In which I show evidence that Apple hasn’t given up on Pro Apps, and suggest why they aren’t in any hurry to update them.
Given recent upgrades for other editing software, Final Cut users have been increasingly frustrated with a lack of news of updates from Apple.
Today’s announcement of a very minor update for Final Cut Pro (to version 6.0.6) will be the main topic of conversation on the web and user group meetings in the weeks to come (such as the London SuperMeet on Thursday).
Some are saying that Apple have given up on editing software, and want to spend more time being a consumer products company.
I think that is unlikely. It is more likely that Apple isn’t releasing a new version until it is ready. As they don’t consider any other editing software as competition, they are letting technology trump marketing this time around.
In the 90s I used to beta test Director for Macromedia. It was long enough ago that we would get a care package every fortnight with 15-20 floppy discs. These would unstuff to be a new version of ‘Spike’ or whatever the codename was for the beta of Director 4, 5 or 6 we were testing. Every time we thought the programming team had only a couple of months left to squash the bugs we’d pointed out (as opposed to needing to sort so much that they’d never get it done), they’d send us a letter saying “Thanks for your help, we release in three weeks; please find a T-shirt enclosed.”
Macromedia needed to release at the next Macworld, or NAB or Comdex or whatever. The bugs were going to be fixed in version X.0.1 or 0.2.
But what is the evidence that Apple is still invested in Pro Apps such as Final Cut?
Apple is still looking for people to shape the future of Pro Apps
If you go to jobs.apple.com and search using ‘Pro Apps’ as the keyword, you get four listings:
Software Development Engineer Posted 9 Jun ’09
Sr Human Interface Designer, Pro Apps Posted 13 Jan ’09
Sr Visual Interface Designer, Pro Apps Posted 13 Jan ’09
Video Editor Product Designer, Pro Apps Posted 18 Nov ’08
These job descriptions tell a tale: The features and user interface of the next version of Final Cut were locked in November 2008. While the beta programme and bugfixing continue, it was time to hire an editor who knows about software development to join the team. He or she would be the person with real-world experience to communicate with the programmers the ways people in post production work up until now.
They didn’t find anyone who was quite right for that job, so they created two new job descriptions based on the previous one, but each looking for someone with more formal human interface design training [“Degree in interaction design, human factor and/or visual design (or equivalent).”]
Those jobs are still open, but on the 9th of this month, they posted the job description for someone to continue to develop the software behind the Pro Apps documentation system. A good time to hire someone new would be once a load of documentation for Final Cut Studio has changed.
Apple is working with external plugin makers on developer mailing lists
Although they can’t comment on unannounced products, if you follow the postings, they imply that version 6.0.6 will not be the last version of Final Cut.
For example, someone from the Apple team wrote this:
Sometime in the last year or two, I surveyed FxPlug developers and asked about which features they’d like to see, and one that came out near the top was “create windows in the UI.” If this was a feature you were looking for, can you remind me what it is that you need from it?
Although this might pique the interest of Final Cut users, I wouldn’t advise wading through the mailing list for nuggets for future features. You won’t find anything specific – certainly nothing committed to or worth basing your plans on.
Software development isn’t like pregnancy. It takes a different amount of people every time. This time it has taken a lot longer because Apple have had a ton of work to do. The current assumption is that Final Cut has had to be re-written from the ground up. Code written back in 97 and 98 has to be junked to get rid of the rats nest of additions and modifications over the years.
What about new features? I want them now!
I’ve already blogged about a great feature to add to Final Cut Studio which wouldn’t depend too much on existing or new code. You can bet that any feature that extends and re-enforces the Apple Pro hardware and software ecosystem will get priority.
The place to contribute to Final Cut Pro 7.5 and 8, therefore, is on user group sites with a lot of history. If you go the the LAFCPUG forum, they have a sticky topic that’s been around for years: ‘FCP Feature Requests’. If you think you have an original idea for a feature, read all the posts there first. If it hasn’t come up there, add a post on the end…
I don’t think Apple have given up on Pro Apps. The only problem they (and we) have is that they don’t consider Avid and Adobe proper competition any more. Premiere will forever be associated with enthusiastic amateurism, and Avid has only just passed Final Cut 6 feature-wise (in the eyes of FCP users) – which isn’t good enough for people to switch. If Apple felt more pressure from them, maybe we’d get new versions sooner. Competition is the only thing that will make Apple move more quickly.
Remember: Final Cut Studio is to high-end Macs what iTunes is to iPods/iPhones. Why would a few million dollars a year in software development not be worth all that hardware margin?