Sunday, June 26, 2011

FCPX Part 3: The backfire

I didn't want to write another post about Apple's Final Cut Pro X debacle (I really, truly didn't), but I've reached my irritation limit. Let's be frank: Apple blew it, but not necessarily for how FCPX turned out. Rather, it blew it by:
  1. Not fully communicating just how much of a departure FCPX is from FCP 7, and not educating users to see it as version 1.0 of an entirely new platform,
  2. Not anticipating how vehement user reaction would be to key missing features, such as the inability to import FCP 7 projects, no multicam capabilities, and the lack of any facilities for getting audio and EDLs from FCPX to and from other applications, and
  3. Not keeping Final Cut Studio 3 available for sale while Apple and third-parties worked to bring FCPX up to functional parity with FCP 7.
As I said, Apple blew it, but the reaction by users and resellers is completely out of proportion to the problem. There is absolutely nothing keeping existing FCP users from continuing to use their current copies of FCP. If it worked for you last Monday, it will still work for you today. Multiple sources indicate that FCP 7 will work fine on Lion, the new version of OSX that will be released next month. Moving to any other editing platform is going to entail a learning curve.

The enormous reaction, for a product that represents a minute fraction of Apple's revenues, suggests to me that there's something more at work here than simple customer dissatisfaction. For example, Adobe started looking for "Premiere Pro ambassadors" just prior to the launch of FCPX. Call me paranoid, but I have to suspect that Apple's competitors are encouraging the firestorm, even to the point of offering talking points to bloggers and tweeters. I have no evidence that this is happening, but the number of posts and tweets, and their similarity, sound very much like what would be driven by a competitive response team. (I used to run those teams in the past, and I know how they work.) Throw in free "evaluation" copies of software that have valid serial numbers, and you end up with a corps of people who have motivation to keep the pressure on.

The resellers who have been tweeting constantly since last Tuesday, trying to get FCP users to switch to Avid or Apple, have a transparent reason for doing so: They can no longer make any money selling FCP. FCPX will only be sold through the Apple App Store, so resellers and integrators can't make any money selling it. They can continue to sell peripherals that work with FCPX, but they can't make any money on FCPX itself.

The FCPX release has stirred more negative reaction than Microsoft's decision not to support direct Windows XP upgrades to Windows 7. Remember that one? It affected, and still continues to affect, millions of PC users--many times more than the FCP user base--but it didn't get this level of vitriol.

So, I've stopped following the resellers that continue to tweet negative coverage of FCPX and exhort me to buy Avid or Adobe. When Apple gets this resolved, as I'm convinced they will, there's going to be a lot of people with egg on their faces. And, for the record, I've been compensated by no one for this (or any other) post, and I'm not writing from anybody's talking points other than my own. I just wish that a whole bunch of people would grow up.
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Stef said...

Len, I sincerely hope that you are right. I am not a reseller and I have no interest agains Apple, on the contrary and I hope that they do make that evolve to the greatest product ever... but I doubt that very much.

The fact is that Apple is not the company it was when it acquired FCP from Macromedia. At the time, the pro media market was one of their only professional market for the Mac and Avid had decided to port their Media Composer to Windows. Apple felt that this market was critical for their business and they invested heavily to keep it.

Today, the situation is much different and it has become more a distraction than a core business. While I believe that they want to provide tools to produce media, it seems that their focus is more on the individual producing media for online consumption than for the more complex needs of the pro market that manage sophisticated project for the "old" media. They most probably made the calculation that this is a market that needs too much specialized tools for it's size and that it was no longer Apple's mission to provide those.

I think that FCPX problem is more a question of long term strategy than a lack of judgement. While I hope that you are right, I do fear that it is indeed part of a fundamental shift and that they have no project to "fix" it since that from their viewpoint, it' not broken.

Unknown said...

Hi Stef,

Thanks for your comment! I completely agree with your point that Apple has changed direction dramatically. When the company acquired Final Cut in 1998, the iPod wasn't even on the horizon (it didn't ship until late in 2001.) Today, Apple is primarily focused on mobile devices.

I still believe that the missing features in FCPX are more a matter of timing than a sign of a wholesale move away from the needs of professional content creators. Here's what I suspect is going on:

1) Some of the missing features are dependent on OSX Lion or Lion Server (Xsan integration, for example). When Lion is shipped next month, those features will be relatively quickly delivered in updates.

2) The remainder of the missing features needed to bring FCPX to parity with FCP 7 will be delivered by the end of the year.

If you're right, and if Apple really doesn't see anything wrong with the functionality of FCPX "as is", professional editors will be fully justified in moving to Adobe or Apple. Either way, we'll know by the end of this year.

GPapadakis said...

The big issue is that they have removed links to the support and update pages on their site. Even if you wanted to stay on FCP 8 and wait for the missing features, if you need to set up additional seats or move your licences to new hardware, you can't.

Unknown said...

Technically, you can't stay on FCP 8, because the last release was FCP 7. Also, Point 3 (fourth paragraph) addresses your exact issue. Your response is one reason why I'm suspicious that this controversy is largely being manufactured by Apple's competitors.