After reading people’s reactions to Apple’s latest release of Final Cut Pro X over the past week, I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that the “Pro” days of Apple products may officially be over. This realization stirs up an odd cocktail of emotions in me. On one hand, I saw it coming. I couldn’t have predicted the cannibalization of Final Cut Pro, but over the past six years it’s been pretty obvious that Apple has been “getting along nicely” with the consumer market (to the tune of 75 billion dollars in revenue). On the other hand, I figured it made sense for Apple to keep its professional products alive and well, no matter how small of a slice of the pie it was. “Industry leader in professional production tools” has a nice ring to it, right?
If you haven’t read about FCPX yet, here’s all you need to know: the new version is 100% incompatible with projects made on older versions of the software. There are entire armies of production companies and independant producers with ten years worth of work made on Final Cut Pro that will no longer be supported. In just a few years, all of their older Final Cut projects will be impossible to archive in a malleable format. No matter how you spin FCPX, this is a devastating blow to the production community.
However, projects made on iMovie (a free video editing program that comes included with every Macintosh computer) are indeed compatible with FCPX. In a word, Final Cut Pro is now a consumer software application. It has several glaring omissions of professional features, and other useful capabilites which have simply been eliminated. Apple’s professional video editing application that dominated 54% of the market is now a completely different and very alien looking program.
I had personally budgeted an extra $299 so I could purchase FCPX, but after learning about the limitations and amputations, I’m not sure if I’m gunna bite. Final Cut Pro X still appeals to me. Most of the work I do these days are projects shot on DSLR cameras, which FCPX plays nicely with. I never send my work to other studios for additional editing and processing (which can be a hassle with the new version). Plus I’m not a post production wizard, so I’d likely appreciate some of the automated image optimization features in the new program.
FCPX appears to be squarely targeted at the “prosumer” user, which is why professional users are in such an uproar. The problem with this approach is a big part of the excitement of being a prosumer is using the same tools the pros use, with hopes that you’ll be able to transition into being a professional too someday. If the majority of professionals migrate away from Final Cut Pro (which is seems like a strong possibility), the prosumers will loyally follow.
Users of Apple’s Logic Studio (an extremely powerful audio production software that rivals Pro Tools in popularity) should rightfully be concerned. It’s one thing for a professional product to be simplified and priced for the consumer market, but when you’re in a situation where a decade’s worth of your work will no longer be compatible with the application it was created in, you’re in big trouble.
I love my Apple computers (and my iPhone, and so far I dig the iPad 2 I bought this week), but moving forward as a creative digital producer, I’m going to have to really think about what application I’m going to edit my videos with in the future. It’s pretty clear that Apple has more lucrative things to concentrate on. But… who knows? I could be totally wrong.
Perhaps professional video editors will fully embrace Final Cut Pro X. After this initial shock wears off, and promised updates and video output drivers are supplied, people will be happy. Maybe Apple will hold onto its 54% of the market share, and even grow and claim a larger piece of the action. I’m certainly not going to make any predictions. Trying to publicly guess Apple’s next move is dangerous business.
That said, it really does feel like Apple is moving away from professional software development (does anyone remember the story of Shake?). The question is, if their software is solely aimed at consumers, what does the future hold for Apple hardware? When I was purchasing my iPad 2 at the 14th Street Apple store in Manhattan the other night, there were hundreds of iPads on display, a scarce amount of laptops and iMacs, and I kid you not, only a single, lonesome Mac Pro in the far back corner of the store.
::GULP:: Will my next production machine be a Windows tower?!? It’s a scary thought, but never say never. At the end of the day, it’s the content that counts. The tools are meaningless. It’s just going to be hard to let go of all of that shiny aluminum, and that friendly interface that always seems to work.