FCP X – The Car

I’ve been struggling for the last couple of days to find a reasonable way to contextualise the decision Apple has made, in terms of broadcast editing, with some other less niche analogy. A car analogy always cuts through the confusion, so I think I’ve come up with one.

Let’s imagine a car racing league that uses production-style cars (basically ‘touring cars’ in many places). In this field there were a couple of established players, they made very good cars, but they were incredibly expensive as they really only made them for this very small number of potential clients.

Then a new upstart car maker comes along – they’ve designed a car that looks like one of these racing cars – we’ll call this car Fast Car Pro – it can drive the circuits well, but It’s not quite ready to win races, but it’s giving the big guys a run for their money. Also, this new car is available to the mass market and costs a just a tiny fraction of the cost of the established cars.

In time this Fast Car Pro starts to attract more professional teams and even wins a few races. Even more importantly there are now a large number of third parties making accessories and modifications for the car that make it more powerful and more suitable for the serious drivers. While at the same time the car is still fine for driving the kids to soccer or taking on a vacation.

After a decade in production the FCP is still going strong. Many racing drivers have adopted it and are doing great, but it’s a bit overdue for a new model and the manufacturer, Apple Automotive, has promised something great. At this point the car is still seen as a racing car that many people also like to drive on the highway.

After a lot of secret development Apple Automotive reveals their new Fast Car Pro X – which some people have suggested will be a Minivan Pro. It certainly is revolutionary, it has a joystick instead of steering wheel and all the seats (there’s now 7 of them, a lot like Apple’s minivan) automatically move around inside the car to where they are needed. It has auto-driving features and a host of other time-savers. For a ‘Soccer Mom’ this car certainly is revolutionary and will probably make life easier.

But for the racing drivers there are some problems. It can’t go above highway speeds for a start. None of their old aftermarket accessories can be used on the new car, and it can’t use the high-octane fuels they rely on for extra performance. Also the tyres can’t be changed to suit conditions, and it’s not possible to turn off the auto-driving features. It is still technically able to drive around the circuit, but it can’t do it with all the established racing cars.

Of course the original Fast Car Pro they’d become so used to still works fine, but it wasn’t going to be updated anymore. Also, surprisingly, Apple Automotive had decided that the same day they launched the new car they would entirely discontinue the old one. They stopped selling the original Fast Car Pro and even told dealers to send back all their inventory. If a team crashed one of their cars, or wanted to add a new car, there wasn’t any option to buy more – they would have to go to the second-hand market.

For the racing drivers this seems like the end of the world, they had built reputations and teams around the Fast Car Pro and now the new version simply couldn’t perform the way they needed it to. Apple’s decision seems insane to the drivers because Apple had effectively held half of the market for these racing cars. However the potential market for the racing cars was pretty small.

From Apple Automotive’s perspective and, perhaps more importantly, the perspective of their shareholders the new direction was a great decision. Now instead of a potential market of racing drivers and a reasonably small number of car enthusiasts they were looking at a potential market of just about everyone who needs to drive anywhere. Even if the professional racing drivers were entirely alienated they stand to gain a lot more than they lose with a new, more accessible, performance car.

Now, there is some hope that Apple Automotive might reinstate some of the missing features for the racing drivers, but there’s no suggestion of when that might be or what features might come back.