Apple Has Abandoned Pros

It’s been a week since FCP X arrived and started a fire storm of criticism from so many of the users who’d supported Apple’s flagship video editing software for so long. It now seems to have become apparent that Apple has simply abandoned this small, demanding and high-profile market in favour of a much broader and more valuable consumer market.

Before I go any further I need to define what I mean by Pros in the headline (and from here on) – I am referring, mainly, to editors who work predominantly in broadcast television and feature films. Obviously there are many more people earning money editing video, but it’s these editors who are the most demanding, and for whom the uncertainty of FCP X is such a problem.

Has Apple abandoned this market? I think to all intents and purposes they have. They will continue to claim that their product is a professional product and a continuation of the Final Cut Pro legacy, but in reality it really appears they are absolutely willing to lose that market if they need to.

And why wouldn’t they? Apple’s estimate of FCP install numbers was “two million” a while ago – it wasn’t clear how that was measured, but many speculated that it was all sales since 1.0 or some similar aggregate number. Regardless, it was clear that within the larger world of FCP users it was a minority that were utilising it in the demanding broadcast television and film market. The vast majority are probably doing all their work within the one suite – capturing a tape or importing a file, editing, basic audio mix in FCP or Soundtrack Pro, export a file for DVD or web upload. And then another large segment are likely to be “aspirational” editors – people who don’t get paid to make videos, but have installed FCP because they would like to one day and it’s the accessible “pro” tool.

So as small as the “professional” (see second paragraph) market is within that user-base, it so destined to be much smaller in an application that costs a mere $300 from the App Store and has so many simple time-saving features to make it as easy as possible to get something in and edited. Catering to the “professional” market would add complexity to the application, and reduce it’s appeal to people outside that market.

Apple doesn’t seem to do niche any more. They have been systematically killing any and all non-mainstream products they offered, and the re-imagining of Final Cut Pro seems clearly in line with that. If a product doesn’t have a sales potential of millions of units it doesn’t seem to fit into the Apple business plan.

Is FCP X a bad product? No, not really – and had it been called anything other than FCP X there would have been widespread acceptance of this. However FCP X is not a new version of the Final Cut Pro that had won respect in the film and television industry – it simply doesn’t have what it takes to work in that environment.

Businesses in the film and TV industry, that have to deliver a product to a strict standard within a strict deadline, can’t pin their hopes on a future upgrades or the next version while relying on an increasingly ageing product that has been EOL’ed. They need certainty and at the moment the only certainty that exists with FCP is that the current version has no future hopes and the current version isn’t suitable for their work. They have no choice but to look elsewhere.

It simply makes no financial sense for Apple – selling a $300 product that appeals, as is, to millions of people – to pursue a small market with very specific and complicated demands.

In the end Final Cut Pro X will be a success, it is a powerful and innovative application. But it will no longer be a big part of the film and TV post-production industry.

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