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Summary:

Final Cut Pro X represents a huge cost savings over its predecessor. But this definitely isn’t the first time Apple has professional caliber tools available at prices within reach of some consumer budgets, and it probably won’t be the last.

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Final Cut Pro X arrived in the App Store today, and though it’s one of the most expensive apps at $299.99, it’s also topping the Paid and Grossing app charts right now. That’s because it’s a relative bargain compared to Final Cut Pro 7, which was only available as part of the $999.99 Final Cut Studio suite. That kind of price drop will not only help encourage pro customers to upgrade, but it should also convince some pro-sumer customers to step up to the big leagues.

This is only the most recent example of Apple bringing significant price cuts to once expensive software. Mac OS X 10.0 cost $129.99, for example, while even a family pack of Snow Leopard was priced at only $49, and a single user license was just $29. Lion, which is said to be coming in July, will cost $29 for a copy that can be used on multiple Macs associated with your Apple ID. Windows still starts at $79.95 for entry-level upgrade pricing, and can cost as much as $219.99, depending on the edition.

But pricing isn’t the only difference. Windows also divides its software product offerings, making clear distinctions between tools it thinks consumers need vs those that professional users would want. Apple has always done a good job of steering clear of such defined lines, and although it does offer an OS X Server variant of its software, that product is much more clearly designed for a very specific use than Microsoft’s “professional” grade operating systems.

Apple also seems to be gaining ground in the enterprise thanks in part to its refusal to target professionals specifically. BlackBerry tried that strategy, and while it worked well for many years, mobile companies now appear to be following Apple’s lead, realizing that the new path to the enterprise is by convincing individual users of the value of your product, and not necessarily by selling to corporate IT. Apple doesn’t ignore business, but it definitely doesn’t unduly prioritize that market, as evidenced by the decision to stop selling Xserve late last year.

$300 is still a lot of money for a consumer to spend on a single application, don’t get me wrong. But Final Cut Studio once cost $1300. To say that it isn’t more likely that hobbyists or pro-sumers will drop the cash to take their craft to the next level than it was four years ago just isn’t realistic.

Some might claim that the disappearance of Final Cut Express, Apple’s mid-range offering between Final Cut Pro and iMovie actually indicates the distinction between pro and consumer applications is getting more defined. But Final Cut Express was priced at $199, just $100 shy of the new Final Cut Pro X, and it didn’t incorporate the same audio and color correction tools of the newer application, plus it carried a lot of limitations that made it pale in comparison to the full Final Cut Pro product.

And that’s the key: Apple isn’t narrowing the gap between pro and consumer by leaving out features and dumbing things down; it’s making things easier, certainly, but it’s also just making them more affordable. It’s the smart move for a workforce that is becoming more and more contract-based, where freelancers often have to source their own tools in order to impress potential employers and win contracts.

Apple is already a company that knows how to make a tool that everyone can use. Now that it’s increasingly becoming one that also knows how to make tools that everybody can afford, there are even fewer barriers to the potential heights it can reach.

  1. Actually, Apple is dumbing thing down. There is no OMF support, no EDL support, no XML support, no support for third party devices, no support for existing third party plug-ins, and no backwards compatibility with existing projects. For consumer users, there a ton of new features that are legitimately awesome. For pro users, there are a ton of old features that are now gone, and lots of them are integral and irreplaceable parts of existing pipelines.

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  2. “Apple isn’t narrowing the gap between pro and consumer by leaving out features and dumbing things down”
    Actually that is exactly what they are doing, I guarantee that final cut will lose a huge share of their professional users from this downgrade.

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  3. Last year I paid 999 for this software, it never worked right, allegedly could be considered defective, might be a suit there, avoid this alleged, trash at all costs.

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  4. Missing the forest for the trees. Apple is in the business of high margin hardware sales. Software is what makes that hardware useful. What Apple is doing is to make the software on their ecosystem ridiculously cheap so that people will buy their hardware. Apple doesn’t need to make profit on software. This is not very different from Google giving away web apps free subsidized by their search engine.

    Apple has a two-fold policy. Give away their own software cheaply. Create a casino mentality for independent software vendors so that on the aggregate they will get software for their devices at total lower cost than what those development costs would have been i.e., developers play the game of 50/50 developing for iDevices.

    This may seem like a very good plan to benefit customers. But most of the media seem to be clueless about the effect on the ecosystem and the long term effects. The independent software industry for anything more than throwaway apps and games is getting decimated by the lack of pricing power. Nobody is going to put in the investment to do the next Photoshop or next fancy website building software.

    Very few are aware of the irreversible ecosystem damage that Apple (and Google or anyone else that misprice their products and destroy the independent market for those products) is doing. This applies to media, software and all soft goods. At best, the long term effect will be minimal choice of products and at worst lack of products as the business models that spawned the mispriced products go out of vogue.

    It is quite amusing that even bloggers on this site who should have the experience and the insight to see the bigger picture cannot seem to see beyond their noses as to how these business models are sustainable. Until it is too late…

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  5. Three points
    1} Comparing the $1o00 product with the $300 is comparing Apples to dog s–t. read what some of the pros have to say.

    2} I submit that Apple is dumbing down the Mac OS to make it attractive to all those non Mac users who have an iPhone or an iPad. Much of the “improvements” are eye candy

    # Dumbing down the OS distribution method to make it easier to install??. In the process locking Millions of loyal Mac users who don’t have and can’t get hi speed unlimited internet access. Go to the Apple store? A250 mile round trip with a mac Book an iMac and a Mac Pro??? I think not. If Apple doesn’t care that so many are inconvenienced or locked out of the up date thenI don’t care to take that kind of a ride for the priviledge of giving Apple $30

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  6. is there a trial version?

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  7. So no one thinks that eventually Apple will add FC7 import, OMF export and all the other things we’re used to as time goes on? Third party devices etc…? At some point they have to. We can’t use FC7 forever.

    I felt the same way about Logic 8 & 9. It looked like Garageband Pro to me and I despised them for a looooong time. Still use Logic 7, but am coming around to L9.

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  8. What I see happening is yes a thinning of products. Apple buys Shake a powerful composting tool, pro’s hope it will continue to be sold – nope it’s gone. They may have taken some things from it, but it’s gone. Color – apple purchased that, now it’s gone and stripped down in FCPX. FCP was bought by I think another start up company in the late 90′s and now they’ve stripped that down. Steve Jobs I’ve been told is a minimalist, therefore Apple products get stripped down to what they think mass consumers want, not what pro’s need in their toolset. And yes, the software pricing dropping is simply to sell lots of Apple hardware, that again is true Steve Jobs, figuring out a way to continue to sell lots of Apple hardware again and again.

    Fortunately I’m not in position to move up from FCS 3 to this latest offering right now, but when I am, I will take a serious look at Adobe for video editing and motion graphics. They seem to be headed in the right direction in this area from what I have seen in the last year. I won’t abandon Apple completely because I can’t stand Windblows, but this latest offering in FCPX is too much of iMovie pro.

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