09
Aug 13

Apple’s evolving view of “pro”

In recent years, many pros have started feeling like Apple’s jilted girlfriend. Through no fault of their own, the love just seemed to fade.

Apple might claim otherwise when confronted, but the telltale signs have been hard to ignore:

Mac Pro. Apple’s most powerful Mac has been agonizingly slow in the update department. It hasn’t changed physically in eons. (Though it’s about to.) Ironically, the one Mac targeted specifically at the pro user remains the only Mac without a high-speed Thunderbolt connection. Even the Mac mini has had Thunderbolt for over two years.

17-inch MacBook Pro. This big-screen laptop was a favorite and a necessity for designers and video editors who needed that much real estate to be their mobile best. Then, poof.

Final Cut Pro. When the long-awaited update to Apple’s high-end video editing suite finally appeared, it lacked certain features critical for pro editors: multicam editing, EDL support, backward compatibility and more. You could say the pro editing community was speechless—but it wasn’t. The cries of anguish were long and loud.

Aperture. The latest version was released in February 2010. Yes, that’s 3.5 years without a major update. Even if you consider this misleading, the perception of stagnation is a natural result when Aperture’s competitor, Adobe Lightroom, continues to evolve visibly.

Could it possibly be? Would Apple ever even think about saying goodbye to the pro market?

I hope you’re sitting down for this, but Steve Jobs did in fact once consider that very option.

This was back in the days when iMac had established itself as a global bestseller. During one of the agency’s regular meetings with Steve, he shared that he was considering killing the pro products.

His rationale was as you might expect: consumer products have an unlimited upside, while pro products are aimed at a niche market that eats up major resources.

Obviously, the pro market has value for Apple, even if its numbers are relatively small. Pros are opinion leaders, influencers and evangelists. Their love of Apple shows up in the purchase decisions of friends, family and colleagues.

So Steve ultimately renewed his commitment to the pros—but he never said that this commitment wouldn’t evolve. Clearly Apple has changed its thinking about the pro market, and how it can best serve its pro users.

Some won’t like it, but basically it’s the difference between Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X.

In FCP7, the controls are rich and deep. As a consequence, getting proficient with the app is a serious undertaking.

FCPX is very powerful, but less daunting and more seductive — streamlining and automating some of its advanced capabilities.

For a lot of pros, this represents a dumbing down of FCP. In this way of thinking, FCP is evolving into “iMovie Pro.”

But one must be careful to separate two very different issues. First, there is the feature set of the app itself. Then there’s the bigger issue of where video editing is headed. Clearly Apple would like to rethink the fundamentals and build something better.

As a result, Apple does lose some customers. (Some of whom are rather loud about it.) But it keeps a core group of pros happy by pushing the boundaries. At the same time, it invites a larger audience of high-end consumers who can suddenly understand, enjoy and benefit from the app.

The new Mac Pro, coming later this year, embodies a similar philosophy.

It’s “user-friendly” in the way it’s designed, with expandability via Thunderbolt rather than internal slots and bays. Simply attach whatever you need and you’re in business.

It sends an encouraging message to the pro market that Apple has not forgotten them. More than an update, it’s a reinvention of one of the oldest computer categories. It’s something that only Apple would do.

The new Mac Pro does bring back memories of the Power Mac G4 Cube. That computer also surprised people with its visual design — and ended up being pulled from the market in a year. But the Cube was a consumer product priced too high. The Mac Pro is a pro product that should be worth its price.

Will every pro user love the new Mac Pro?

Nope. We’ll no doubt hear grousing that with its new cylindrical shape, the Mac Pro is virtually impossible to rack-install. Or that sacrificing internal options is a non-starter.

For those people, Apple is still walking away from the pro market. In truth though, Apple is walking to a place that’s entirely new — and asking the pros to walk with them. They’re betting that people who love to create and innovate will appreciate a super-powerful computer designed in the same spirit.

Ah, but there does still remain the matter of the vanishing 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Unless you believe that in the future pros will suddenly prefer working on smaller screens, it’s hard to see this as a positive development.

Of course all will be forgiven if that little baby were to come back, all nice and Retina-ized…

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  • BFMAN22

    lin2log, Wow, what a dick, hey, just be happy with your FCP X. You sound like a fool, you must be a joy to work with. Not.

  • BFMAN22

    oh yeah, truth hurts.. Retina is also %20 less bright. Like Lin2log

  • BFMAN22

    Old MP with connections on the front and back was key. Now it is expected that you by a hub or breakout box.
    Not that great in a pro environment where you are swapping files on the fly all the time. Apple is the king of making their old products obsolete. Good for progress, Bad for a budget.

  • lin2log

    Make bullshit up much?

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  • BFMAN22

    Read it and weep dipsh!t.. Google too, 20 % less bright.
    It is easily noticed and helped extend battery life.

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/130819-analyzing-the-macbook-pro-with-retina-display

    Here is an entire Thread

    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4035779?start=15&tstart=0

  • EditDude

    Jessica,

    This is the life of Pro Editors.

    I have to ingest 10 minutes of beauty shots from RED
    I have a dozen shots from XD Cam backup drives
    I need 2 shots from Beta SP we shot 15 years ago
    3 shots from a DVCam we shot 5 years ago
    I need to get a rough cut to audio for sweetening in 60 minutes.
    I need to conform the final audio mix, add graphics, and
    Output an H264 QT 720P file for client approval in 2 hours.

    DO IT IN FINAL CUT PRO X? No Way!

    This is why we bought Avid and Premiere systems, The transition has been a hassle… changing workflow, updating plug ins, and retraining employees. We like our new systems, and we don’t need Apple telling us we need to adapt to how they view editing. So, life goes on. After owning Apple products since my Apple II, all I can say is, HP makes a killer workstation, Creative Cloud is a great value, and I love my Android phone! Yes Apple, there is more money to be made selling consumer products!

  • West

    It’s not an insult. I’m just saying some Adobe products have little serious direct competition. Most pros may not mess around with alternatives to Photoshop unless it’s specialized in something Photoshop can’t do.

    After Effects is the cornerstone of a lot of vfx and motion graphics work. There are better alternatives for some aspects like keying and compositing. Though creating effects from scratch and through scripts really makes AE a powerhouse.

    Take a look at Cinepaint (www.cinepaint.org) It’s a fork of GIMP designed to be used for high bit depth files for film/video work. It had traction in the mid 2000s, then it really slowed down. That’s one of the problems with open source, you need a robust base to keep the development going. Blender has that and is growing nicely.

    All companies care about self preservation. What happens when Microsoft decides that MS Office will be solely subscription based? Are any of the alternatives serious competition to MS Office.

    When you’re working in an industry, collaboration and workflows make it hard to support alternatives when the industry standard is what most people are using.

    When it’s a hobby, it doesn’t usually matter. You can work with whatever, since mostly self contained.

  • Alex Gerulaitis

    As you said, Apple isn’t catering to “Pros” , it stopped doing that long ago. Apple is demanding “pros” do things their way. If “pro” means “expandable”, “flexible”, “well supported” – then Apple is anything but.

    The new Mac Pro is just another manifestation of it: any I/O other than TB or USB, be it SAS, FC, or 10GbE, adds another chassis, another power supply, another fan whirring at the user, another mess of cables.

    It’s a fast toy for rabid Apple fans who drank too much Apple Kool-aid, and for designers and eggheads appreciating the thought that went into it, but who couldn’t care less about its performance-to-price ratio. As such, the new Mac Pro is doomed unless Apple comes up with a killer app for it. Those killer apps were FCP, Motion and Color back in the day. Those days are gone. FCPX, while having the potential, just isn’t a match to CS: a mosquito against an elephant.

    “Pro” is a non-issue, now that they make gyro-stabilized film-making rigs for iPhones, and feature films are shot on 5DMk2. Apple pioneered (or stole and consumerized) a great many novel concepts and for that, they got respect along with the market share, boatloads of cash, caches of rabid fans.

    The issue is that Apple is running out of killer apps. iOS is losing ground to Android. FCPX – lost it to Adobe. iTunes? What’s that? Whatever killer product Apple comes out with, is dead in the water without a killer app.

    2013 Mac Pro: you look great even before I take note of the price tag – but you also look very pale. Is that because your girlfriend, the Killer App, is nowhere to be found?

  • jumpcutter

    Thank you for clearing that up. Adobe is really making it difficult for the individual with this Creative Cloud thing. It doesn’t seem expensive as a monthly fee but multiply that fee by 12 and it is about $600 per year. I am also learning that many people are having problems downloading and using the software as claimed. Adobe’s customer service does not exist, so I have read in Adobe’s forums. It’s the outsourcing of that department that is causing problems, The prices supposedly are being modified due to consumer backlash. Adobe has itself a dilemma
    but supposedly they have 700,000 customers in the Cloud. I am glad I am looking for alternatives to Adobe’s offerings. The main problem is the renting of software… All the other claims Adobe makes may be okay to try… 20 GB of online storage, classes, etc. but you do not own the license of said software. Many do not like the subscription model but who knows where this will lead.

  • lin2log

    LOL! As if that made ANY difference in the overall brilliance of the screen. Commit logical fallacies much??

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  • BFMAN22

    No Fallacy, that would be like saying it is just as brilliant even if you decided to make it even less bright than it is. With you, as we can all clearly see, if Apple says so, you are their lap dog.
    Dont get me wrong, I have hundreds of shares of their stock.. I’m in it to see Apple produce great things, but constructive criticism is needed. And we’re waiting on a Gold Phone? It better be good.

  • Shakers

    Apple killed Shake, really showing their love for the Pro User. Lifestyle products for the win. (puke)

  • JMC

    The term “pro” is not imbued with MORE meaning just because it has been dumbed down and bastardized. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s kinda like “HD.” It means nothing not what you can go to the grocery store and buy an HD carrot.

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  • Butch

    With Samsung stealing Apple’s lunch in the consumer department they better start circling the wagons back to the Pro market soon. Adobe deciding to bend over it’s customer base is one of the worst travesties of “customer care” I’ve seen in quite a long time some company needs to balance the market and bring some genuine value to the table. Why shouldn’t it be Apple?

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