Is Final Cut Studio Even Relevant in the Age of the iPad?

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the October, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

It’s been at least a week since I received any “Final Cut is Dying” emails, but that didn’t stop one person – who will go unnamed – from asking:

I have continued to wonder about Apple’s plan for FCS going forward. I’m thinking out loud here now. [ Insert a series of hypothetical market conditions and potentially missing Final Cut software features here ] then I would bet heavily that Apple had decided to retire that software.

Final Cut Studio boxThis, and many other emails like it, set me to thinking this last weekend. Five years ago Final Cut Pro – and the other Professional Applications from Apple – were the top of the heap. Apple promoted them mercilessly. Apple leveraged its way into Hollywood with them. These applications were everywhere and those of us using them walked like gods upon the earth.

Well, OK, maybe that last sentence is a bit of rhetorical fancy, but you get the point. We were top dog.

Times changed. First came the iPod, then the stunningly successful iPhone, then the market-changing hit — the iPad. And the ProAps slid off the top shelf.

However, just because the ProAps are no longer top-of-mind at Apple does not mean they are dead. Or dying. They just aren’t the darlings they used to be. And many of us are feeling the lack of love.

The situation, to me, is analogous to a new baby arriving in a family. The other, older kids are still loved. But the new arrival gets all their parent’s attention; and us older kids are feeling decidedly left out.

If you suddenly found yourself running Apple you would have to be brain-dead not to do everything in your power to leverage the success of Apple’s mobile devices, but that doesn’t mean you would put your existing kids up for adoption just because you have a new baby.

It is the nature of technology for new software to have features that older software lacks. Apple has successfully done this to other companies in the past. Now, other companies are returning the favor. Technology is built on this cycle of “one-upping” the competition. And, as in the past, it will be Apple’s turn in this cycle in due course.

But, I want to suggest that the recent brouhaha over Flash is a really good indicator of why Apple can’t afford to let the ProAps fall too far into disrepair.

The principle use of iDevices is to consume media. While editing video using them is possible, I do not want to make a living editing video on an iPhone. Before you start protesting, think about the last time you bought a brand-new computer monitor to use for editing video in your suite. Was it smaller or bigger than your existing monitor? Possible is not the same as preferable.

Now, let us assume that Apple decides to abandon Final Cut – or not upgrade it – or sell it – or in some other way give it up.

That means that other companies – OUTSIDE of Apple’s control – will have primary responsibility for editing video and other media. There’s nothing to prevent these other companies from inventing codecs that don’t run on iDevices. Or redesign their editing software so that it doesn’t support Macs. Why would they do this? To make the iDevices less successful and move the Mac back to the periphery again. The only company that has a permanently vested interest in keeping Macs successful is Apple – and as their recent financials indicated, they are selling more Macs than ever before.

Creating a professional video editing system will never be a main-stream, mass-market, top-of-mind consumer megahit. But without it, playing videos on all these fabulous mobile devices are at the mercy of the market.

Microsoft and Adobe didn’t get together recently to discuss how much they like Apple. Given the opportunity, they would be happy to boost their own fortunes at the expense of Apple.

You and I, in the same position, would do the same.

So why, then, would Apple ever consider ceding the tight vertical integration it has now with Final Cut Studio creating media using Macintosh computers for playback on iDevices? One thing Apple never does is give up control when it doesn’t have to. Control over media creation is critical to Apple so that they can guarantee that media can be created for and played on all their iDevices regardless of what the competition does.

Even if Apple loses money on every Final Cut Studio they sell – and they don’t – giving up Final Cut would be an incredibly stupid political decision. A decision which could cost Apple control over the very devices that are making the company the most money it has ever made in its corporate life.

Apple is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them.

I’m not saying that Final Cut can’t be improved. It certainly can and I hope it is. But I am saying there are a lot of steps between top-of-mind and dead.


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