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Media Software Upgrades Apple

Is Final Cut Pro X Apple's Biggest Mistake In Years? 443

Hugh Pickens writes "The latest version of Final Cut Pro, the widely used tool in the professional video editing world, was getting a reputation as the app that launched a thousand complaints, as the 955 reviewers and raters on iTunes collectively rated FCP as, 'Two and a half stars.' 45% of reviewers gave the software one star, the lowest rating possible, bestowing on the program the dubious honor of being the lowest-rated Apple software hosted by the company's digital store. Many complaints center around lost features. We used to be able to do this, and now we can't. You can't work with existing FCP Suite projects. There's no external video monitoring, no EDL imports, no backup application disk so good luck re-installing the software on the road without a good internet connection, and lots of unanswered questions about site licensing."
Pickens continues: "'This was the product that completely built my company starting in 2000 / 2001 and now it's time for me to say goodbye,' writes Walter Biscardi. 'As I tell everyone else, if the tool isn't working for you, then find a tool that does.' But is this negative response just a very short-term response from editors who have gotten used to doing things the old way and don't want to change? Clearly, there are some amazing new features in FCP X. The 64-bit architecture means much better performance. The new tools such as the magnetic timeline, clip connections, compound clips, and audition seem like intuitive, great features. 'Great design, like great music, is almost always foreign at first, if not disturbingly strange,' writes David Leitner. 'You have to spend time with it. But if it is great, and if you invest your attention, it will change the way you look at the world.'"
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Is Final Cut Pro X Apple's Biggest Mistake In Years?

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  • Worry not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bazmail ( 764941 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @05:59PM (#36571488)
    Steve will send some shill journalist *cough*mossberg*cough* a short ambiguous email explaining why FCP X is actually a better product, then the fanboys will understand that they were wrong and Apple is right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 25, 2011 @05:59PM (#36571492)

    Apple now. Mozilla recently. Canonical a few months ago. Facebook... well, forever.

    Hiding behind "you're doing it wrong; the software is right, change your habits" may work sometimes; just because everyone else got away with it doesn't mean you're in the same boat.

    There's certainly a lot of niches out there for software done right, if anyone wants to jump into them.

  • by inpher ( 1788434 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:00PM (#36571496)

    Apple essentially merged FCP and FCE. While leaving the extremely advanced users behind with EOL software. Some numbers say that Apple sold about 2 million copies [creativecow.net] of the last version of Final Cut Pro, if we assume that Final Cut Express sold less, at perhaps one million copies (this is a bit low, part of me thinks there are actually more FCE users). This is the market for the new Final Cut [any version] that Apple is targeting. However, was their mistake in alienating the top 50 000 - 100 000 or so users in the initial release enough to kill their whole market? No, most users are not affected by the high end limitations in the initial release.

    Most importantly though is that almost all of the complaints have already been acknowledged by Apple and the product manager has promised that they will return to the suite in coming updates [nytimes.com].

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:01PM (#36571504)

    I can see Apple trimming features and re-thinking the UI in ways that people aren't used to: they do that constantly.

    But making a new version of a software that can't load files created by last month's version? That's insane. These are professional quality video files: advertisements, short films, TV shows, movies ... these things have far more value to their creators than any features the new version might have.

    Ensuring backward compatibility with existing data files for at least a couple of years, or at the bare minimum providing a translator, is probably the first rule of software design. What were they thinking?

  • by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:05PM (#36571552)

    especially Linux netbooks - no consumers will want windows once they've seen ubuntu...

  • by bazmail ( 764941 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:06PM (#36571558)
    ..or .Mac, Mobile Me, Apple TV etc All stellar successes.
  • by juosukai ( 1714458 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:09PM (#36571610) Homepage

    ... but apparently a lot more vocal than anyone thought.

    Apples decision to go the prosumer-route makes perfect business sense, developing a tool for professionals in this market probably offers a dismal ROI, as compared to a tool that anyones mother buys for editing a wedding. They just had no inclination how attached and vocal the FCP users are, and the amount of backlash is staggering to them. The professional market (that needs OMF, XML EDL etc.) is probably a negligible speck in their turnover, but then again, they are people who are professionals in communicating, so this is turning into a PR disaster.

    And the sad part it, most of this could have been avoided by two things: communication and not EOL:ing FCS3.

    They should have come out saying that the product is not yet ready for professional use, and they are hoping to add the missing features in a certain timeframe. No, Apple hardly ever comes out and says this, but in this case I see no downside. The software seems brilliant for most users, and the Apple MO is to make big changes in the playing field, and giving people no choice except to embrace it or to fuck right off. But right now it is not a question of doing things differently, there are huge and gaping issues that render the software unusable for use in many environments.

    And they should not have pulled FCS3 from the shelves. I mean, how stupid was that. Now bigger facilities are fucked if they need to add another seat, or someone loses his/her disks etc. They gain nothing but killing the product right away, but lose a lot of good will. They should have waited until _most_ of the professional features were there, giving people the option of staying with FCP instead of jumping ship to Avid or Premiere....

    I guess that this debacle, along with eoling the xserve and adding os x server as standard to Lion is just to show that Apple is in no way interested in the business market. And that is perfectly ok, well within their rights. I am already migrating my clients from OS X Server based solutions to Linux and BSD (and AD, of all things). I just hope that others see the writing on the wall as well...

  • Caved on what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:11PM (#36571636)

    Or how about we talk about how they caved in on the 30% cut for inapp purchases? Nobody talks about that?

    Confusion - what is there to talk about besides Apple getting 30% on in-app purchases? That remains the case today. How did Apple "cave" there?

    Are you thinking subscriptions? They did dial back a little. But lots of people talked about that...

    Or how about how that Swiss newspapers are shifting away from iPad apps to HTML 5 apps

    OMG, where the Swiss go the world follows!

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:14PM (#36571658) Journal

    Hiding behind "you're doing it wrong; the software is right, change your habits" may work sometimes

    It works for SAP. To our present horror and eternal damnation.

  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:15PM (#36571672)

    Apple TV is actually pretty good.

    If they open it up to App development, then it is going to rock the crap out of any of the devices in that space.

    Oh... and .mac/Mobile Me are the same product and have morphed into the iCloud services which, according to everyone who has looked at them... are pretty damn good.

  • Re:"Apple's Vista" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:31PM (#36571768)

    You could continue using FCP 7 but...

    - You'll be stuck with an application which hasn't seen serious updates in over 2 years, it won't continue to support the latest codec updates for things like Red footage and get the features.
    - You won't be able to open your projects in FCP-X once it does reach feature maturity.
    - You can't buy copies of FCP 7 so if you need another license you're SOL.
    - You could be using an application *now* which has everything that FCP-X promises in the future.
    - You may never see some features return and Apple isn't providing any roadmaps like other companies on what and when they intend to release.
    - You are now waiting on a company which has made through action and lack of communication perfectly clear that they aren't targeting your market sector anymore. Motion is evidently a perfectly reasonable replacement for Shake according to Apple. If you disagree with Apple on that point... I wouldn't stick around waiting for pro features to find their way back into FCP-X... ever.

    It would have been like if Vista had been released and Microsoft had stopped supporting XP that same day.

  • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:32PM (#36571776) Homepage

    The 30-year old Avid timeline interface and the new FCPX magnetic storyline (coupled with some of the missing features) are probably different enough that, no, you can't just read in a previous project. Without a half-zillion available tracks, you won't get an exact one-to-one conversion.

    FCPX is a clean break with the past. Some will deal with it. Others will cry and complain about how things aren't the way they used to be and that they need to learn something new. Some will run to other platforms, each with their own problems and issues. (And cause equal chaos and disruption to their precious workflows in the process.)

    Some will do the sensible thing and stick with their current toolset until FCPX has what they need. After all, FCP7 works just as well today as it did last week. No one is forcing Walter or any of the other guys to convert today. Their "tool" is still working. All Apple needs to do is maintain FCP7 until FCPX gets up to speed and third-parties get drivers and codecs available for video cards and cameras like the RED.

    And some will dive in and create some amazing video with it. Personally, I can't wait.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:53PM (#36571954)

    What I find amazing is the number of people here who will rip into companies for never spending time improving the quality of their software rather than adding features, turning great products into bloat, etc.

    Here we have a company taking a product that was getting on the bloat side, and completely rewriting from stage 1. Making something much more efficient and easy to work with (though admittedly lacking some features), and saying "hey, we'll add the crucial features in the next few months as we figure out what you guys are really missing", and suddenly everyone goes "oh my god, biggest mistake ever".

    I'm sorry, but what... Good on apple for taking the brave move and de-bloating their app.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:56PM (#36571980)

    For example the iPhone 4 antenna problems.

    The truth wasn't "buried." The antenna problem was simply so blown out of proportion to begin with, mostly by anti-Apple zealots. People stopped talking about it because most realized realized it was a non-issue that didn't affect their day-to-day usage of the phone.

    how about how that Swiss newspapers are shifting away from iPad apps to HTML 5 apps... No that you don't hear about.

    Seriously? Now you're really reaching...

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @07:20PM (#36572154)

    The issue is not whether you can create good new video with it, or whether you have to learn something new. It's the fact that the existing FCP data files out there are worth millions -- or more likely billions -- of dollars, and unless backward compatibility is maintained, those files are *worthless*.

    You do video editing for a local advertiser. Your client wants to rebroadcast last year's Memorial Day sale ad with this year's dates and times. You're screwed.
    You're the editor/director for a small but successful art film that showed at Cannes last year. A studio asks you to make a few changes so they can show it in theaters worldwide. You're screwed.
    You did a TV biography of a famous person three years ago. That person has just died, and your channel wants to do a retrospective using your footage. You're screwed.
    You're a senior film major applying for work at a major studio. They ask you to send them a sample of your most recent work so they can look at your technical skills. You're screwed.

    I can't think of another major piece of software that broke backward compatibility with data files from the previous version. When OS X came out, they had Classic Environment so you could run OS 9 apps, and they supported that for about a decade. When Intel macs arrived, they provided Rosetta so PowerPC apps would still work, and they supported that for six years. Word 2010 will still read Word '97 documents. I'm not sure, but I think Adobe Illustrator CS5 can open Illustrator '86 documents.

    This is not a case of stick-in-the-mud thinking. It's simply the case that for every experienced professional user of a piece of software, the value of the software is insignificant compared to the value of the files they've created using it.

  • Re:"Apple's Vista" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @07:58PM (#36572374)

    And somehow this situation is tremendously different from a week or so ago before the release of Final Cut X?

    I'm actually not a FCP user, I switched years ago when it started stagnating and everyone else continued to innovate but I have many professional FCP editors for friends and I think I can repeat pretty well why they've stuck around until now unlike me.

    1) Last week you could buy more seats of your software as you hire more freelancers, staff up or buy more workstations.
    2) Last week you could hold out hope that FCP-X was going to "Revolutionize Editing" for the better.
    3) They are Apple fans, they love Apple's products and they believe Apple it committed to the professional market and hold some sort of 'loyalty' to the professional industry which kept Apple afloat in the 'dark times' when everyone else switched to PC.

    Essentially last week you could hold out hope that you were a week away from a FCP Renaissance that would reaffirm Apple's commitment to its pro-user customer base and make up for the years of neglect. This week you know exactly what you're getting and you now know it's incompatible with the previous version.

    For years people have been saying.
    "You just have to give Apple time, the reason the pro-apps division has been so slow and inattentive isn't because of a shift in focus to consumers instead of professionals. It's the calm before the storm, soon you'll see that Apple has been working secretly behind the scenes to rebuild FCP from the ground up. And then all you doubters will see the error in your ways."

    2 years later...
    "Introducing iMoviePro!"

    Apple is getting slapped by the "I told you so." crowd and all of the loyal followers who had been defending Apple for years insisting that Apple was still serious about its professional software division.

    I certainly fall into the 'I told you so' crowd. Why? Because I was a Shake user. Apple buys shake. Apple stops supporting Shake but all of the murmurs are "oh but just you wait for Phenomenon. They're rewriting shake from the ground up to blow your socks off." We got a few updates to Motion.

    Apple isn't interested in serving the high-end market. There is nothing wrong with that. But the sooner people accept that, the sooner they'll stop being continually disappointed by Apple not serving their needs.

    Last week people thought Apple was still serious about the pro-division. This week everyone is pretty much on the same page that Apple is sending not-so-subtle hints that they would rather add Facebook Integration than add the features that Pro users are wanting.

    Also Apple's secrecy is killing their good will with the industry. They evidently never brought in 3rd party developers during development to start writing their tools. None of the developers who have to fill in the holes were given a chance start working with FCP-X months ago to have their solutions ready for release. Again, that kind of thing just doesn't fly in the professional industry. You provide roadmaps, you bring in your partners early and on your ship date everybody is ready. We don't like to be surprised be when we're surprised we can't prepare.

    They've brought this upon themselves and a vocal official commitment to professional users is what's needed. This won't happen though since that would be antithetical to Apple's culture of secrecy and surprise announcements. Professional users need to not just be told through a NYT blogger that XYZ feature is coming. They need estimates of when and in what form it'll be delivered.

  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @08:48PM (#36572742)

    Shouldn't they be saying: "I'm going to use the old FCP until all of these specific issues are resolved to my satisfaction.If that never happens I will have to look at other options."

    No. Because professional users shouldn't expect to ever see those updates--especially since there is no official promise on Apple's part to introduce them... ever.

    People are *ASSUMING* that Apple will re-introduce these missing features. But Apple hasn't said that. And before FCP-X was announced people *ASSUMED* that it would be a professional app that reaffirmed Apple's commitment to its professional users. Instead they got iMoviePro.

    That destroys people's trust in a company when you wait patiently for years holding onto increasingly outdated tech only to have the replacement end up being even less impressive.

    There are excellent and superior alternatives...and there have been for some time. It was only loyalty to Apple that kept a lot of these people around. Loyalty and the *assumption* that Apple wouldn't let them down when they finally delivered.

    Apple finally showed its hand and it had evidently been bluffing for the last 2 years. When you're betrayed like that your reaction shouldn't be to keep using the old junker--hoping you don't get screwed again, you should switch at the earliest convenience.

  • Not only FCP X (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cjcela ( 1539859 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @09:02PM (#36572824)
    IMHO, since OS X was introduced, with each new version Apple applications have been dumbed down in the name of streamlining them. Maybe they are trying to appeal to a broader but less savvy audience. In my mind, it is frustrating, and it is the same kind of thought that brought Microsoft to came up with Clippy... Whatever is the case, because of this (and the constant 100MB 'updates' for that repugnant abobination iTunes has become) , I am seriously considering going back to Linux for my next computer, after years of using OS X...
  • by Cylix ( 55374 ) * on Saturday June 25, 2011 @09:02PM (#36572826) Homepage Journal

    Unless you were contractually required to keep the raw there is no screwing. You won't get some free cash just by tweaking, but it rather might just be time to create a new spot.

    When I worked in the broadcast industry we typically kept the raw footage, a backup of the project file and components and the final work. The final work would be in numerous locations beyond the production environment if it was a current production spot. In that case it would be loaded in playout systems and stored in the backup systems as well.

    While we did try to keep some older NLEs kicking around in case we wanted to quickly revamp a spot it wasn't unheard of to ingest the raw footage or pull the clips from the project file backup. There was an instance where someone wanted their REALLLY old spot brought back to life and there was only one extremely long raw beta tape sitting around. I kid you not... when the material was shot it was on BETA. Someone actually found the old finished spot on beta in storage and there was much rejoicing.

    In summary, if you are reasonably prepared and work in a commercial environment it isn't difficult to not be bitten by the upgrade bug. In our case, upgrades were the least of our worries most of the time. Really, the people this impacts are those who are utilizing poor recovery strategies.

  • by swalve ( 1980968 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @10:20PM (#36573272)
    ugh, that's the Apple problem. Function follows form. "We make it pretty, you get used to the limited functionality."
  • by Artifice_Eternity ( 306661 ) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @11:23PM (#36573560) Homepage

    I love how Apple cultists ritually denounce anyone who dares to want to do something that Apple doesn't allow them to do.

    When I bought my MacBook Pro a couple years ago, only a few weeks after Apple stopped shipping them with S-video ports, I was surprised, to say the least. The new video-out port was something I'd never heard of (MiniDisplayPort), that only Apple was using. I bought a $30 MiniDisplayPort-to-VGA adapter (from Apple, of course)... but it turned out that this wouldn't work with most VGA devices, because it wasn't actually converting the digital signal to analog. So I had to buy an actual powered converter box to get my video output into a format I could use with any monitor, TV, or projector that I had access to.

    The attitude of the "Geniuses" at the Apple Store was completely arrogant. "No one uses S-video any more -- it's out of date. Why would you want to use an obsolete standard?" It wasn't obsolete a few weeks earlier, apparently -- but when Apple declares it so, it instantly becomes so.

  • by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @01:12AM (#36574066) Journal

    I think (hope!) dumbing down of interfaces is a fad. For all the simplicity of interfaces these days (let's take OS X as an example), I hate to think about all the times I had to search the net about how to do something from the command-line because the UI didn't allow it, or to look up some magic keypress that isn't discoverable. Or that simple functionality like Refresh isn't available in Finder. A lot of Apple products are like that. Browsers are starting to go that way, too. Seems the ultimate state might be to leave the computer turned off - doesn't accomplish what I want but is very simple.

  • Maybe not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @03:19AM (#36574480)

    Sorry but professional users are not a big part of Apple's market these days. They really aren't the Apple you once knew, they are a consumer electronics company. First and foremost they make money on iToys: Phones, MP3 players, tablets, etc and related services (don't believe the hype, they make plenty on iTunes). Their computer division could go away entirely and they'd still be doing great because that is where the majority of their profit is now.

    In terms of computers, their big market is laptops for people who want something shiny. They've really struck a chord with the hipster crowd in college and it is the one and only laptop for many of them, even when they are in programs that require Windows to run the software (they just use bootcamp/VMware).

    The pro market? Very small in comparison. It isn't zero, but it is nothing compared to their big consumer markets. Hence they really don't have to care if they don't want to.

    Also another thing Apple has going for them is they are very high margin on all their devices. In some industries, they like the high end users because those are high margin, though low volume. Apple on the other hand has good margins on all their devices, that is part of the reason they are so extremely profitable. Again, that means the pro world just isn't that important.

    Just understand where Apple's money is, what their market is these days. Also understand that Apple's success lately has been on not listening to people and just kinda doing their own thing. As such I think they'll continue to do that, and continue to have a consumer focus.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday June 26, 2011 @09:07AM (#36575608) Journal

    Still, if you look objectively at the record Apple has had a pretty phenomenal decade overall.

    Yes, if you look at it from the point of view of stock price. If you own shares (which I do), you see that Apple has had a phenomenal decade.

    If you care about the future of personal computing, and the use of computers to make things, to create (which I do), then Apple has gone straight into the shitter.

  • You are not comparing like-for-like. Word can open a file made with a version issued 16 years ago and 90% of it will be right. If you open a Word 2007 document it will be 100% right, or with 2003 file it will be 99.9% right.

    In the new Final Cut you can't open files from the 2009 version. Not a 16 year old version, the last one from a couple of years ago. The one that everyone is using, that they have vast amounts of current and valuable work in.

    Nice attempt at a straw man.

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