Final Cut Pro X, Apple, and the Enterprise

Final cut Pro X iconA couple of days ago, I wrote about how Macs has become the overwhelming computer of choice for tech elites. No sooner had I done this than Apple offered glaring proof of its limitations as a provider of technology for professionals–or as a vendor to the enterprise.

Final Cut Pro X is the successor to Final Cut Pro, which has become the non-linear editing software of choice for professional videographers and filmmakers. (It also replaces Final Cut Express, a prosumer version.) The problem is that X is a completely new program, with new ways of doing things. It is incompatible with project files for older versions and lacks many features that pros have come to rely on.

Apple’s willingness to break cleanly with the past is one of the things that has made it a great consumer company whose products always seem fresh and unencumbered by legacy features. But it is also completely unacceptable for professionals.

I you are a video editor who has invested years becoming a Final Cut Pro expert, it doesn’t matter if the new version is better; the killer is that it is different in many significant ways. You have to learn how to do things from scratch. Assets you have built up over the years are suddenly useless. Features that you count on do not exist. All of this means time lost, and time is very much money. Worse, Apple did this without warning. You can no longer buy older Final Cut Pro products fro m Apple and web links to the old Final Cut Pro on now redirect to Final Cut Pro X pages. Some of Apple’s loyalest customers, those who stuck with Macs during their most troubled days and those who pay $3,000 and more for Power Macs, have been screwed.

Whatever its sins, Microsoft would never do something like this. Microsoft may go too far the other way–features are almost never dropped, leaving products such as Windows and Office encrusted with legacy barnacles. But customers are not surprised and they are not abandoned.

This is the difference between a consumer company and an enterprise company. Microsoft is struggling in consumer markets today because it cannot keep up in rapidly evolving markets such as tablets and smartphones. But it continues to thrive in the enterprise, especially in the back office where large-scale business operations are built around products such as Exchange and SharePoint. Enterprises value continuity and stability over innovation and demand clear product roadmaps, something Apple has never been willing to provide.

The Final Cut Pro X affair has to give serious pause to professionals depending on Apple. I don’t see them abandoning Apple hardware, though it would help if Apple would clarify what it is doing in moving to a more iOS-like model for Mac software. If the Mac App Store were to become the sole source for Mac software and all software were subject to Apple’s sometimes flighty approval process, pros would be rightly disturbed.

I don’t think that will happen. Apple generally understands what it is not good at. One reason that the iPhone and iPad have successfully penetrated the enterprise is that Apple actually partnered with Microsoft to get enterprise-grade device management and Exchange support into iOS.

In that sense, Final Cut Pro X may be a bit of an aberration. But it may plant a seed of doubt in the minds of many pros about Apple’s reliability.






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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

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