How to Alienate Your Customers, by Apple

Something much bigger than a software program died last week when Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) announced that it was ending development of the old version of Final Cut Pro and replacing it with the totally redesigned Final Cut Pro X. Apple also killed some of that intangible and priceless thing called trust.

Professional video editors had been eagerly anticipating a vastly improved and updated Final Cut Pro from the Wizard of Cupertino. What they got instead was a lump of coal from the Wicked Witch, delivered by flying monkeys. It was, in essence, a product that seemed to be designed to drive editors right into the loony bin. It certainly caused its share of apoplexy.

Reaction
Longtime Final Cut Pro trainer Larry Jordan, lamenting the heavy-handed way that Apple handled the introduction, said on his blog: "Apple did not just blow this launch, they went out of their way to alienate their key customer base."

David Pogue, writing an online follow-up to his mostly favorable New York Times review of Final Cut Pro X, commented on the anger professional video editors have expressed at the program's release: "In 10 years of writing Times columns, I've never encountered anything quite like this."

FCPX left out many important features that FCP had, even losing the ability to open projects edited in the older program. This was disappointing enough, but video editor Jeffery Harrell was particularly taken aback by the program's completely new, unwieldy, and unyielding project organization system: "apocalyptically bad maliciously designed" is how he described it between his less printable critiques of the program.

Going viral
The negative reaction to the program has reached such a crescendo that a petition was started on Apple's own support forum requesting that it bring back the old Final Cut. If Apple isn't willing to do that, the petitioners requested that the company sell the program to a third-party developer. That petition has jumped to No. 1 on PetitionOnline.com, with more than 4,700 signatures as of June 29.

To the casual follower of this program's release, it might seem like just a lot of whining by a small group of malcontents who would complain about any change from the status quo. There would be a sliver of truth to that charge if, as the petition points out, this didn't affect the livelihoods of those whose businesses directly support the Final Cut Pro workflow:

Many have invested hundreds of thousands (some even millions) of dollars in creating Final Cut Pro based companies. These are now threatened by a "prosumer-grade" product upgrade of Final Cut Pro 7 titled "Final Cut Pro X," and will likely put several of these companies out of business.

Comparing apples to kumquats
Some have compared this uproar over the introduction of FCPX to what occurred when Apple's classic OS 9 operating system was replaced by the Unix-based OS X -- basically, a short-lived brouhaha that will blow over once customers realize the change was for the better. A major difference here is that Apple continued OS 9 for years so that legacy programs could still be run. In this case, however, the older FCP and its companion programs were summarily terminated.

iRONY
That Apple commercial that introduced the Macintosh computer during the 1984 Super Bowl may come to mind about now. That's the one with a great hall filled with worker drones listening to a large-screen televised image of an omnipotent leader who proclaims: "Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion … We shall prevail!" A young woman runs into the hall, destroying the screen with a sledgehammer.

Apple's intention, I believe, was to imply that its revolutionary computer would free workers from the yoke of top-down-imposed technical dogma. Hmmm … some might see the face of Apple up there on that screen after this recent example of a top-down-imposed way of doing things.

Polishing the apple
Apple may be attempting to do a little damage control by giving refunds to some dissatisfied FCPX purchasers. This is notable, as the company's terms and conditions declare that "all sales are final." But restoring the trust that video and film professionals once had in Apple will require a lot more than crediting some customers' credit card accounts. It would require bringing back to life the old Final Cut Pro and making the needed improvements to that program.

Failing that, I'm sure Avid (Nasdaq: AVID  ) , Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) , and Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , with their respective Media Composer, Premiere, and Vegas editing systems, would gladly pick up the slack.

If you have any thoughts on the matter, let me know in the comments section below.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no financial interest in the companies mentioned.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Adobe Systems, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and creating a diagonal call position in Adobe Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 2:32 PM, skippywonder wrote:

    I hate to be the one to break it to professional editors such as Larry Jordan, but this tiny market is hardly Apple's "key customer base." In fact, the pro-sumer who will spend $300 for a program to edit his silly garage band playing some wedding or his child's graduation footage is a much larger market than the professional video editor who will now be forced to buy Adobe's Premiere.

    The signal that Apple no longer cares about the professional video market is indeed harsh and sudden, but the indignation on the part of these folks who seem to think that they are an important revenue source to Apple is overblown. Apple os apparently jettisoning a fringe market in order to entice the larger consumer market. Hardly a head scratcher.

    But while we're contemplating Apple's strategies, there has long been a rumor (that I have never quite believed) that Apple will buy Adobe. If this ended up panning out, they would take over Premier (the remaining stand alone professional video editing software of any note) and they would have cornered the pro-sumer video market. Pretty slick.

    Even if not true, Apple has traded up markets from a tiny group of pretty persnickety folks to a huge market of consumers waiting to gobble up what Apple has to offer. Smart move, hurt feelings notwithstanding.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 3:40 PM, EvenSteppinWolf wrote:

    how to get clicks on your failing financial advice website:

    inject the ticker symbol aapl into the copy.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 3:43 PM, EvenSteppinWolf wrote:

    u nailed it, skippywonder.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 3:56 PM, NR23Derek wrote:

    It's not just a few moaning edit pros. I use FCP in education - in a college. Students working on a project will often do work at college and at home. To do this they have the source files (clips - which are big file) at home and at college and carry the project file (which is small) on a pen drive between the two. This is no longer possible with FCPX.

    For this and several other reasons it's of no use to us.

    The big pity is the old version was much loved by the students, the work interface was simple and clear, there was zero reason to change that aspect of the software - no-one but no-one had asked for a change.

    Madness from Apple, utter madness. FCPX should be recalled and scrapped.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 4:19 PM, Davewrite wrote:

    1) apple will probably address the issues the pro editors put forward in updates.

    2) apple has the balls to actually redesign a major program (see below) rather than many other companies that simply tag on features until the program is buggy and creaky (Adobe and Microsoft I'm looking at you)

    3) Pro Users are pissed off because now they are going to get a hell of a lot more competition as serious amateurs have access to a powerful program at a low price

    4) as one pro user said, the number of truly high end users are probably not more than 10k worldwide, the number of serious amateurs is way larger. (to put in perspective: Apple has sold 100 MILLION iPhones. 10k is chickenfeed. Even if every pro user buys Final Cut, apple will sell more hardware devices in few hours. All these doom and gloom stories on this: Final cut X is not going to hurt apple's bottom line at all but probably boost it)

    Numerous consumer magazines and sites including PC Mag says Final Cut X is great.

    5) Final Cut is being built with foundations for pro users.

    Zdnet has a good write up about it

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/storage/why-apple-isnt-leaving-the...

    Zdnet:

    "Why Apple isn't Leaving the Pro Market"

    "It’s the architecture, not the features

    But step back from missing features and look at what Apple has done. They’ve re-written FCPX with an architecture that only pros need!

    Key features include:

    64-bit architecture. Addresses more than 4GB of RAM. Aunty Em doesn’t need that, but pros already do, even if they don’t know it.

    Multi-processor support with GCD. Rumor has it that a new 16-core (32 virtual cores) Mac Pro is due next month. The old FCP saw almost no benefit from more than 6.

    Grand Central Dispatch brings multi-processing to the rest of us.

    Background GPU & CPU rendering. Takes advantage of the incredible performance of modern GPUs and multi-core CPUs.

    4k media support. How many 4k consumer camcorders are there? None - and there won’t be for 10 years.

    Object storage. 99.9% of pros have no idea what this is or why they should care, but as video content and archive capacity explodes, this is the only way to fly.

    Cheap scale-out storage. Xsan costs $999 per seat today and next month it is free! Including the Xsan cluster file system in OS X Lion and in OS X Lion Server for $50 is huge for video shops."

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 4:49 PM, sippincider wrote:

    "Many have invested hundreds of thousands (some even millions) of dollars in creating (Apple) based companies. These are now threatened by (some needless change) and will likely put several of these companies out of business."

    Nothing new here folks. Apple has done this throughout their history, which is why you absolutely CANNOT trust your business to Apple products.

    Ask those who bought into the Apple II. Or the Lisa. Or the Newton. Or the Classic Mac OS. Or anything pre-Intel. Apple has bitten before, and they will bite again.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2011, at 8:19 PM, Recent1 wrote:

    We already left APPLE and went to Adobe. It was a good move. As much as it's business for them, it's business for us. We have left most of the Apple products behind also

  • Report this Comment On July 03, 2011, at 7:54 AM, tim3333 wrote:

    Apple plan to bring back most of the missing features - It'll just take them a while - meanwhile pros can keep using the old version

  • Report this Comment On July 03, 2011, at 9:03 AM, rforgo wrote:

    Final Cut customers may have a small user base compared to other Apple systems, but they are a very vocal community. Conan O'Brien and his show's editing crew chimed in ... I'm sure that warmed the hearts of Apple faithful Cupertino.

    http://www.macrumors.com/2011/06/24/conan-obrien-mocks-final...

  • Report this Comment On July 03, 2011, at 10:43 AM, pk22901 wrote:

    Perhaps Apple really is committed to innovating "the next great thing".

    If true, this is how they do it.

    FileMaker Pros is dead; Long live FileMaker Pro X.

  • Report this Comment On July 04, 2011, at 3:13 AM, cadunce wrote:

    You have no appreciation at all for how badly Apple messed up. And some of the comments here are ridiculously naive.

    Yea, now video illiterates can pay $300 to own a video editor that they'll use to add their favorite song to their unedited video of their kid falling off a scooter that they are uploading to youtube where 5 people will watch it. Wohoo! Way to go Apple.

    But there are lots of repercussions to alienating the pro and prosumer market. For example, the film school I got to and college that I go to both use macs, and the only reason is that they teach their courses using Final Cut Pro, because it is an industry standard tool that students can be expected to use when they graduate. Apple can kiss that market goodbye. Similarly, the Final Cut Pro using professions are a huge market for Apple's high end desktop and laptops. The youtubers are not a market for those machines.

    Adobe and Avid are going to make out on this debacle huge. Adobe is already offering 50% off their products for what they are calling the Apple Refugees. I'm probably going to take them up on that offer.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 4:27 AM, EvenSteppinWolf wrote:

    @cadunce

    you moralized:

    "Adobe is already offering 50% off their products for what they are calling the Apple Refugees. I'm probably going to take them up on that offer."

    yeah. and tomorrow, i'm PROBABLY going to ditch my phone and just yell really loud whenever i want to get in contact with my friends.

    you further pontificated:

    "Adobe and Avid are going to make out on this debacle huge..."

    yeah. kinda like how embarrassing and foolishly limiting it was for apple when it didn't support adobe flash. i mean, that was an EPIC fail, huh?

    who needs whom? look for adbe in the bargain basement scrap heap in a store near you!

    but you know this, cuz you're a "professional" right?

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 4:39 AM, EvenSteppinWolf wrote:

    @rforgo

    who the hell is conan o'brien?

    or maybe, it's her/his "editing crew" that is important.

    i'm sure aapl is gonna really be intimidated by the opinion of some no-name idiot and some no-name idiot's crew.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 8:00 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    It all sounds very familiar. I'm still using the older version of iMovie.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 8:43 AM, CluckChicken wrote:

    "Nothing new here folks. Apple has done this throughout their history, which is why you absolutely CANNOT trust your business to Apple products."

    Oh so true. I am actualy amazed it took Apple this long to pull this type of move with FCP. This is not just about Apple making changes to FCP that make it less usable to the professionals but also that they have ended support for the previous version, which means in about 6 months it will be unusable for many in the business.

    I can not wait to hear what happens when Apple makes a change to iOS and people find out that nothing from the previous version will work.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2011, at 1:24 PM, applefan1 wrote:

    Uh oh, we are now getting stock advice from a Video editor that doesn't work in that industry anymore. He used to edit for TV. Dan has NO FINANCE background whatsoever. It has also been commented that a lot of the features the video editing crowd wants will be added in future updates. What apple did was to take Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express and do a one version approach and make it a $300 product with $50 add ons like Motion and Compressor for those that need it. Multicam support is supposed to be added later as will other features. probably the reason is that people are going towards Premiere is for the short term, but they are still using Premiere for the Mac.

    Apple is getting ready to update their entire product line next year. expect some changes. Some will just have to get used to them.

    In the future, it would be nice if Mötley Fool had writers that actually had a finance background.

Add your comment.

DocumentId: 1514943, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 4/24/2014 7:47:10 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement