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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  • Abraham

    “Same thing with Maps– far superior to Google’s product.” You’re drunk, Jessica…

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  • I have the 15″ Retina, and what I’ve noticed is that the text is so sharp that I can easily read much smaller type. I actually like it more than the old 17″ for that reason. So try it, you might actually like it given the chance …

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  • you are lord.

  • You are lord! LOVE it!

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  • Tom Wyrick

    I think people need to remember that Steve Jobs *always* believed his company was about pleasing the consumers (and by extension, the educational market) — NOT the big corporations. He viewed them as the “bad guy” who preferred the products companies like IBM sold in the 80’s, and Microsoft catered to in the 90’s.

    As big and successful as Apple became in the last decade or so, I think much of that was an unplanned and unintended result of the iOS products taking hold in corporate America — and I’m not sure Apple really knew what to make of it?

    Don’t forget, before the iPhone and iPad revolution, Apple’s big “hit” beyond the computers was the iPod — a very CLEARLY consumer oriented device that nobody would classify as an “Enterprise product”. And really, the first iPhone was focused on launching off of and expanding on the iPod….. iPod Touch was just an iPhone sans cellular radio.

    When all was said and done about the battle between Microsoft and Apple, I think perhaps Jobs’ way of reconciling all of it in his head was by sticking to the core idea that “Big businesses will always keep buying the Microsoft stuff, and that’s fine. But I’m going to remain successful as long as I give people an alternative to it they can buy from me to use at home and get a more user-friendly experience.” (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs remained on good terms with each other at a personal level — regularly seen going out to dinner together and so forth.)

    The “Pro” market for the Mac was always a group sort of caught in the middle, IMO. The “creative” types may rely on their Macs to get work done for a paycheck, but they’re just as often freelancers (even working from home) vs. actual corporate employees. And when you saw corporations buying Macs for these people to use, it was generally at a departmental level. It wasn’t really an “Enterprise wide” adoption. Apple always seemed to be ok with that idea. (I remember as far back as the early 1990’s, they sold a PowerMac tower labeled a “workgroup server” — because they envisioned a department of Macs would all connect to it in a room someplace, making up an isolated little Mac network in a bigger business.) I think the XServe and XSan products were a more modern extension of this same idea.

    I wonder if Apple’s “pulling back” of the Pro product lines was a sign of the company’s discomfort watching the bits and pieces intended for departmental or educational use cobbled together as Enterprise solutions? I felt like they made a couple of half-hearted attempts to support and please this new type of customer, but ultimately decided it wasn’t wise.

    In the post-Jobs Apple, I think the company needs to figure out how it wants to handle all of this. Macs in business aren’t going away, especially with their advantages in fewer virus and malware infections. Tim Cook comes from a much more corporate background than Steve Jobs did, so I would think he’d be more apt to try to placate the Enterprise customer. But if Apple decides that’s not an area it wishes to tackle — it needs to figure out where to draw the lines so the creative power users don’t feel left out.

  • Anonymouse

    I’m working on a mid-budget studio feature ($60mil). We are cutting it in FCP7.

    The lack of multiple timelines in FCPX *alone* makes the product dead-in-the-water for us.

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  • poop

    fuck this. go sailing.

  • West

    XSan isn’t cancelled, it’s been rolled into OS X Server.

  • West

    When you say you don’t understand people blindly following a multi-billion dollar company, that could be any of them. They all look at self preservation as a major goal.

    Adobe is multi-billion dollar company that cares about it’s self preservation, isn’t that why Creative Cloud is the new model? So they can keep the revenue stream going? There was a petition to convince them to change their minds, but Adobe said it’s happening, so enjoy or don’t.

    Who at Apple would talk openly about product features that aren’t public yet. Would they even talk off the record, knowing how rumors run rampant.

    If you look at the images on Apple’s MacPro site, the AMD chips are soldered on two individual cards. There are three cards attached to a thermal core. The third card isn’t revealed, which is where the CPU must be.

    Based on those images, it doesn’t look like anything is permanently soldered to the core. No one knows for sure.

    I’m also unclear how you can define what “Pros” want. There are so many variations of Pros. In fact Pros don’t even know what they want half the time. What they wanted a year or two ago isn’t want they necessarily want now or will want in a year or two.

    So many Pros today migrated from prosumer. FCP started as DV only. DV was itself considered consumer/prosumer until Pros realized how good the quality was getting for the $.

    Outside of the botched FCP X launch, Apple correctly predicted the shift to a digital in/digital out workflow. Film based workflows are almost gone. Tape based workflows are almost disappearing too.

    That brings to the next point, how much cards do you want in your tower? Not many people need capture cards or accelerator cards like Red Rocket. The GPU the main need and the new MacPro has two.

    If you work in 3D, where GPU has been used for years, both Nvidia and ATI cards get a lot of respect. It’s only been on the video side where Nvidia has the edge with Cuda. That to me is more marketing power than anything else. Both Adobe and Black Magic are opening up to supporting ATI and OpenCL.

    So sooner than later, the flavor of GPU you use won’t be as big a deal as it once was. Intel isn’t far behind with boosting their integrated graphics power.

    Just because you haven’t used Thunderbolt doesn’t mean it hasn’t been out. It’s not a fast rollout, because of Intel. I’m only seeing TB on the PC side recently.

    Thunderbolt could be a really big deal if its possible to bind the ports together so you gang up the bandwidth like some people have been suggesting. Of course, no one will know for sure until someone gets to try it.

    Everything new is always expensive. Firewire was expensive in the beginning. HDMI was expensive. If you been doing this for a while, you know the routine.

    The new MacPro isn’t out yet, so it’s all speculation.

    Apple has been about eliminating wasted space and resources. Only time will tell with this new box.

  • West

    Are you only seeing pros being disrupted now?? Tell me what industry where a creative pro hasn’t being distrupted by prosumers for the past few decades.

  • West

    Has any serious gamer used Macs in years?

    How do you know it’s change for the sake of change? If you can’t see where the future is heading, you’re only paying attention to what you know and am comfortable with.

    Apple as well as other tech companies see what new technologies are possible. It’s never easy to just change but it’s going to be important to be willing to be open to it.

    We’re in for an avalanche of data soon, and current technologies won’t keep up with it.

  • West

    I also wonder if a 17 inch Retina Display was too cost prohibitive. Apple has gotten rid of the smaller displays before only to bring them back later.

  • West

    Actually not true for FCP. The conversion programs are using XML to reconstruct the timeline. There is no direct conversion of the project files.

    Apple also rebuilt Quicktime as AV Foundation. The original FCP was Quicktime only. Everything had to transcode to get into it.

  • Volker Hett

    I tried to saturate a 10 Gigabit Ethernet and hat to set up a fileserver with 3 Adaptec 1420 and 12 SSDs from Samsung, Kingston and OCZ.

    The available RAID boxes for thunderbolt won’t do! S-ATA is the limit and you’d need something with PCIe Storage like the Fusion i/o cards.

    Ok, my storage has to be on a network of some kind, FC or Ethernet, so I can use it with my blades and rack Servers. Different type of pro here :)

  • jumpcutter

    Where are you coming from. Digital in/digital out workflow exists okay but film and tape disappearing… where are you working that these formats have almost disappeared. I work for ABC News and we still use tape. I would agree that the workflow is more of a hybrid of sorts… All formats must be able to be used.
    Who cares about Adobe… I did not mention Adobe. I am starting to use other programs for video such as Gimp and Corel. You do not have to bow down to this greedy bum.

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  • elder Signin

    Sounds like a plan. However mankind tends to be too quick to lie, cheat, steal for this idea to ever work. OH well. :-)

  • elder Signin

    Have to agree here. something people forget is that if you have the money to support these products, you can have large screens and keypads left at different sites and just take the critical parts with you. The cloud allows large files to be transported where ever you go.

    Its a different world out there and many people just don’t get it.

    I keep a large screen and keyboard and mouse at work and at home and remote. When I go, my laptop just plugs in and I am ready to work, …. on the large screen. Yes costs a couple of bucks more … but I am worth it. :-)

  • elder Signin

    This is a perfect example of what I said earlier. The world changes and people want to stay the same. Get a guitar adapter. Its a couple of bucks and there you go. Right??? No just bitch. :-(

    As far as the Mac Pro, you are only going to have one or two cables attached. Everything else is wireless……. get with the present.

  • elder Signin

    Ken, I think you are a wise man. :-)

    Apple is not making main frames. They are not trying to own the business world with cheap basic computers that need a huge IT dept., they are looking at the world a little different.

    With the cloud, people will be more distributed and systems need to be much more reliable and easier to serve. I use large screens for my 13 in macbook pro at work and home. The 13 ” screen is almost never used (but is available if really needed.).

    The world changes and many people just want to keep doing what they were doing last year. Apple does not think that way.

    Just saying.
    Keep up the good work.

  • elder Signin

    Sorry but I agree with Nicholas. If you want a large piece of Dell like hardware….. buy Dell. And if you want power, look at the Mac Pro with the 12 core Xeon processor.

    Actually it sounds like you want cheap pieces that can be cobbled together to make something really fancy…… That is the idea behind the common PC. But Apple learned that for software and hard ware to work together, they have to be controlled. Pete’s cheap graphics will not work with Dan’s expensive cpus. Etc.

    Just a thought.

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  • Ken’s Smarter Brother

    another vapid opinion piece by someone who should know better. i am sure steve jobs considered every angle as he revived the dying Apple he inherited. this ‘writer’ simply swings back and forth in an attempt to agitate readers. this agitation is what sells ad space. these articles are not designed to inform – they are designed to get reactions and angry comments. i wonder how many times steve jobs thought about killing off the ignorant commentary that surrounds every wildly successful company. ken is attempting to still appear relevent in a world that has long passed opinion-based ‘journalism’ far, far behind.

  • Gary Deezy

    You didn’t mention the Xserve, probably because Pros used it, but only as a backend system run by their IT person. In my personal opinion, it was the highest quality, most cost effective server product on the market during its peak, but Apple killed it. Why? In my opinion, for the same reasons Steve considered killing the other Pro products – too small a market and too many resources required.

    But, what Apple management did not clearly understand is that the IT person in medium and large organizations controls what devices the Pros and the Average users put on their desktops, and if Apple could get the IT managers to “buy into” Apple servers, the IT managers would typically give their blessing to Apple desktop products as well.

    Opportunity cost, opportunity lost…

  • ksegall

    Good lord, you are misguided.

    I try to inform as best I can — often based on my past experience with Apple and others. I am hardly aiming to agitate.

    And with zero advertising on my site, I am hardly trying to make money.

    Of course Steve considered every angle. But he never wasted the group’s time with something he wasn’t seriously considering.

  • gjgustav

    What I meant was that the Cube was never meant to be the “pro” Mac. After re-reading what you said, I agree with you – a consumer product priced too high.

    Regarding FCPX, sorry, it was ambiguous if you were saying this yourself, or a lot of pros were. I only meant that I disagree that it is “iMovie Pro.”

    I never said you claimed Aperture was inferior to Lightroom. You made the comparison based on frequency of updates. You implied (at least that’s how I read it) that Lightroom’s updates made it seem more “pro.” I’m only disagreeing with that in that the lack of updates does not take away it’s “pro-ness” for me.

  • Jared Ba

    I have never, never once heard anyone, even the people who have grown to like Final Cut X, say that it is easier or more intuitive to use than previous generations. If you can type “I” and can type “O” you can get started on Final Cut 1-7 in 30 seconds time. Its basic interface is completely intuitive–once you get in deeper you can be surrounded by choices, yes but essentially the fundamental editing experience can be: In, Out, Drop, Drag, etc. No one walking up to a Final Cut X for the first time is going to be able to jump in and start in 30 seconds. It’s the opposite of the first time you pick up an iphone and get going without any instructions, FCX is counter or even anti intuitive. Especially in its first iteration, it was a program for computer designers, not editors.

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  • West

    Kodak is still under bankruptcy protection.
    Fuji stopped ALL film manufacturing.
    Deluxe and Technicolor created partnerships to consolidate film printing.

    Studios are saying no more film prints, only digital cinema packages starting this year. Theaters need to upgrade or good bye.

    The majority of TV shows and movies shoot digital over film.

    No new film cameras are being designed or manufactured. Resources are being used for new digital cameras.

    Tape based cameras haven’t been made in years.

    When SR tape became scarce because of the earthquake in Japan, deliverables were made as digital files on drives or LTO data tapes.

    If you are still using tape based cameras for ABC News, it’s that station’s decision more than the network. Good luck replacing decks when they break down.

    Considering that cell phone cameras are high quality, news organizations are moving to “citizen reporting” to save a few bucks. They are also requiring their photographers to shoot more video.

    Using Gimp and Corel may be fine for basic photo retouching, but it doesn’t replace editing, effects, etc. It’s a business and users know that some software are so standard you can’t get around it. If this is a hobby, Windows MovieMaker would suffice.

    I work in Hollywood, one of the centers of this digital storm. Been in the digital end from almost the beginning and it’s only getting started. Wait until 4k becomes a bigger part of the workflow.

  • West

    Fusion Cards are very expensive. I don’t see that tech getting affordable for at least a decade.

    You may want to move to SAS storage. Fast isn’t always cheap, SATA is great for the prosumers.

  • Jeffgtr

    I was worried about Logic Pro but Logic Pro x is most excellent apple has not abandoned the pro market. This article is a little late to the game.

  • weasel ferret

    No matter how many flops the new Mac Pro can turn, it will be a major headache for pro users. The lack of internal expandability means the cost of doing anything at all just went up by at least 50%. Do we really, really want to buy that many enclosures and connect them all with that many cables? The Thunderbolt cables alone are what, $50 each? This is absurd. I work in 3D graphics and video, and I can tell you that the universal response to the Mac “Pro” 2013 among my colleagues has been shock and revulsion. Sadly, many of them are victims of vendor lock-in, and will be forced to shell out way more money than necessary just to stay on the OS X platform. Apple’s view of the pro market is not evolving, it’s devolving into outright contempt.

  • HankoTanko

    That dude jsut sounds like he is talking a lot of smack!


  • Jumpcutter

    Thank you for clearing things up. My head is spinning with all those details you presented. You said, “Studios are saying no more film prints, only digital cinema packages starting this year. Theaters need to upgrade or good bye.” I did not know this but I though this had already happened. Thank you for that information.

    When you wrote, “Tape based cameras haven’t been made in years.” are you referring to DV cameras or Betacam cameras. Which ones? I know DV cameras use digital tape as well as media cards.

    You said, “If you are still using tape based cameras for ABC News, it’s that station’s decision more than the network.” I never said tape based cameras, I said we still use tape… We master our magazine shows on digital tape (D5) and we still have a lot of archival footage still on tape as well as digital files. ABC network has been in transition from analog to digital for several years. I said a hybrid format is necessary… not all digital but some analog is still needed.

    You are correct on this point, “Considering that cell phone cameras are high quality, news organizations are moving to “citizen reporting” to save a few bucks. They are also requiring their photographers to shoot more video.” The Chicago Sun Times recently laid off 28 photographers because of the iPhone. The newspaper is going to teach their reporters how to shoot stills and video with the iPhone.

    Then you tried to insult me with this, “Using Gimp and Corel may be fine for basic photo retouching, but it doesn’t replace editing, effects, etc. It’s a business and users know that some software are so standard you can’t get around it. If this is a hobby, Windows MovieMaker would suffice. ” I edit at ABC News with Avid everyday. I use Photoshop and some After Effects as well .I was merely trying to point out alternatives to Adobe software because you mentioned in an earlier post, “Adobe is multi-billion dollar company that cares about it’s self preservation, isn’t that why Creative Cloud is the new model? So they can keep the revenue stream going? There was a petition to convince them to change their minds, but Adobe said it’s happening, so enjoy or don’t.” I though you were upset with Adobe but I guess I was wrong.

    You said you work in Hollywood. Great, I am envious of you. I have been in TV since 1980 and editing in NY since 1990. I have been in the “digital” storm a bit as well. I noticed you did not mention SD or HD, 480i, 720p, 1080i or 1080p with the different frame rates 24p, 30i, or 59.94. That another headache because with new technology “no true standard” is ever adopted. It is all resolved thru trial and error. So, I am ready when 4K enters into the fray… It’s just another format.

  • uniquename72

    Success in the consumer market is a result of fashion. Success in the pro market is a result of necessity.

    In Apple’s case, the pros who loved Apple made Apple products fashionable. Then Apple abandoned them.

    There’s no Apple product left that’s a necessity, outside of some niche areas, and their importance as a fashion accessory is waning.

    Catering to Pros just makes sense for Apple at this point, as it always has in the past. I’m not sure the current leadership realizes it, though. After all, I thought a computer-built-into-the-monitor was a ridiculously limiting form factor. But it’s way better than a cylinder!

  • scottcarmichael

    ” i am sure steve jobs considered every angle as he revived the dying Apple he inherited.”

    Dude, Steve Jobs was doing shitty until the iPod magically got popular all of the sudden. He had no “plan” – he just got lucky with a music player when the world wanted to get away from CDs. And the iPhone was less amazing – tons of cellphones had touchscreens, apps, etc. and the only reason it was a success was because so many people were in the iTunes ecosystem thanks to iTunes and the iPhone, like the iPod, became a status symbol (if you have one, you’re wealthy).

    That’s it. That is THE long and short of Apple’s comeback.

  • scottcarmichael

    “The world changes and people want to stay the same. Get a guitar adapter. Its a couple of bucks and there you go.”
    For the amount people pay for freakin’ Apple products, they SHOULD get a freakin’ line-in jack. What does that cost Apple – and extra $1.50 per unit?

  • scottcarmichael

    There’s no retina 17″ because the screen would cost too much compared to cheaper to make smaller screens and it would hurt Apple’s profit margin. That’s it. Every other excuse is just beside the point.

  • jameskatt

    The full resolution of the 15″ Retina Display is 5 Megapixels. A 17″ Retina Display is 9.1 Megapixels. Bigger is better.

  • jameskatt

    Again, a 17″ MBP with Retina Display has 9.1 Megapixels of resolution. The Maximum one can get from a 15″ Retina Display is 5 Megapixels.

  • jameskatt

    Apple sells the Current 2012-2013 Mac Pro (not the new this fall 2013 Mac Pro) fully loaded for $10,000. Obviously, for the professional model, cost is not an object for Apple.

    The only question is if it can actually handle that much resolution plus the same resolution for an external monitor.

  • jameskatt

    3840×2400 is a higher resolution than a 4K screen.

    The new 2013 Mac Pro can only handle 3 x 4K screens.

    The 17-Inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display has to have a GPU which can handle the internal 9.1 Megapixel screen and an external 4K screen.

    Unfortunately, there is NO GPU for laptops with the power to handle this much resolution.

    We have to wait until AMD shrinks its $3500 Firepower GPU down to fit the power requirements and size of a MacBook Pro Laptop.