June 17, 2012

What is Apple up to?

Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina Display has met with almost universal praise, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous. The only real problem anyone seems to have with it is the general lack of upgradeability. I agree that it’s kind of a bummer. Some months ago, my friend Isaac lost the hard drive in his MacBook Pro. He borrowed my SATA-to-USB bridge and was able to get nearly all his data off the defective drive. Isaac also doubled the RAM in his MBP fairly inexpensively. The days of DIY repairs and upgrades appears to be over for MBP users. This is somewhat lamentable for me personally but overall I don’t think it’s that big a deal, and I certainly don’t think most typical Apple product users will care, seeing as how none of their nearly-ubiquitous iOS devices are upgradeable either. The upshot for Apple is they’ll make more money from people paying up front to “max out” their computers, or possibly from people buying new computers more often. It also allows them to design a more simple, elegant, and thin device…and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display

iPad

Can’t really upgrade this guy…

…but can’t really upgrade this guy either.

The bigger point of contention from some in the creative fields isn’t what they released, but what they DIDN’T release: a major refresh of the Mac Pro line. Some have taken this (along with the latest iterations of their Aperture and Final Cut Pro software) as a signal that Apple is no longer making “professional” products, and that they are steering their products more toward consumers. For the most part, I agree with this assessment. If it is true, it would be difficult to blame Apple for doing so. They’ve made billions of dollars from consumer products. But I also don’t think it’s unreasonable for professional creatives to be a little upset about it since they are the ones who kept Apple alive for several years.

But is that really what’s going on? Personally I think what Apple intends to do is slowly level the playing field, particularly with Final Cut Pro X. One couldn’t easily make the leap from iMovie to Final Cut Pro 7. There’s a steep learning curve and one is obviously aimed at consumers and one is obviously aimed at pros. Final Cut Pro X represents a much easier leap from consumer to “pro” product, both in usability and price. Apple can slowly add pro-level features and plug-ins to what is right now only a “pro” (with air quotes) product and the learning curve becomes even easier to manage, while still placating pro users. Meanwhile, a generation of young iMovie users finds this popular “pro” product (assuming it maintains its popularity) familiar and intuitive. The result is not unlike the HDSLR filmmaking “revolution”: semi-pro level products with consumer pricing and usability.

Final Cut Pro X
FCPX: The Future?

For creatives in general and aspiring editors in particular, this means paying attention to “the craft” will become even more important than it already is. The ability to use an NLE will be virtually meaningless. A grasp of the principles of good editing—and to a lesser extent the speed and thrift with which you edit—will become your selling point.

Other stuff on the subject:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/13/3082649/macbook-pro-review-retina-display-15-inch

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/06/mac-pro-update-major-features-missing/

http://photofocus.com/2012/06/13/wwdc-apples-latest-announcements-from-a-professional-photographers-point-of-view/

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