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“Will Apple Release a New Final Cut Pro Studio and What Will Be New?”

As we near NAB, it’s one of the top questions I am asked…

Here’s my uneducated guess (meaning, I’ve been careful NOT to ask Apple about it). All is based on what Apple has done the near past and what I think makes sense for them to do. It is NOT my opinion of what would be good for the industry, the user or even myself… Just what I think might happen. In order of likeliness…

  1. Apple will release a new Final Cut Pro by the end May (95% chance). Steve reported told someone that it would be “Kick Ass” and in the Spring so… I’m thinking they will get whatever they can into something they can solidly release before Memorial Day. It will mostly likely take more advantage of graphics acceleration and Thunderbolt. There will be more Red support and probably some refinements to the interaction between apps. I don’t expect 3D Stereo or anything groundbreaking. Apple will aim squarely at the Education and Corporate markets with a nod to TV and Film. .. and DVD Studio will remain unchanged. Apple doesn’t care about plastic.
  2. FCPS will be in the App Store (80% chance). Apple is undoubtedly committed to positioning the App Store as THE place to buy software on the their platform. Nothing would speak this more clearly than the professional tools in the App Store. They have already put Aperture into App Store and split iWork and iLife collections into the store… which leads us to the most controversial prediction…
  3. Apple will split up Final Cut Studio and dramatically reduce the prices (50% chance). If Aperture is any guide, Apple break the FCPS apps into their individual parts and sell them from $79 to $99 each. Apple is moving away from complex bundles and integrated solutions (iWork and iLife have already been decoupled). At the same time, they are lowering the prices across the board. The reality is, Apple is playing a different game… one that Sony, Avid and Adobe can’t play. They are building a platform. Making these tools more available and cheaper make it hard to argue that a PC is cheaper (in a Corporate or Education department) when the software is so cheap and still does what you need. The impact of this decision, which I predict is only 50/50… would be profound. There will be little more than stubble left in the Mac market. Companies like Avid and Adobe will need to decide whether they really want to go head to head or give up a market that is growing quickly in corporate and education markets. Plug-in developers would need to re-think their pricing… which bring us to…
  4. Apple adds in-app purchasing for plug-ins (5% chance). I don’t think Apple will add this on this rev. I do think this is the future. Making the apps less expensive would probably multiply user numbers by a factor of 5-10. Apple could increase application related revenue (offsetting the price drop) by selling plug-ins directly in the application. I’m kind of surprised Adobe hasn’t done this with Photoshop.

I do have concerns about this trajectory. Apple will gain massive market share not from technological advances but from business model adjustments. I’m not clear Apple is really committed pushing the envelope with Final Cut Pro Studio. They could relegate OS X as a vast land of mediocre tools (or tool) as Adobe and others continue to develop but focus on the PC because… 99% of the Mac market will own Final Cut Pro. It could make developing new editing tools very difficult because… if you want to sell on the Mac, you will have to sell it for $99.

On the other side, as someone who is accountable for about 20 licenses in our company… lower cost software and the pressure for others to follow suit does make an impact for us. I would not only buy more licenses… I would buy more computers if it was cheaper to load them with software. Setting an example for the industry _could_ be good if it’s followed by robust sales from eager App Store users (like me).

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