I’m excited about the new Final Cut Pro. There have been plenty of complaints from professional video editors (Ars Technica, CNET News, TechCrunch), and although I’m not a professional, I would guess that most of their criticisms are warranted. Mostly, I’m excited because the program is only $300 instead of the usual thousand. Which means that I’m getting closer to accessing something with much more powerful capabilities than iMovie. (Note: I do, actually, run Final Cut Pro at the moment, but it’s clunky; I only use it in order to gain access to the AVCHD files on my video camera’s hard drive.)
I haven’t used the program yet, but everything I’m reading seems to suggest that Apple reduced the complexity of the software in order to appeal to a much wider potential audience. Good. Unless you’re a video editing professional. I guess I can see why VE pros are a little annoyed. They’ve got a bunch of resources (work flow protocols, hardware, software, employee skill sets, business plans) tied up in the previous version of Final Cut. And the new version is completely incompatible with earlier project files. Is Apple thumbing their nose at these pros? Maybe.
So why do I have any sympathy for these pros? Lot’s of reasons. Apple’s been promising a new version of Final Cut for quite some time. No one likes to be strung along. Now, editors who’ve been putting up with substandard tools (32-bit architecture, for instance), are now faced with a choice of what they’re going to do to upgrade. it’s one thing to put another $1000 into new software and keep most of the rest of your business model and practices intact. But it looks like this new version is based on a much different set of design conventions and “convenience” features that will end up limiting the power of the software. So, even though the price looks significantly less expensive, my guess is that businesses will have to put a ton of resources into reorganizing significant portions of their business models and training employees.
On the other hand, Apple has done this sort of pulling-out-the-carpet trick before (as has Microsoft, Adobe, etc.). Consider the major changes and lack of backward compatibility when Apple released iMovie ’08. Users were infuriated. Lots of the same reasons, though these were based on cognitive and personal re-mapping, instead of professional concerns. But the concept is still the same. Though Apple angered some of its loyal user-base, it did make the video editing process more intuitive and accessible for a wider range of consumers. Good business plan, Apple. Will the same thing happen with Final Cut? I don’t know, but I think it’s likely. I’m not suggesting that Final Cut will become a mainstream product. It’s still way too complicated and expensive relative to iMovie. However, there’s been a significant portion of people who’ve put up with the limitations of iMovie because they couldn’t afford the price and the unintuitive interface of Final Cut. I don’t know much of anything about Apple’s margins when it comes to software development and sales, but I do know that the current pricing tendencies in the App store make a $1000 price tag seem pretty much crazy. My guess is that if Apple can convert double or triple the number of users adopting Final Cut, their business plan will have worked. I know there’s no way I ever would have purchased Final Cut at $1000. But I’m pretty sure I can swing $300 (maybe a year from now, said the graduate student).
Regardless, it’s a move that reveals Apple’s aiming for the mainstream. Which is good. For me. I’m not a professional. But Apple keeps getting me closer and closer to some of its most powerful software offerings. But I do think they’re sort of biting the hands that paid them in order to appeal to a much bigger set of hands.
And then there’s Conan. I love this guy. Allows us to laugh at Apple. Without coming across as mean. Not very reflective, of course, but it is pretty insightful. Enjoy…