: Was it something I said? I can change! Just tell me what you want! Apple: It's not you, it's me. I just don't love you anymore.

This has been a long time coming. Since the introduction of the iPod, Apple has been targeting the consumer market, rather than the high end professional market. The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices are all aimed at the consumer market. Business-class hardware such as the Xserve has been discontinued in order to focus on more consumer-oriented hardware.

The OS X operating system has been moving towards a convergence with the simpler iOS operating system; it has been surmised that OS X Lion will be the last iteration of that series of Mac operating systems. That doesn't mean Apple will stop making an OS, but this will likely be the last familiar version before they head off in a new direction.

Recently, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the latest release of Final Cut Pro. What was originally considered a professional-quality application for video editing had been turned into a basic, toy-like application that no longer supported the capabilities that customers had come to depend upon.

(Side note to Joe Wilcox of Betanews: Don't berate the customers for being dissatisfied. They have every right to be. Acting like a fanboi spouting that Apple can do no wrong and that they're acting like spoiled children is a good way to alienate those faithful Apple users who are simply unhappy with the company's business decisions that affect them and their work.)

It's actually pretty obvious where Apple was going with this. The professional market is much smaller than the consumer market, and the price tag of Final Cut Pro 7 was thre times more than that of the new Final Cut Pro X. A lower-priced application aimed at a much larger market segment would result in increased profits for Apple. I may dislike Apple, but that's just good business sense. To their credit, Apple did take the time to respond to some of the critics' issues with the new version.

However, what they have done actually leaves the door open for companies like Adobe to come in and fill the gap left by the absence of a complete professionally-oriented video editing application for the Apple platform. What they should have done is what Adobe did with their Photoshop line: make a low-end application like Photoshop Elements aimed specifically at the consumer market, and continued to develop the full version of Final Cut Pro for the pro market.

I don't presume to know what the decision process was behind this. Purely speculating, it's quite possible that Apple simply decided it wasn't worth the effort to support both market segments. As we've seen, Apple is moving further away from the professional market and focusing more on consumer products. Aiming at the pro market segment involves more man-hours of work for a lower return of the investment.

This isn't necessarily bad for the professional market. It opens up opportunities for companies like Adobe to come in and fill the high-end gaps. It also provides renewed growth for companies like Microsoft to develop future generations of the Windows operating system geared towards high-end workstation hardware.

If you look at it that way, Apple leaving the professional market segment behind actually creates opportunity and growth capabilities for the vacuum they leave behind. That's a new one on me--when was the last time you heard Apple doing something that wasn't intended to crush competition? I'm not sure what things will look like a few years from now, but I like where it's heading.

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