Apple's Misstep Opens the Door for Avid

Apple's flawed Final Cut Pro X may be Avid's best -- and last -- chance to regain professional video-editing prominence.

Dan Radovsky
Dan Radovsky
Jun 24, 2011 at 12:00AM

In late May, I wrote that Avid (Nasdaq: AVID) was no longer king of the mountain in the world of professional video editing, and that it had abdicated its throne to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) by not meeting the threat of Final Cut Pro in a timely fashion. Essentially, Avid charged so much for its hardware and software that the company's systems were priced out of the college market. Unfortunately for Avid, those colleges stocked up on the much cheaper Final Cut Pro systems and used them to train the next generation of professional video makers.

Wrong, wrong, wrong
I also wrote: "Just about the only hope that Avid would have of regaining market share from Final Cut would be if Apple totally screwed it up. Possible but not likely."

I'm now eating my words. Apple has indeed screwed it up -- royally.

Apple has just released Final Cut Pro X (the last version was 7 -- where did 8 and 9 go?), a brand-new program redesigned from the ground up. And the complaints from the professional editing world have been overwhelming. On Apple's own App Store, there is just one negative review after another.

Besides completely changing the user interface -- the pinnacle of stupid moves as far as professional video editing is concerned -- some of the important features now missing from Final Cut Pro X are support for external video monitoring and videotape support. And, in what could turn out to be the last straw, there's no ability to open projects edited on older versions of Final Cut.

Careful what you wish for
Ironically, the under-the-hood features of Final Cut Pro X are what the editing community has been desiring for years: the ability to make use of all available memory, as well as support for multi-core processing -- which is what the 64-bit capability of the new program offers.

Apple appears to have made a coldly calculated decision here: Bring the once mostly professional video-editing  program into the price range of many more Apple consumers while jettisoning the relatively few professionals who gave the program its entry into the pro market. The program now costs $300, compared with the $1,000 price tag on the older programs. But this lower price is a bit misleading. It doesn't include Motion, the video compositing program, or Compressor. Those will be extra.

The door is open
Avid, are you listening? It's time to get back in the game. Why should professional editors stay with Final Cut when they're now seeing that they can't rely on Apple for the tools to ply their trade? If Avid takes advantage of this opening, maybe it can become a company with a future again. If not, maybe Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE), with its Premiere video-editing software, will.

Keep an eye on Avid by putting it on your Watchlist.