Is There Something In The Wind?

Posted on by Larry

UPDATE: Philip Hodgetts was the first to point out that Apple updated FCP X to version 10.0.8 this morning. The release notes indicate that it is mostly a bug fix release, with new support for Sony’s XAVC codec. The update is free and available via the Mac App Store.

There is an article in this morning’s Los Angeles Times. It was about Apple, which isn’t unusual. However, it was about Final Cut Pro X, which IS unusual.

Is there something in the wind?

The article, entitled “Apple aims to win over video editors,” takes a look back at the stormy reaction to the birth of Final Cut Pro X where the launch, and the highly-charged negative reactions to it, completely over-shadowed the program itself.

Chris O’Brien, the article’s author, does a solid job of capturing the anguish of FCP editors over the new software. (Though, as a quibble, in the thousands of emails I’ve gotten on this subject, I’ve never had one person complain about the new, lower price.) I won’t rehash the article here, it is well-written and deserves to be read on its own.

The question I want to reflect on is “Why this article now?” Is this simply a reporter covering an industry leader, or, did Apple plant a seed?

As someone who has had many interactions with Apple executives over the years, I’ve learned that Apple does not do anything spontaneously. They are strategic, with time-scales often measured in years. This strategic focus doesn’t make them perfect, but it does prevent them from being impulsive.

Why now?

The answer, I think, lies in the calendar. Tennyson may have written: “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” But in the media industry, spring means the NAB Show – that massive industry event that heralds the release of new versions of just about everything related to media. Every company on the planet is trying to think up ways to get their voice heard and their products considered.

Our entire industry is focused on the NAB Show, which starts in a little more than a week in Las Vegas. Apple hasn’t exhibited at NAB for more than five years, but it’s presence is palpable across the trade show floor. It’s the 800-pound gorilla that few talk about, but can’t live without.

Many companies like to think they play the role of disruptor in the industry. But no one causes chaos quite like Apple.

Consider that while the Times article is crammed with a solid look back at the history of the program, the news hook is the posting of three new customer stories showcasing high-end customers successfully using Final Cut Pro X. The rest of the article rehashes past events.

No new products. No new hardware. Just Apple’s announcement about posting customer success stories.

NOTE It is interesting to me that, while the article references Richard Townhill, who was the face of Final Cut Pro X at the launch, no Apple executives were actually quoted in the article.

What Could This Mean?

Unlike when FCP X was announced, I am not privy to any inside Apple information, so these are just informed guesses.

Does this presage a return to an “updated” version of Final Cut Pro 7? Absolutely not. That program is dead and gone.

Does this indicate that Apple is getting ready to release an entirely new version of Final Cut Pro X – such as FCP 11? No. Apple has bet the ranch on continuing to evolve this edition of FCP X for the next several years.

Apple could release a new update to FCP X in the days leading up to NAB. This would dominate the news when every other company in our industry is scrambling to be heard. But I don’t think this is likely. It would make more sense to appear to be doing something, but to wait until after NAB to actually do it.

I expect the next update to Final Cut Pro X to contain major new features, but be built on the same foundation as the current FCP X. I also think it is likely that a new, supporting application will be released at the same time. Logic is the application that comes first to mind, as audio is still a major hole in FCP X.

I think the purpose of this article is to acknowledge that Apple is aware of the damage it caused at the launch, to point out the things that it is doing to repair the damage, and to clearly state that Apple feels Final Cut Pro X is ready for professional use, as illustrated by the customers that are using it today.

The LA Times article ends by quoting Harry Miller, head of the American Cinema Editor’s technology committee: “We are in a precarious business…”

Precarious indeed. Perhaps Apple is trying to reassure us that it better understands that.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.


48 Responses to Is There Something In The Wind?

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  1. Butch says:

    The numbers are fascinating. Of course it makes me wonder whether to a certain extent whether it matters IF it’s mostly “Non-Traditional” editors or people that aren’t necessarily influencing the flow/direction of mainstream entertainment, or if it’s mostly people that use it as more of a “pet project” than a tool. The anecdotal evidence I personally know of seems to be leaning in that direction up to this point so it’s not completely shocking to me. I wouldn’t use app store rankings to craft an argument that Pages is equally or more prevalent that MS Word or Google Docs, so why try do it for an NLE?

    I say all of this not to express that it isn’t a competent editing tool for the individual user, but Apple has created a lot of dysfunction in their pro apps solutions and raised doubt in a lot of gate keeper types that had not doubted their commitment or competence in pro applications development for well over a decade. Apple is keenly aware that mind share advantages with the gate keepers is the only thing staving off being shut out of significant chunks of media space, so if they’re leaning on Apps Store rankings to determine their future direction they’re in worse shape than I thought.

    It seems like it’s just a matter of time before Avid collapses and I suspect Adobe will be there to pick up the pieces…if Google than snaps up Adobe Apple will find itself in a pickle, possibly in a number of areas before too long. All anyone should have to say is THE RETURN OF FLASH at that point to know what I’m thinking.

  2. Tijs van den Donk says:

    Imagine Microsoft Word X comes out tomorrow and they simply say:”oh, we’re sorry, you can’t open all you docs you’ve been writing the last years”. It would cause an uprise! But we editors are a user-group to small to cause any uprise. Apple simply said: “F… Y..! We gonna do it our way”. So what’s my guarantee for the future?

    You simply should not use FCP X to punish them for their arrogance. I’m a Mac user since 1985 and always have been big a fan, but the last few years Apple showed clearly their focus: the consumer market. I moved to Premiere and it has its quirks. However I’m convinced that Adobe is on top of it and I don’t doubt their dedication to professionals!

    So Apple: F… Y.. , no FCP X for me.

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