Goodbye

October 6, 2011

The Dawn of a New Era

April 13, 2011

Last night was an extravaganza. An event. And yes, a bloodbath. The focus was on Final Cut Pro, the application that we know, love, and use on a daily basis. They showed off statistics boasting about its success… an installation base of over 2 million, far above its competitors and the industry standard in growth. So what do you do with a product that has a 94% satisfaction rate and has millions of adoring users?

You trash it of course.

At least, if you’re Apple that’s what you do, and that’s what they did last night. Final Cut Pro as we know it is dead. But that’s not a bad thing. Whether we knew it or not yesterday at this time, now we realize just how archaic, just how antiquated and behind the times the revolutionary piece of software was. All of sudden, the game has changed, and like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, so is Final Cut Pro X emerging from the destruction of FCP7. So, the question is, what has Apple done?

It proved all the naysayers wrong.

Those that said Apple was going to abandon the professional video market just got slapped on the face. Last night showed that Apple has put years of R&D and manpower into developing the new suite. According to Larry Jordan, there were over 2 rows of top Apple executives at the event last night, including Phil Schiller, an all-star lineup that wouldn’t get sent to a product launch they didn’t care about. Apple has not been waiting for Final Cut to die a slow death… they have been pumping it with new life.

Those that said Apple would abandon the professionals and produce an iMovie Pro were put to shame. Incredibly, there still is a vocal group that is claiming Apple trashed Final Cut for an iMovie on steroids. But those who truly use Final Cut on a daily basis realize that the only people who are saying that are the people who don’t use it. At first glance, they look remarkably similar. But when you look up in the sky at night, an airplane and a star look quite similar as well. Appearances can deceive. What Apple did was automate the tasks that required unnecessary labor, something true professionals can’t afford to waste their time on, allowing all the manpower to be spent on the creativity. For the insecure who are only good editors because they have the tolerance to handle the obnoxiously laborious tasks that others don’t want to do, this will throw them off guard. But for those who are truly confident about their ability to tell a story as well and efficiently as possible, and who put that as the goal above all else, this will come as a life-changing development. Who can tell the best story is not contingent upon who is the greatest computer wiz. It is contingent on who is the best storyteller… and that’s the way it should be.

Apple also realized something vital and made an effort to address it. Final Cut Pro is one of the most torrented Mac Applications. With the Studio costing about 1000 dollars, many would just steal it from the internet. To address this, they knocked the price of just Final Cut Pro to 299, killing the unnecessary Final Cut Express. Want to produce a home movie? Use iMovie. Want to produce a quality production with the same tools as the professionals? Use Final Cut Pro. Simple as can be. It’s important to also remember that all the features and applications weren’t shown off today. But rest assured, there’s more. The guy I talked to back late last year was really passionate about the changes Motion was going to receive in that it was going to become more Shake-esque power-wise. My guess (no inside knowledge here) is that the whole studio will be priced at 499, with Motion and Soundtrack selling individually for 99 dollars through the Mac App Store with Content packs shipping through retail. But again, just a guess.

What’s important to note is that this is just the beginning. Considering the iPhone won’t be unveiled, there’s no doubt that WWDC will reveal much more. Until then, we know this… Apple cares about its video professionals more than anybody could’ve imagined, and that they’re ready to take us into a whole new era of digital editing. I, for one, am ecstatic, and will be joining Apple on the journey.

The night is darkest just before the dawn...

Back in September, I experienced every bloggers dream. I literally walked into one of Apple’s retail stores, and struck up a conversation with the man next to me about Apple. We chatted about Apple as a company, Steve Jobs, and other random tidbits. Then, I brought up my frustration with Apple’s lack of attention to Final Cut Studio. It turned out that he actually worked for Apple… and was one of the guys in charge of the Final Cut Studio division.

I hesitated… I was unsure whether or not I could ask him questions. But before I could ask him whether or not I could ask him questions, he just started talking. And he talked a lot.

So when I posted my story on September 5th, that was not just my wish list. The revamped but still completely familiar interface, the dramatically increased speed, the revamped Motion and Color, and all the other goodies were all plans back in September, and most likely still are today. But perhaps the most intriguing and exciting part of what he told me was that Apple was preparing to release this puppy much earlier than usual — instead of the 2-3 years between major upgrades, FCS3 was slated to hit around April 2011.

Now we’re in March 2011, and others are finally starting to catch word of what’s going on. TechCrunch reports that several editors and other video professionals were invited for a special sneak peek of Apple’s latest offering. They reiterate the significance of the update, calling it “dramatic and ambitious”, that it’s even upping it’s professional focus, and most importantly, it’s slated to arrive in Spring 2011.

Furthermore, Larry Jordan claims to have been one of the editors invited, a claim which I completely believe considering his prevalence in the Final Cut instruction community. I actually know him personally… he’s expressed thoroughly his love for the program. So when he says that it’s a “jaw-dropper”, and that “it’s gonna be a great year” for video editors, I believe him.

The seeds that I was told about back in September are finally beginning to manifest themselves, and I couldn’t be happier. With big names being invited to see the program, we can be sure that Apple is gearing up to finally release it… and soon. But for the time being, for those who are impatiently awaiting the release along with me, all I can do is quote Larry Jordan one more time…

“Believe.”

Thoughts on iPad 2

March 10, 2011

Apple’s latest Media event on March 2nd (coincidence? I think not.) brought the second iteration of the iPad to the eyes of the public. Ultimately, it was nothing more than an incremental upgrade… solid, but nothing to phone home about. Nevertheless, when you watch the full 2 hour presentation, you see just how major of a deal Apple made it out to be.

To begin with, Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance at the keynote, receiving a standing ovation. This was Apple’s way of showing the world that “hey, he might be on a medical leave of absence, but he’s still alive and well enough to introduce the product!” Of course that wasn’t the reason Steve Jobs gave for being there… he said that he showed up because he was so excited about the product he simply had to be there to show it off.

Yeah…

What I found interesting is the way Jobs throughout the keynote set up certain non-upgrades of the device in order to make them seem like they’re something so new and radical that an upgrade is necessary. Battery life for example… he said that “with this many new features, how much lower do you expect the battery life to be? Well we managed to preserve the same incredible 10 hour battery life.” No change from iPad 1 to 2, but presented as a new radical innovation. The same with the price. He said that “with this many new features, how much higher do you expect the price to be? Well we managed to keep it the same.”

As for the new features the iPad delivered, they were basically the same as every Apple incremental upgrade… thinner, faster, and cooler. That’s that.

So tomorrow will be the test… will the iPad 2 manage to push the boundaries beyond that of it’s predecessor, selling more than ever and dominating the market even more so (if that’s possible)? Most likely. But only time will tell. If past Apple upgrades of thinner, faster, cooler are anything to judge by, then yes, it’s going to be a smash hit.

Apple’s Oscar Presence

March 10, 2011

The Oscars this year were one of the most memorable in recent memory. No, not from the perspective of a movie lover… The Kings Speech winning was nothing to phone home about. No, not from the perspective of an Oscar telecast aficionado… it was quite abysmal. But from an Apple watcher’s perspective? It was incredible.

Simply put, it’s amazing to see how far Apple has come in the past decade. A little over 10 years ago, Apple was on the brink of extinction and was saved out of legal pity by Microsoft. Now, Apple’s presence in the world is so influential and widespread that they barely even have to market. That basically get’s taken care of.

In this year’s telecast, Apple had one simple iPhone commercial. No big deal. But Apple was given the type of advertising that money can’t buy… association with America’s elite. In the actual broadcast, the co-host James Franco, “unable” to fix the projector behind him, realized the solution to his problem was to pull out his iPhone and say “there’s an app for that.” Apple’s slogan, made to demonstrate the wide range of life applications the phone has, has become more than a marketing ploy. It has become a fact of life. Apple doesn’t advertise at the Oscars… the Oscars advertises Apple.

Furthermore, a company advertised an app for Apple, and consequently ended up advertising the iPad… a fine example of co-branding. The funny part is that the power of Apple’s brand overshadowed the company that created the ad so dramatically that in the room of teenage boys I watched it with, nobody remembered who the ad was for. They all just thought it was an iPad commercial. Again, a company spends millions of dollars to promote their app and all people get out of it is that the iPad is cool.

The Apple brand is getting more powerful, widespread, and influential by the day. This year’s Oscars telecast is only a continuation of the trend. The question is, how far will it go in the future?

(oh, and who did one of the major thank you’s in Toy Story 3′s acceptance speech go to? Steve Jobs.)

In my last post, I discussed the allure of the Apple Media Event. But I addressed the media’s obsession with it just due to the fact of it’s existence. What I didn’t discuss was the actual event itself — meaning that when the mute boy finally speaks, what does he say? Or more importantly, how does he say it?

The Apple keynote itself, simply put, is legendary. Marketing professionals salivate over it, how nothing more than a press release can be turned into a “media event,” that is something so significant that it simply can’t be missed. Somehow a mere keynote has turned into an occasion that anybody who’s anybody in the media needs to be at. It’s not open for all — only the best of the best are invited to this extravaganza!

The keynote’s themselves are extremely formulaic. It starts with the ending of a popular song, after which Steve Jobs emerges on stage in from of a large Apple logo that is projected. The crowd goes crazy… people are whooping, yelling, and shouting for the iCEO. What most don’t realize is that Apple actually places employees scattered throughout the crowd who are instructed to cheer very loudly and frequently throughout the keynote. Then the media sees these people cheering and feel the need to cheer themselves. Before long, you have a crowd of the media’s most distinguished yelling at the top of their lungs just at the mere appearance of a man who’s about to announce how he’s about to get more of the crowd’s money, whether they truly want to spend it or not.

Jobs, known for his tyrannical dictatorial leadership of Apple, puts on an appearance of utmost humility. “Thank you for coming”, “It’s great to be here.” Then, the humility disappears. All their keynotes start with statistics… how Apple is better and more profitable than every other country in the industry. Their last quarter was their best ever. Their retail stores are more successful than ever. The trillionth app and the bajillionth song was recently downloaded on iTunes. They have a billion credit cards on file. Same thing every single time.

And then Steve gets to the point. The product that everyone is expecting Apple to announce (because Apple has leaked it to the rumor mill) gets announced. The crowd goes crazy. It’s even THINNER than expected! And it does this. Nobody expected this to be a part of the new product! Once again Apple has stepped up the competition in ways even the rumor mill didn’t predict (no matter that nobody expected it because Apple held it back when the ship leaked from the top).

Demo time! He calls up other executives to show the world that “Hey, Apple is more than Steve Jobs!” That way, when Steve Jobs isn’t CEO anymore, it won’t seem like a complete and utter change… it’ll be the same old familiar faces. Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Tim Cook, Johnny Ives, Randy Ubillos, the whole gang ready for action. They basically just show off the software of the latest and greatest and how it’s revolutionary and unlike anything that’s ever hit the industry and how nothing will ever be the same.

Then one of either two things will happen. 1) Steve Jobs will thank everyone for coming and that’s that. Or he’ll pull his famous trick out of his sleeve.

“But there is one more thing.”

It’s like the kid on Christmas morning who goes through all his presents. His parents, after he opens the last one and is satisfies with what he’s received, go to the closet and pull out the biggest gift of all. Now, Christmas is a smash success! Apple through Steve Jobs frequently does this very tactic.┬áThe trick where everyone thinks the keynote is over, and is excited about what Apple has presented, and thinks that’s that. And then Jobs stuns the audience by saving the best thing for last.

Now expectations have been met, and exceeded. The media has witness not a press release, not a presentation, but an event. And what type of coverage does an event warrant? Nothing less than front page.

The stage is set

The Apple Media Event is a fascinating animal. The media covers them as though they’re huge milestones in the technological world when in fact they’re nothing more than product announcements. Companies make these on a daily basis and nobody seems to care. But when it’s Apple it’s all of a sudden a huge deal. Why is this?

Put simply, people don’t listen carefully to a man who talks continuously. But when the practically-mute boy finally musters up the courage to say a few words, he can silence a whole room of curious people who want to know what is so important that it made the boy who never talks feel the need to speak. In the corporate world, most companies assume the role of the chatterbox. They constantly try to be in the spotlight by announcing every time someone in the company takes a lunch break. Press releases, interviews, social networking… they feel that unless they’re constantly on the customer’s radar that nobody will pay attention to them. But it’s a reiteration of a principle that runs throughout life — when a man tries hard to make a good social impression, he ends up failing, but when he just lays back he ends up becoming the life of the party. When an artist tries to be creative and original he ends up being ordinary and unmemorable, but an artist concerned merely with producing good work ends up being legendary.

So with companies… when the company tries so hard to be revolutionary, hip, and creative, they end up being just another geeky random tech company. But when the company lays back and focuses on making products that they themselves want to use and treat the customers as though they’re fortunate to get to have these products, then people clamor over them.

This is the Apple strategy. They never say a word about a product until it’s ready to ship. Then, when they say that they have something to announce, everybody listens, not because the products are expected to be incredible, but because the mute boy is speaking. People also listen because Apple’s philosophy as a company under the direction of Steve Jobs is different than other companies. They make products that they themselves really want to use. And they market themselves that way so that when people buy an Apple product it’s like gaining access to an exclusive club, not like accepting a flyer from a guy on the street dressed up in a hot dog costume.

Here We Go Again

March 9, 2011

Christmas Season – the time of year in which there is no Apple news. The rumor mill is literally pin-drop quiet. Why is this the case? If you ask Steve Jobs, he’ll refer to his favorite quote… “Isn’t it funny a ship that leaks from the top?” Simply put, the rumor mill (for the most part), is completely controlled by Apple. They won’t admit it, and they’ll act like they are appalled by the behavior, but it’s mostly a charade. There are definitely some things that are leaked which is not in accordance with Apple’s desires — the iPhone 4 Gizmodo debacle being the most notorious incident — but for the most part, the higher ups at Apple like clockwork leak rumors regarding certain products just at the right time.So the Christmas season is always dead quiet because the last thing Apple wants is for Christmas shoppers to read on the front page of the New York Times on December 21st that a brand new iPad is coming out in January. They’d cannibalize their most profitable quarter. But you can bet your bottom dollars that as soon as the 12 lords leap, they will be quick to start the buzz again for their next product.

This year, we saw the Verizon iPhone begin getting coverage immediately after new years, only to be released a few weeks later. Then whispers emerged about the iPad… it was subsequently announced a few weeks after that. Now, per usual, an early April media event is expected in which iOS 5 will be promoted in accordance with a MobileMe overhaul. Nothing to phone home about. And of course, Apple is now slowly creating buzz over the next iPhone, creatively dubbed by the rumor mill “iPhone 5.”

The rumors are saying that the next iPhone will have a larger 4 inch screen, be thinner (SHOCKER), and be faster. It’s even claiming that the back will be made of aluminum. Are these incredible additions to the iPhone that will change the way we use it forever? Not at all. But by building hype for the phone over 3 months before it will actually be announced, Apple’s turning a simple product introduction into a Messiah of sorts. When it finally arrives, it won’t just be another phone… it will be a fulfilled prophesy. That’s the genius of the way Apple controls their product propaganda. They don’t ever say a word officially about a product that isn’t ready to ship. But instead of sending “updates” and showing what they’re working on publicly, they very carefully leak small bits of information to the media. They absolutely go nuts when an employee leaks information without their approval… one man was fired that morning of the iPad introduction for showing it to Steve Wozniak an hour before the keynote. But that’s because they’ve figured out just the right amount that should be leaked, covering the balance between creating buzz and being surprising. Any leaked info unsanctioned by Apple becomes a liability to what Apple has so masterfully figured out.

So when you see the latest iPhone 5 bezel and screen, don’t deceive yourselves… this is what Apple wants you to see.

Apple is commonly referred to as the greatest vertically integrated company in the marketplace, and for good reason. They’re both respected and disdained, adored and despised, praised and condemned for the way they control every aspect of the user experience.

Want a computer with Mac OS X? Then you’re gonna have to buy Apple hardware, and if you want software, you’ll most likely use their Mac App Store platform to get what you want (through which Apple takes a 30% cut). If the software is too advanced for the Mac App Store, namely professional creative applications like video editing or music recording you’ll most likely buy the industry standards… in this case, Apple’s Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio.

Want to listen to music on the go? Then you’ll buy an iPod, Apple’s market-dominating product. When you want to actually listen to music, you’ll have to connect your computer to either a Mac or a PC (guess which platform Apple makes sure is a faster, less-bloated experience than the other), and Apple’s iTunes is the necessary portal for syncing content. Speaking of which, Apple completely controls all the content in iTunes, and in order to purchase music through the incredibly easy-to-use iTunes music store, you’ll need to create an Apple ID and enter your credit card information (scary fact — a year ago Apple reported having over 150 million credit cards hooked up to their iTunes store). Oh, and until just recently, any music purchased in the iTunes Store could only be played on Apple devices. So if you bought an iPod and downloaded 300 songs and then realized two years later you wanted a Zune, you’d have to re-purchase all your music in order for it to work

But a glitch arises in Apple’s iPhone. Yes, if you want to use iOS you’ll have to purchase Apple’s hardware to use it. But in order to actually make calls… a network is required. And Apple doesn’t have a network.

Initially, Apple tried to fake vertical integration by siding with one carrier, AT&T. AT&T became synonymous to the iPhone, to the point where it was almost as though it was part of the product, and therefore part of the company. But unfortunately for Apple… AT&T sucked. Bad call quality became synonymous with Apple’s tightly controlled brand image, and Apple didn’t want to be the butt of the joke any longer. So two weeks after the exclusivity agreement expired, Apple brought the iPhone to Verizon. Hooray! No more being ridiculed in the public!

But now a new problem arises. Before, AT&T wasn’t allowed to advertise the iPhone. That was Apple’s job for a reason… they’re the best at it. But now that there are two carrier options available, it seems as part of the agreement both are allowed to advertise the iPhone. This is a first in the world of Apple advertisement… the same product being marketed by three different companies. But more importantly, since AT&T and Verizon are at war, they’re both concerned with pointing out the flaws in the other. So for the first time, the flaws of an Apple product are being publicly proclaimed and promoted by an Apple-affiliated company.

Verizon’s exudes smugness with their ever ubiquitous “Can you hear me now” guy making a comeback. The point of the commercial? Until now, the iPhone has been unusable as a phone. And unless you choose Verizon, you’ll still be unable to make and hold phone calls.

AT&T takes a different approach by presenting a real world scenario. In short, they promote how you can use the iPhone to surf the web and talk at the same time. Useful, smart, intelligent. Even genius. But on Verizon’s network you won’t get that. On Verizon, you’re stuck with a not-so-smart smartphone. And unless you choose AT&T, the experience won’t be of the top quality.

The war is clear — AT&T is emphasizing the “i”, Verizon is emphasizing the “Phone.” AT&T’s network will deliver the best data experience… it’s faster, stronger, and more limber. Verizon’s network will deliver the best calling experience… calls are clearer, and won’t drop after minutes of use. It will be fascinating to see the two continue to publicly ridicule the other, and how Apple’s advertisements will handle the conflict in their world of vertical integration.

Murdoch Wants Your iPad

February 2, 2011

Rupert Murdoch… the man, the myth, the legend. Say what you want about him, but nobody can argue that the man is powerful. Today, News Corp announced a new venture called “The Daily”, an iPad-exclusive news delivery service that has been described as the magazine, meets the newspaper, meets the internet, and “the New York Post goes to college.” After months of speculation and anticipation, the application is finally live on the app store.

I’ve had the chance to play around with it for a while now, and I must say… in my personal opinion… they delivered. I’ve been looking for a clean, modern way to have all types of news delivered to me, from the important news, to celebrity Gossip, to Opinion, to Arts & Life, to Sports, and even to Apps & Games. Until now, my go-to application has been the USA Today newspaper application, but this is now at the top of my list.

Simply put, it looks like a magazine. It informs like a newspaper. It updates like the internet. And it feels like the 21st century. And above all, the price is right. 99 cents per week, or 39 dollars per year. A far cry from the New York Times’ outrageous price hopes of 20-30 dollars per month.

The question now is, will this take off? Will people begin to gravitate away from the static-ness of traditional newspapers in favor of live updating, but still appropriately formatted, tech-based content? No matter how you look at it, the answer ultimately will be yes, whether it’s within the next 1-3 years, or the next 10-20 years.

Most importantly, once this happens, what does that mean for the future of news distribution? If one company holds a monopoly over the content being produced, like News Corp. with The Daily, then our source of news would be incredibly influenced by that companies financial influences. The flak that company gets, it’s desire for advertisements, and the interests of it’s higher powers, would completely influence the customers perceptions of truth and reality. It’s a fascinating futuristic scenario, but being able to hold this future in my hand makes it all the more exciting… and scary.

Poll time…

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