Larry's Thoughts: Apple and Professionals

Posted on by Larry

This evening, I was speaking – remotely – with the Arizona Final Cut Pro Users Group. And I was asked, as happens often, “Does Apple still care about professionals?”

This is a hard question, because the answer is changing. But here’s what I told the user group, and I wanted to share it with you.

– – –

Unlike any other company on the planet, Apple doesn’t share its future plans. Except in rare instances, as they did with the initial showings of FCP X, the on-the-record meetings with analysts at NAB this spring – an ON-THE-RECORD private meeting, which hasn’t happened in a long, LONG time – and recently with Tim Cook’s email on the status of the MacPro update next year.

All of these are very uncharacteristic of Apple. In fact, Tim Cook’s response was an answer to the clamor from a Facebook page!

What’s going on?

I think Apple got its head handed to them with the launch of FCP X in the professional market. They were expecting controversy, they didn’t expect a revolt. The market opportunities Apple provided its competition was totally unexpected. The industry confusion was extreme. And the uncertainty continues. Hollywood HATES change, but it hates insecurity far more. The financial turmoil and disruption was enormous. Even today, a year later, I’m getting constant requests from editors on what they should do to plan their career.

Creative professionals have been Mac fans for a long, long time. We build businesses, meet payroll, and create killer products using Mac gear. Over the last few years, Apple has forgotten that you can’t treat creative professionals the same way you treat consumers.

But I’m starting to see moves from Apple that it has recognized this. The recent NAB meetings are one, Tim Cook’s memo is another. Apple is starting to telegraph – albeit gingerly – where it is going. It will never be the dialog we would like – but I’m seeing a break from the silence.

Up until the iPhone, Apple has never created products because it saw that it could dominate a market. It created products that were the ultimate marriage of hardware and software into products that spoke to the creator in all of us. If you think about it, Apple has always been a software company – with a Mac as a dongle.

The professional market – however that’s defined – will never equal the consumer market. With $98 billion dollars in the bank, Apple doesn’t need the professional market – except, everything in Apple’s DNA speaks to the creative, the communicator, the designer, the elegant esthete in all of us.

We all want to keep using Macs and Mac software. We want to continue believing in the company. All Apple needs to do – every so often – is talk to us and give us some clues about the future. And, from time to time, they need to listen as well.

It’s a two-way street.

As always, let me know what you think.

Larry


18 Responses to Larry's Thoughts: Apple and Professionals

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  1. grlym says:

    In this discussion, one needs to be aware, that on the pc side, both HP and Dell have long term plans to leave the desktop space as their margins are very very thin. They are both headed to enterprise services, so this means that a shift to high powered windows desktops may in the end not be a continuation off what seems a stable hardware market.

  2. Rich Gehron says:

    “If you think about it, Apple has always been a software company – with a Mac as a dongle.”

    Larry, I made this exact point on another blog just a few days ago. It seems there are a lot of Mac users suffering from processor envy at the moment. But long term Mac users have been through this before. There was a time in the not too distant past where even die hard Mac Addicts were saying that Apple had the worst POS systems on the market. Then OS X was released. Of course the advent of the next generation OS meant better hardware to optimize it. I am not the first person to point out that when Apple starts End-Of-Life-ing products, it means they are pushing towards a better future and not clinging to the past. I think we will soon see a convergence of the MAC OS and iOS. And of course there will need to be new hardware platforms to run the “OS of the future”.

    And this is exactly right on point with Steve Jobs overall philosophy. A personal “unified field theory” of devices that created the ultimate user experience. In Jobs’ world ALL Apple devices should be PROFESSIONAL devices. It then is up to the individual user to decide what features to implement and how the device will best serve them. If you really want to understand how this company thinks you must read the Steve Jobs Biography (whether you loved or hated him it is a fantastic read). The iPhone was the first realization of that dream. A SINGLE DEVICE for communication, productivity and entertainment.

    As you said Larry, Hollywood hates change. But even more so, it fears becoming irrelevant. The new FCP X again points the way to Apple’s future of consolidation and refinement. Where ALL software and hardware are professional. And all users are “potential” professionals. They will certainly lose a number of users along the way. But they will gain so many more. I am very interested in seeing how Apple is going to once again change the production landscape over the next several years.

  3. Graham Cohen says:

    12 months ago I was a great editor using a great application in fcp7.0. 12 months later I’m the same editor but apple has made me a better editor now….using adobe creative suite. It’s as simple as that. I lost complete confidence in apple in keeping our industry true. Adobe focused on great Premiere – After Effects round tripping, bringing Audition so far ahead of soundtrack pro and the inclusion of new color correction software just pushes apple out of the picture. I like many others have moved on. If I was in the music industry using Logic I would be very worried right now and already would be looking for an alternative.

    I think keoni said it all in his well written response. And the fact that you Larry have spent a lot of time and effort creating great training for the adobe suite of products this year tells me you feel the same way even if you can’t directly come out and say it. And to your credit Larry, you did warn us before it was released.

    It pains me to write this. I never thought I would change my tune so quickly.

  4. Kirk Lohse says:

    Larry,

    Sorry to take up additional cyberspace here with another post, after having written so lengthy an epistle in response to your other blog about FCPX, but I was struck here by the last few comments made by Mr. Gehron, quoting YOU when he says “Hollywood hates change…and fears becoming irrelevant”.

    I’ll spare you – and your readers – relating any of my several off putting experiences with FCP6 & 7 users whose conversations sounded more like dialogue from The Big Bang Theory, than any Mac users I’d ever been around.

    Clearly these type folks are at the upper echelon of the editing/post-production food chain, and were very comfortable having all this technospeak to insulate them from someone like myself, whom they would term a “hack”

    Regardless, I’ve won awards for some of my work, respectable acclaim for others, was featured in an early copy of Adobe Magazine and even had an opening sequence I created for a local cable access channel showcased on the Adobe website. But I’m no big-time, post-house hot shot. Just a guy who creates industrial training videos by day, and by nite writes screenplays that he hopes one day to produce into feature length indies.

    FCPX has indeed upped the ante for guys and gals like me…”potential professionals” as Rich calls us, creative people who just want to tell stories and not get bogged down in the technobabble of the process.

    Steve, in my opinion, truly had a Robin Hood mentality with respect to technology…it should be for everyone, and we should all be able to enjoy–and USE hardware and software to enhance our lives.

    As I stated in my other post, I believe that Apple will introduce a workstation next year that will “change everything”, and those who rushed to – and delighted in kicking Apple in the balls over FCPX will woefully regret having done so.

    I am optimistic, I am excited and I…Think Different

  5. Richard Harvey says:

    There is one further point that I have not seen made in this debate. The “consumer” market is notoriously fickle. At present Apple is riding high and making a lot of money from it. But one of the reasons for Apple’s consumer success is the credibility their hardware and software earns from being also the professional’s choice. Consumers like the idea of buying into the best, aligning themselves in small or big ways with professional equipment and practice.

    If Apple loses interest in that professional market, and the serious creative world disperses to other platforms, then Apple will become just another consumer manufacturer and will sink or swim on the success or otherwise of the product of the moment. That is a lot riskier way to do business.

    Professional users may only directly represent a small fraction of Apple’s turnover, but their force as a powerful, and free, marketing tool it would dangerous to underestimate.

  6. Addison Randall says:

    You might want to consider something else. Apple made a choice to alienate the editors of today in oder to grab the editors of tomorrow. The “Old Guard”
    still remembers how to cut film, so the NLE FCP 7 Avid, Etc. mirrored that as close as possible while allowing all the advantages of NLE. FCP X adresses all the “New Guard” that have little or no concept of film and were raised on iMovie. So Apple rebuilt FCP X for them. I recently took a class in FCPX and it is an incredible program and will only get better. It’s fast and once you clear your head of the old ways it is a superior editor. But as has been stated “Hollywood hates change” What the big houses need to realize is that the new hires are going to be FCP X saavy and they will be more productive.

  7. I think this article is a spot on analysis of the situation and some of the comments are completely on point.

    I believe the dialogue, albeit not very public is happening. As an editor, I continually submit feedback to Apple via the menubar on FCPX. I’ve seen some of the enhancements I’ve submitted already make it into the app, so I imagine that Apple engineers actually read this stuff and other editors are submitting similar requests.

    Actually, I have nothing but praise for the Engineers at Apple. At WWDC they often give out their email addresses and actually WILL respond to bug reports and emails if you send them a message. This is just not very publicized, nor should it be. As an employee it would be hard to answer everyone’s request and get work done.

    Larry, you are right that Hollywood hates change. After witnessing a so-called professional editor bite an Apple presenters head off for making FCPX a trackless editor at LAFCPUG, I am both ashamed of some of my colleagues actions but also know an opportunity when I see one.

    I adopted FCPX from Day 1 and have found it to be a surprisingly versatile, yet underdeveloped application. This last point shouldn’t be surprising to anyone since it was a complete rewrite of the app. The sheer nakedness of the app is not a burden but a blessing to us editors.

    Those of us who send in feedback, speak with engineers after presentations, and write about our experience with FCPX will be heard by Apple. They are listening, I am sure of it. The updates that have already passed contained some of the most requested features: broadcast monitoring and multi cam. Apple has also worked with several third parties to produce an app that is compatible with standard industry equipment.

    It takes time to grow and learn an application. I for one can live with the bugs because I know how to troubleshoot and figure them out. Stability is greatly improved. I’ve ran the app through its paces with incredibly complex motion templates, figured out workflows that work for several different projects that can be replicated, and all it took was a couple months. The interface is incredibly intuitive.

    Again, thanks for the awesome articles and keep up the great work!

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