In various forum discussions over the last two weeks, I’ve been asked how I can defend Apple. People can’t understand how someone can simultaneously admit that Final Cut Pro X is, at present, largely useless to the market segment his own company works in, but still support what Apple is doing with it. I’ve been called a “fanboy” more times that I can count, and accused of defending Apple essentially out of blind loyalty, even against my own interests.
This is not the case. I’m defending Apple because I legitimately believe in what they’re attempting here, even if I disagree with some of their specific actions. I’ve tried a bit, but I haven’t been able to articulate very well why I feel this way. Yesterday, however, a reader sent me a link to this article, which has solved that problem for me… with the words of Mike Bernardo, a former Avid employee:
Even though the FCPX rollout seemingly exposes Apple’s hubris, I’m glad they did it. They seem to be the only company capable of pushing boundaries. I have no doubt FCPX will eventually catch up to where FCP7 was in terms of features and capability.
When I was at Avid, I worked on a few internal projects trying to solve this exact problem – we saw Apple coming after us from the low end and knew it was only a matter of time before they reached Avid’s capabilities.
We worked on building “next generation” editor software. New UI, new technical foundation that would take advantage of multiple CPUs and GPUs. Unfortunately these efforts ultimately went nowhere, since the company as a whole was too timid and worried about disenfranchising the existing customer base – exactly the problem Apple is facing now.
This is it precisely. For all that they’ve done wrong with this launch (canceling FCS3 way too early, failing to effectively communicate about future plans, shipping before working out the details of volume/education sales, etc.), Apple seems to be the only company capable of pushing boundaries. Avid saw the future, saw what they had to do… and didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger, even with a safer, more gradual transition plan.
And honestly, it’s hard to blame them. Ever since Ron Brinkmann’s X vs. Pro post made the rounds, people have been arguing that the reason Apple has been able to so act unilaterally with the FCP X launch is that Apple just doesn’t need its pro video customers enough. That Apple is so successful in general, it can afford to alienate users in this market. This is absolutely true.
I ran some rough numbers the other day. Avid’s quarterly revenue (almost entirely from pro audio and video products) is equivalent to about three days of iPad sales, based on the projected iPad numbers for this quarter. Avid absolutely cannot afford to alienate its existing user base, or even a small fraction of it. The company is teetering on the edge of profitability as it is. Commonly on the wrong side of it. Meanwhile, Final Cut Pro revenue is probably close to being a rounding error for Apple.
Yes, this means Avid is never going to ship a release that doesn’t have EDL or OMF exporting. It means Avid is never going to ship a release that discards backwards compatibility. It means Avid is never going to ship a release that eliminates a major feature like multicam.
But it also means the future will not be invented by Avid.
Apple is worth defending because, if any progress is to be made, this industry needs a company that is willing to do what, it seems, only Apple is willing to do.