[ The following musing is taken from the October issue of my Final Cut Studio newsletter. This free monthly newsletter is starting its seventh year of publishing. Sign up for a FREE subscription here. ]
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.
This, 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.
3 Responses to Is Final Cut Studio Even Relevant in the Age of the iPad?
May I add, Apple has been providing outstanding free Final Cut Pro workshops, conducted by post production professionals, at its Los Angeles area stores. Earlier this year, I took advantage of a free Final Cut Pro workshop two times — the first workshop on a tape based workflow, the second workshop on a tapeless workflow — each workshop consisting of four classes at the Sherman Oaks store during the evening. The instructor was enormously helpful, and he remained in the store answering all of our questions until after the mall closed every time.
I don’t know what sort of workshops are being offered at Apple Stores in other parts of the country. But this seemed like love for Final Cut Pro users coming from Apple to me.
I hope you don’t mind my mentioning your competition, Larry!
I was thinking today after seeing the new MacBook Air and iMovie 11, that consumers can make all the content they need to run on their consumer devices with Apple consumer software. All Apple need do in order to insure content running on devices for the masses is keep writing software that the masses can use. Final Cut Pro may be around for a long time, but I don’t think that its needed to guaranty a stream of content to Apple new consumer electronic gadgets. Most people I talked to for years felt that FCP was like a software dongle for Apple professional desktops, but I think the vast lyons share of engineering muscle is now working on consumer products.
So the question is how long does Apple want to be a player in Professional Video? I don’t think Steve cares to much about what software went into making movies that iTunes sells. As long as he controls the software distribution angle. After that, as long as Ma and Pa can use iMovie, I think Apple will be fine. Now I don’t think I would be fine if Apple walked away from the pro space, I think Id be pissed to be honest, but Steve does not care to much about me either.
Having said all this, Apple has a distinguished and sexy and damn cool tradition in working with movie makers. VERY COOL. I hope to see FCP for at least the next 5 years. “keeping fingers crossed”
With respect to Clayton’s last comment, we’ll probably will see FCP for the next 5 yrs — FCP 7 that is 🙂
Seriously, I turned to Larry’s blog today because I just read Engaget’s report that Apple is discontinuing Xserve. The article begins, “in case anyone still doesn’t think that Apple it a consumer company now … ”
Apple’s getting out of video as we’ve known it. But I think that if there is a future for FCS it will be in distribution, linked to their new data center(s). A great strategy for Apple would be to bypass the cable companies, Walmarts and even the mighty networks and movie studios themselves in the production and distribution of entertainment.
If producers could produce finished work in FCS and send it directly into a distribution channel that had advertising and promotion built in, and that allowed consumers (there’s that word again) to rent or buy the bits through iTunes via an Apple TV device, would producers do it? I say, yes. Entertainment of the near future could well look something like this:
– producer creates show — anything from Hollywood blockbuster to corporate interview to Larry Jordan training to college prankster time-sink to cute baby shots for grandma/grandpa, etc.
– finished show is uploaded to Apple’s servers where options are offered to sell (or not) include advertising (for fee split with Apple lining up willing advertisers), include promotion (for greater fee) and set prices (if for sale, again with fee split).
– new shows are promoted through social media, blogs and other viral mechanisms. Popular shows emerge and are purchased/subscribed to. Loser go to the long tail where they can still find a following. BTW – this includes the next Lost, Survivor, etc. as well. All viral. All available for iDevices or giant HDTVs.
– People vote with clicks, comments and dollars on what’s worthwhile. Middlemen are removed and profits flow directly to producers and Apple (of course). And FCS is the direct link to the channel.
Think ebay/itunes/appstore for entertainment. These are proven models. Entertainment is just bits to be delivered. Guardians of the old business models need not be consulted. Creativity flourishes. Consumers are delighted because they get and use product however they want. Hey, it could happen!
But poor old 32-bit FCP, and Apple’s whole presence in video, won’t be upgraded unless they’re somehow coupled to a strategy — a whole new strategy — that fits in with Apple’s much more important designs for media. Apple’s not concerned about video as we’ve known it anymore. Let’s face it.