This past February we talked about Final Cut Pro 8's forthcoming release and set of capabilities. The new name, Final Cut Pro X (FCP X), turned out to be different than anticipated, but the changes within the application went well beyond the surprise "X". The latest version of FCP was a bold move by Apple, which – before the official launch – was what Larry Jordan described as "jaw dropping".
But FCP X may have left us with more questions than answers. What exactly is FCP X? Who is its target audience? Will FCP 7 live on? What about the rest of the suite? Along the way to the sneak-peek, Apple gave us some clues with their pro direction.
Compared to other Apple events, the FCP X sneak peek was almost an anti-Apple launch. Apple choose to deliver their announcement to the core power users – a gathering of FCP groupies at the Supermeet event at NAB. But the show wasn't a mass market Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, or Phil Schiller production. Instead, Apple showed us they understand this is a different market, and their typical consumer-based, one-size-fits-all marketing presentation wasn't what a discerning video editing and production crowd would appreciate.
I was somewhat shocked to discover that information on FCP X can't be found on Apple's PR pages, or within the Final Cut site of Apple.com. In fact, the software isn't mentioned anywhere on the Apple site, there's not even a keynote video for the masses. Instead, Apple allowed Photography Bay to shoot a video of the presentation and post it on their site. Photography Bay?... Since Steve Jobs return to Apple, I'm not sure any major launch of software or hardware has even been approached this way, and it shows us that Apple isn't trying to use a marketing shoehorn, cramming every launch into a pre-forumlated package. Not having FCP X on the Apple website, yet delivering the product to their core user base via other methods is quite refreshing.
Many sites are bashing FCP X as being a diluted solution, or nothing more than a souped up iMovie – nothing could be further from the truth. Launching at Supermeet should have been evidence enough that Apple had it's core user-base squarely in mind with the new editor. On the surface FCP X looks overly simple, almost iMovie-like, but that's only because it is – on the surface. My ego did take a bit of a bruising with the GUI, as pro users expect a "pro" feel to their product. The expectation is that a pro solution should have many complicated pallets and require rigorous training to master the tools. It isn't so with FCP X. The program appears to work in the same fashion of peeling back layers onion, as the user can go as deep as they want. True enough, Apple has delivered more power, more editing speed, and more sophistication into Final Cut, yet made it easier to use.
Like any good politician who caters to their base first, then reaches out to the masses, Apple is approaching other markets with FCP X, chiefly photographers. Adobe and Apple beat each-other up for these users, as the pro-sumer photography market is huge and growing by the day. Photography Bay gaining access to shoot and post the Sneak Peek event wasn't happenstance. Apple chose a huge photography website to lead the way because it's the next big market Apple can draw into video editing. As HDSLR cameras plow forward, their image quality rivals or surpasses that of high-end video cameras. Notice how FCP X gladly accepts media card input and converts the heck out of it? Not only is this media conversion handy for the editor, it's huge in reaching out to the photography pro. Apple sees the future and it's got the software to lead these users into a new area where the lines clearly blur from editor, to photographer, to the two-guy shop speeding through web productions.
If anything was jaw-dropping it was Apple's price. $299 is almost a crazy for the product's capabilities, but Apple's moving to an aggressive Mac App Store sales model for all their software tools. Count on Apple delivering the rest of the studio suite via the Mac App store for $199 or $99 per title. The question that quickly arrises from Apple's pricing scheme is: What's the competition going to do?
I'm not sure Adobe and AVID will have answers any time soon, and no doubt they'll be watching their sales closely. Will Adobe and AVID un-bundle and lower their prices? Will either company fall into Apple's best laid trap, and sell their products through the Mac App Store (not likely)?
Apple's price is clear – it casts a wide net for potentially hundreds of thousands of new users. The questions now fall onto Apple's competition in how Adobe and AVID respond, and when.
Apple's internal decision making must fluster their competition (if not their own users base at times), as there seems to be no dogma that must be followed. Pro and consumer software features rarely stay within their pre-determined worlds. If there are great ideas and features to be had, Apple's will cross-breed them and let users of all stripes take advantage of the results. If the pro user's ego can get past the fact they've actually gained tools from iMovie, while embracing some out-of-the-box thinking, Final Cut Pro X is going to be a boon for Apple's base while expanding into the new realm of pro-sumer photography, at a price point that makes it work for everyone.
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