Puzzled by the Latest Final Cut Upgrade

Posted on by Larry

I installed the latest Final Cut Studio upgrade over the weekend and have been studying it since. Then, I read Scott Simmon’s blog this morning that caused a question to finally resolve itself in my head.

The question I am puzzling over is “Why release this now?”

First, though the colors of the interface seems subtly crisper to me, the interface has not changed. With the exception of three, maybe four, menu items the menu structure is the same. Keyboard shortcuts are virtually identical.

Second, while I’ve been told that there are lots of under-the-hood changes, as Steve Martin told me on Digital Production BuZZ, there are no stop-the-presses new features. In an application this deep and this old, that can be expected. Still, our industry is filled with flash and glitter – so something flashy would not be out of place – look at any recent Apple launch.

I’m sure that this new version will prove to be a workhorse over time, but still that nagging question, why now?

Why in the middle of summer?

Why the day after almost every Final Cut User Group had its monthly meeting?

Why without any supporting fanfare, events, or hoo-hah?

In fact, by releasing when they did, they avoided all the deadlines for the monthly Mac and video publications. This means that by the time the pubs get this reviewed, it will be old news and the coverage will be reduced because of it.

I am struck by how carefully they planned the timing to generate the least amount of coverage — except among the core user base.

Apple would probably argue that they released it because it was ready. And the rest of us would certainly agree that if Apple twitches an eyebrow, the Apple-following press creates paroxysms of front page stories.

For me, the elephant in the room is Snow Leopard (to, um, mix metaphors and animals a bit). Why release this version of FCS two months before a substantial change to the OS? Unless the effort to bring Final Cut into compliance with all the features of Snow Leopard is taking far longer than first thought.

I’m reminded of something Adobe once told me. They spent two years updating their applications to support Apple’s move to Intel processors. During that update they revised millions of lines of code – only to create new versions with essentially the same feature set as when they began; but they needed to do this in order to support the new processing architecture. The time and effort was necessary for the future, but created a lot of disappointed users at the release.

I’ve been told that Final Cut needed substantial reprogramming in order to support Snow Leopard. Apple never publicly comments on its development teams, plans, efforts, or schedules. I know, because I’ve asked many times.

So I don’t know what’s the thinking behind this update.

But to me, this feels like part one of a two act play. There is more yet to be revealed — and probably the bigger half.

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