Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: The war is on

Earlier today, Apple made Final Cut Pro X available in the OSX App Store for $299.99 (U.S.). Since NAB, there have been many questions about how Apple would make the other applications in the previous Final Cut Studio suite available, and the company answered the questions today: Motion is available as a separate application, for $49.99, as is Compressor, for the same $49.99. Final Cut Pro X includes much of the functionality from Soundtrack Pro, Color and DVD Studio Pro, so I assume that those applications have been discontinued.

Yesterday, I noticed a number of posts on Twitter, saying that Adobe is looking for bloggers to become Premiere Pro "ambassadors". The reason is clear: Adobe has got to be very scared by Apple's new pricing. A full copy of Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium costs $1.699. If you just want Premiere Pro, that's $799; After Effects is $999, and Audition is $349. In other words, it's cheaper to buy the Production Premium suite. I would say that Adobe has to lower its prices dramatically to compete with Apple, but that goes against Adobe's corporate philosophy, which is to continually raise, not lower, prices.

Avid is also feeling pain; the company launched a preemptive strike against Apple by making Media Composer available to Final Cut Pro users for $995 right before NAB, only to learn that Apple planned to sell Final Cut Pro X for $300 a few days later. Again, I don't expect Avid to drop its prices to compete with Apple; the company remains in somewhat fragile condition, and a price war is the last thing it needs.

One question is, why did Apple drop its prices so precipitously? It didn't really need to in order to satisfy the needs of the professional audience, which has been conditioned to expect pro video editing packages to be priced at $1,000 or more. I think that there are a few possible reasons:
  • Final Cut Pro X is dramatically different from previous versions of the software, and Apple may have wanted to lessen resistance to buying the new version. At $300 (or $400 for the equivalent of the previous Final Cut Studio), it's almost an impulse buy.
  • By making Final Cut Pro X available at a low price and selling it only in the OSX App Store, Apple may be conditioning its customers to buy all their software, not just inexpensive software, online. (It may also be part of the process of getting customers ready for Macs without any optical drives.)
  • Apple and Adobe aren't friends, or even "frenemies". They're enemies. Apple is already driving a stake into Flash, and any sales that Apple takes away from Premiere Pro and After Effects will show up in Adobe's bottom line. In this battle, Avid may turn out to be an unintended casualty.
This is most likely not the end of Apple's pricing moves. There's still Logic Studio, sold as boxed software and priced at $499. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a new version of Logic Studio, priced at perhaps $199 or $299, released in the OSX App Store later this year.

Apple's pricing for Final Cut Pro X opens up a new front in its war against Adobe (and to a lesser extent, Avid). Apple's competitors absolutely don't want to respond, but they may have no choice.
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