I usually stay pretty current on software, at least in the editing space, because I review most of the NLEs, and get review copies from the vendors. On the other hand, if I need software that’s mission critical to my day to day working life, or hardware, for that matter, I’ll buy it. For this reason, it came as somewhat of a surprise when I noticed that I have Microsoft Office 2003 installed on my notebook, which is kind of the center of my business existence. That’s eight year old software, folks.
Perhaps my reticence to upgrade has been ignorance; maybe there’s some functionality in later versions that I couldn’t live without once I knew what it was. But it’s more likely that my needs are relatively modest from a word processing/spreadsheet/contact manager perspective, and that the 2003 version does all I really need it.
Which makes me wonder what the next version of Final Cut Pro will bring, whenever it appears. The last big release was Final Cut Studio 2 (FCS2), which occurred at NAB 2007, four years ago. That version included the multiple format timeline, which was huge, along with ProRes and Color. These alone made it a must have. The next version, which appeared around July 2009, was much more modest, and many Final Cut Pro producers followed my Office 2003 strategy and stayed with FCS2.
Another interesting issue to watch is how many Final Cut Pro users own copies of Premiere Pro that they’re not currently using. In a recent conversation with some Adobe product folks, I learned that Premiere Pro is owned by many, many Final Cut Pro users, but hasn’t displaced FCP as the go to editor. Why? Because once you buy Photoshop and After Effects, which many Final Cut Pro producers can’t live without, springing for the CS5 suite that includes Premiere Pro isn’t that much more coin.
I imagine the temptation to try Premiere Pro gets stronger the longer Apple stays pat on Final Cut Pro. It’s not a perfect analogy, but another of the reasons I haven’t upgraded Office 2003 is because Google Documents is already there, available on every connected workstation.
It’s impossible to predict what Apple will do with any product release, but it’s safe to call the next version a watershed moment. Lots of producers watching, as professional products comprise an ever-decreasing share of Apple revenue now dominated by iDevices. Love it, or hate it, Final Cut Studio clearly isn’t as integral to Apple’s strategy as it once once, and though a hot upgrade could easily generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, after four years of waiting for a truly substantive upgrade, you have to be asking yourself, “where’s the beef?”
My personal short list of must have new features includes true 64-bit operation, GPU rendering acceleration and more native format support, and I’d be shocked if at least the first two aren’t included. Truth be told, though, Final Cut Pro is still pretty snappy with SD and most MPEG-2 based formats, and I actually prefer working with ProRes for my AVCHD source videos. Which really makes me wonder what Apple will have to include in the next upgrade to avoid the Office 2003 syndrome. I dunno, but I can’t wait to find out.