A follow-up to my Padme Moment four years ago.
Computers are tools of creation. No company has pushed that concept farther and to more people than Apple. Along the way, computers became tools of consumption and that is where Apple is making the bulk of it’s massive record-breaking income in recent years. So, understandably, that is where a lot of their product energy is focused.
But producing superb tools of creation is how people came to love Apple products. And lately the creative professionals who love and create things on and for Apple computers aren’t feeling that the love is reciprocated.
At WWDC, Apple threw many bombs. The upcoming version of OS X (Lion) is required in order to use iCloud, and Mobile Me is going to be shut down in a year. Macs that can’t run Lion (basically any Mac produced before mid-2006) will be orphaned from cloud services, and eventually from the app ecosystem. Message to the entire Mac community: Move to the upcoming locked-down dumbed-down Mac-demoting app store-driven OS X Lion, where physical media is a thing of the past and everything you need will come from Apple.
Apple also demonstrated a new camera app for iOS 5 featuring a volume button shutter feature, a feature which they had forced iOS developer Tap Tap Tap to remove from their top-charting Camera+ app almost a year ago. Message to developers: Innovations you put in to your OS X and iOS apps will be co-opted by us for our apps. Sometimes, even after we’ve forced you to remove the same features from your app.
Just over a week after WWDC concluded Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X, a completely new video editor that improves on the simplified media handling and timeline features of iMovie. For those looking to move up from iMovie, it’s an impressive product. Wouldn’t have been a problem for anyone, except for two things. It’s named wrong (Pro does not belong in the name of a video editing app that doesn’t support EDL, multi-camera sequences or multi-track audio, and lacks import/export capabilities to/from other pro apps) and at it’s launch they removed Final Cut Pro 7 from the market (which was rightfully called a Pro app and is used by thousands of pros every day to cut movies, documentaries and TV shows, work which cannot be done with the new product). Message to the pro video commmunity: Your business is not important to us. Understandably the pros are pissed.
The Apple pundit community is harrumphing about all the negativity towards Apple’s recent string of anti-customer moves. They say we should stop acting like Apple screwed up, that Apple has this all planned out, and it will be good. Also, they tell us to stop whining, Apple isn’t in this for us, they can do what they want with their platform.
That’s true, they can.
And George Lucas can take Star Wars, the cornerstone of modern geek culture, and turn it in to a pile of poo. And he did.
The question: Is Apple taking creative professionals kicking and screaming to the next level, or are they pulling a George Lucas on us?
Maybe a year from now it will be clear that Apple is in this for more than consumer eyeballs. Maybe by then Final Cut Pro X will deserve it’s name, OS X Lion will prove to be a more useful OS than the previous versions customers were forced out of, and third-party developers will still be innovating and making money doing so. I’d like to hope so. But it doesn’t look good from here right now.