Opinion

Why Apple built Final Cut Pro X

I worked on Final Cut Pro from 2002 to 2008. It was an amazing experience. The Final Cut Pro X project was just getting started when I left Apple. It was an ambitious and controversial move, but it made sense for Apple. Here's why....

Apple doesn't care about the pro space....

Last Word on Lion and Application Compatibility

At the risk of beating a dead chestnut, I’ve received several inquiries regarding applications and their likely (or assured) compatibility with Lion. Rather than chew up precious email bits and forum threads, let’s wrap up this “Will my applications run under Lion or not?” package with a colorful bow.

What does the guy who led the original Final Cut Pro revolution think of the Final Cut Pro X release?

"Everything just changed in Post."

Yes it did!

In case anyone is interested in my take on the release of Final Cut Pro X, here it is.

First, let me say this first article is just about the release, and not about the software itself. I promise that henceforth I will focus on the actual FCPX software and forget all the hullabaloo.

But this article is about Apple’s business strategy (or lack thereof), my industry perceptions, and looking back a bit to see if we can predict the future.

Patents don’t Equal Products

Last week, The Loop had a story titled Apple patent could prevent you from filming in some venues”. I commented on the story, as I have on other web sites and on several mailing lists, that people should relax.

I said, “Patents don’t equal products. This ‘technology’ is easily circumvented by your average point and shoot camera. Non-issue. Non-story.”

My friend Mike Rose over at TUAW picked up the smoldering embers of this torch and wrote “Apple’s infrared ‘camera kill switch’ patent application hits a nerve”.

But I’ll repeat myself — “patents don’t equal products.”

Apple awarded Patent for iPhone Interface

When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone at Macworld Expo 2007, he lauded its multitouch interface. “And boy, have we patented it,” he added. It seems that now, four and a half years after Jobs declared the iPhone’s innovations worth protecting, that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has agreed.

On Tuesday, Apple was awarded U.S. Patent 7,966,578, for a “Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content.” In other words, Apple received a patent on the basic behaviors of the iPhone.

Via an email to Macworld, patent expert Florian Muller—a vocal critic of software patents—described Patent 7,966,578 to as “excessively broad.” Though Muller acknowledged “that Apple is a truly innovative company,” he suggested that Apple—like other large companies—“understand[s] the name of the patent game,” and thus aimed for a broader patent that could theoretically give it more legal muscle to exert over potential competitors.

Toward Better Master Passwords

1Password is great for generating strong random passwords for sites without you ever having to memorize (or even see) those passwords. But there are a few passwords that we all do need to remember. I have a small number (I wish I could say just one) high security passwords that I need to remember. One, of course, is my 1Password master password.

We’ve all been told to change passwords on a regular basis, and there are still some circumstances under which that remains reasonable advice. But it is not a good idea with 1Password master passwords. Ideally you should pick a good master password at the outset and never change it.

How to encrypt Your Dropbox Files

With the news that Dropbox managed to leave every single user account open for four hours, perhaps it’s time to review our encryption options.

We’re fans of Dropbox here at Securosis. We haven’t found any other tools that so effectively enable us to access my data on all my systems. I personally use two primary computers, plus an iPad and iPhone, and with my travel I really need seamless synchronization of all that content.

That said, I’m having serious doubts about my continued use of the service.

First Look: Final Cut Pro X

With the release of its hotly anticipated Final Cut Pro X (FCP X), Apple breaks new ground—not just with its flagship video editor's interface and underlying infrastructure—but with the whole mindset of what it means to be a working professional video editor.

Apple has revamped Final Cut Pro's hands-on user experience in three major areas: Editing, media organization, and post-production workflow. New tools such as the Magnetic Timeline, Clip Connections, Compound Clips, and Auditions provide a smooth, intuitive editing experience.

With this new application, video pros can no longer follow traditional ways of working.

“Why should Somebody Buy this instead of an iPad?”

It’s been fifteen months since the first iPad shipped. Nearly every sizable company that makes anything that looks even sort of like a computer or a phone has rushed into the market that Apple created. Many of these companies haven’t yet shipped the tablets they’ve announced. Still, a critical mass of major iPad alternatives are now here–tablets such as Motorola’s Xoom, RIM’s PlayBook, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.

And yet no Apple competitor has started selling anything that clearly answers a fundamental question: “Why should somebody buy this instead of an iPad?”

Why Apple isn't in the Dow

Since 1896, when the Wall Street Journal's first editor and co-founder, Charles Dow, compiled a portfolio of bellwether industrial stocks, the Dow Jones industrial average has sought to reflect the changing U.S. economy. The benchmark has sometimes been slow to keep up with the times.

Today the Dow is notable for one giant omission: Apple, the world's leading tech stock. With a market value of $307 billion as of June 14, the maker of iPhones and Macs is the second largest company in the U.S., behind ExxonMobil, a Dow component, and almost as large as Microsoft and Intel combined. "Apple should be in the Dow," says Paul Hickey, of Bespoke Investment Group in Harrison, N.Y. "Just as there used to be a General Motors vehicle in nearly every American driveway, there's now an Apple product in practically every American household."

Unlocked iPhones: What are They Good For?

Since the launch of the very first iPhone, customers in the U.S. could only get their hands on the device if they were willing to ink a two-year contract with a cell phone carrier. iPhone users in other parts of the world had it different, though—they could buy an iPhone that wasn’t locked into any one carrier, provided they were willing to pay up for the privilege.

That changed on Tuesday, when Apple announced it would sell an unlocked version of the iPhone 4 in the U.S. You’re responsible for procuring your own micro-SIM—that’s the card that identifies you to mobile networks and lets you make calls—and you’ve got to line up a cellular contract. But other than that—and a modest payment of $649 or $749 to buy the device—an unlocked iPhone 4 capable of connecting to any GSM-based network is all yours.

The question is, why pay up for an unlocked phone?

Secrets From Apple's Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity

Steve Jobs turned Apple Inc. into the world's most valuable technology company with high-tech products like the iPad and iPhone. But one anchor of Apple's success is surprisingly low tech: its chain of brick-and-mortar retail stores.

A look at confidential training manuals, a recording of a store meeting and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal some of Apple's store secrets. They include: intensive control of how employees interact with customers, scripted training for on-site tech support and consideration of every store detail down to the pre-loaded photos and music on demo devices.

Apple Cloud vs. Google Cloud: The Philosophical Differences

At the end of TechRepublic’s live commentary of the Apple WWDC keynote on Monday, after Apple had unveiled iCloud, I had a conversation with the participants in our live chat in which I explained that Apple’s cloud was a “store and forward” cloud as opposed to an “All your base are belong to us” cloud. Goofy Internet memes and technical jargon aside, that’s a pretty good description of the difference between the Apple cloud and the Google cloud — even though I was half-joking at the time.

Let’s look closer.

Why Apple scrapped MobileMe for iCloud

As Apple gets ready for the fall launch of iCloud, its brand new Internet service for Mac and Windows, it seems only right to mark (if not exactly mourn) the passing of MobileMe, one of the rare product flops Apple has seen in recent years. While there was much to praise about MobileMe, there were too many problems—both real and perceived—that ultimately doomed the service.

What went wrong with Apple's pioneering Web services infrastructure?

Preparing for Lion: Find Your PowerPC Applications

No bad thing will happen to your Mac the day Lion goes final. Your current hardware won’t refuse to boot. Your current system won’t stop working. Your favorite applications will still be your favorite applications. But suppose, just for the sake of argument, that you become interested in upgrading to Lion. And suppose, for the sake of even further argument, that Lion lacks Rosetta. What might the loss of Rosetta mean to you?

To find out, you need to know what PowerPC-only applications you currently depend on.

How Apple can make Money from Higher Quality Songs

Whenever Apple introduces a new mobile device, I go through an anxious ritual: trying to decide how much memory I need in the device.

For example, the last time I bought a new iPhone, I stood in the store for what felt like an hour weighing the pros and cons of spending an extra $100 for the 32-gigabyte version. In the end, I decided to buy the less expensive 16-gigabyte option. My reasoning: I’ll only add the songs and videos I need to the phone at that time, and swap them out when my device fills up later.

Now that Apple announced its music software offering on Monday, iTunes Match, it’s likely that the memory decision will be made for me. And that subtle incentive for me to add memory will help Apple is some small way to make more money.

On Cloud Nine

On Monday Seve Jobs and a host of Apple exec u tives deliv ered the highly antic i pated keynote address to the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference. There are plenty of recaps of the annunce ments avail able and I have no inter est in run ning though the bul­let points here. If, by some mir a cle you’re unaware of what was announced, this slideshow from Macworld should fill you in.

What I want to com ment on specif i cally is the iCloud announce ment. I believe that, despite the stu pid name, iCloud will prove to be as ground break ing as any thing else announced at the Keynote. I also sus pect that iCloud will ulti mately be one of the most impor tant announce ments that Apple has ever made.

MobileMe is dead. Long live iCloud

Like a Hollywood movie studio trying to bring back an ailing superhero franchise, Apple today killed off one of its products by resurrecting it with something else that promises to fix many of the original's shortcomings. At the same time the company acknowledged that MobileMe has been a dud. Can iCloud put the bad memories of MobileMe in the past? Apple sure hopes so.

iCloud, in case you missed it, is Apple's new cloud sync service. It succeeds MobileMe, the $99 a year service Apple introduced three years ago, which will close down on June 30, 2012. iCloud syncs files, apps, app data and media across iOS devices, Macs and PCs. It also syncs your music across devices, though won't do that for video content.

Bandwidth Caps may Obscure iCloud

iCloud's sync services may run smack dab into a countervailing trend: bandwidth caps and overage fees. Because iCloud could potentially move many gigabytes to and from the Internet, crossing your limit could suddenly become a costly or difficult issue. If you're already running close to limits routinely with your current usage (such as streaming movies from Netflix), adding iCloud could put you over the top.

Considering Media in an iCloud

A few weeks ago I took the opportunity to suggest what I’d like to see from a then-rumored iCloud service. My desires haven’t changed more than a smidgen since that time—I'd like syncing that’s intuitive enough for non-geeks, useful collaboration (an iWork.com that actually works and Apple seems to have an obvious interest in), a Web presence, and cloud-based media storage and streaming.

Now I’d like to focus a bit more on what Apple might do with cloud-based media, particularly given that Google has since entered the online media fray with its Music Beta service.

iCloud mention Out of Character for Apple

For a company that operates on secrecy and the element of surprise, Apple's naming of "iCloud" earlier this morning as part of the lineup of products to be shown off at next week's Worldwide Developers Conference was out of character.

Apple has a long history of saving big announcements for a show, even if various details about a product or a service have been leaked well ahead of time. This time around though, things are a little different.

Interview with Apple's First CEO Michael Scott

When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in 1976, they couldn't be trusted to run the company. So, Mike Markkula, Apple's first backer, and the man that guided the company early on, brought in a CEO to do the adult things needed to keep a company running.

His choice for CEO was Michael Scott, who had previously worked with him at Fairchild.

In the course of our reporting about the first ten Apple employees, we managed to get Scott on the phone. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Malware on the Mac: is there Cause for Concern? Ars Investigates

Malware on the Mac: is it mostly hype or a real problem faced by real people? If you ask John Gruber, the answer might be the former—there are lots of proof-of-concept scenarios and virtually none that manifest themselves beyond a slow news day. If you ask Ed Bott, however, the answer would be the latter—he recently interviewed an AppleCare employee who claimed that the recent release of fake antivirus app "MAC Defender" has caused a spike in malware reports among Mac users.

The truth is hard to tease out. Partly because Mac OS X still makes up a comparatively small percentage of the global OS market share, and partly because Apple itself is a secretive company, it's not easy to find out whether malware on the Mac is indeed becoming more common, or it's simply being reported on more often.

Still, we tried to do exactly that. Ars spoke with 14 different Mac support specialists—including several Apple Store Geniuses—in order to get a handle on whether things have changed when it comes to dealing with malware. Their experiences are all over the map, but the general consensus does seem to lean towards a low amount of malware problems—until you get to the Geniuses.

Experimenting with Piracy – An Indie Mac Developer’s Perspective

For the last twelve months I’ve been keeping detailed records regarding the number of users pirating my Mac apps and toying with different ways of converting those users into paying customers. I’m not foolish enough to ever think I could actually eliminate the piracy — especially since I believe there are a few legitimate reasons for pirating software — but I was genuinely curious as to what the actual numbers were, the motivations behind doing so, and if there were any way I could make a small dent in those numbers.

I won’t go into the technical details of how I measured the number of pirated apps in use, but after a two month period I can say with high confidence that 83% of my users were running one of my apps with a fake serial number. Let that sink in.

Eighty-three percent.

About this New Product Launch and NFC for Apple Retail

It’s been quite a week of rumor and speculation in the Apple world. There’s been so much that I thought I’d give my thoughts on what’s being said.

There are three things that have been talked about over the past few days: Apple’s retail anniversary celebration, a new product launch to celebrate that anniversary, and the introduction of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology at the Apple retail stores.

None of these make any sense to me.

The iPad is a $500 Kid's Game

A survey from PBS has revealed something pretty staggering for a $500-plus next-gen computing device: 70% of parents are happy to hand the iPad to their kids, and download child-friendly apps for the rugrats.

A new PBS survey has 70% of parents reporting that they allow their kids to use their iPad. The habit is so widespread that the average number of apps such people downloaded for their kids was eight--meaning well over 10% of the apps on the average iPad that's shared with kids are specifically chosen for kids. More than 40% of these kids used the iPad at least once per day. And though they're frequently used for entertainment, 90% of parents suggest that "educational value" is the key criteria when choosing an app for kids.

Google's iTunes-in-the-Cloud Music Beta

Google officially announced Music Beta by Google, a passive-locker music streaming service compatible with Android devices and Web browsers. Unofficially, Google demonstrated a keen talent for renaming existing iTunes features and presenting them as striking new innovations.

Because, honestly, what Google offers is the answer to this question: “If Apple did nothing more with its music-in-the-cloud strategy than allow you to upload your music to a server, present that music in an iTunes-like interface, toss in a Genius playlists feature, and then stream it back to your iOS device or Web browser, what would it look like?”

Setting aside the snark, here’s the idea.

Using TextExpander to conquer Email

Let me get this out there right away: I hate email. Seriously, I can’t stand it. It’s not that I have any particular problem with the medium; in fact, I’m not even one of those people that believes it should be replaced with a radical alternative. I despise it because it eats up so much of my time. It’s nothing to do with the way email works; it’s purely down to the volume of email I receive.

So when a tool comes along to help me get email out of the way a lot quicker, I’m excited. Without a doubt, TextExpander is that tool. I’ve been using is for just over a month and I honestly don’t know how I could now live without it.

So, for the benefit of those who have never considered it — and for Sarah, for whom I promised to write this article — I’m going to explain why this is an essential app for anyone who receives a high volume of email, or regularly has to write similar responses, or makes dumb typos, or just wants to get a bit more time for the important things in life, like quaffing delicious Belgian beers.

What Microsoft's Skype Purchase means for Mac, iOS

Mac and iOS enthusiasts wondering what Microsoft’s $8.5 billion Skype purchase means to them can take some comfort from a single stoic sentence in Redmond’s press release announcing the deal: “Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.”

That line may treat Mac OS X and iOS as entities that shall not be named, but it at least provides some small bit of reassurance that the existing Skype clients for the Mac and iPhone won’t be whisked off to a farm upstate. Microsoft hasn’t provided any further details on its specific plans for Skype on Apple-branded devices, but that’s OK—it gives us room to speculate.

Microsoft, of course, has a long history of developing software for the Mac, and a short history of developing for iOS. Still, the company’s reputation amongst the Mac crowd isn’t always sterling. So what does this $8.5 billion Skype deal mean for Mac and iPhone users?

Apple needs to get its Head in the Cloud

When those who follow these sorts of things speak of Apple and its strengths and weaknesses, the S and Ws often break down along these lines—Strengths: Just about everything; Weaknesses: The Web.

Though some may argue with the first, very few will contend that Apple’s done a bang-up job on the latter. Apple’s history in Internet services not concerned with clicking a button to buy something has been littered with failures and half-hearted forays—eWorld, iWork.com, Ping, iWeb, and iTools/.Mac/MobileMe. And the imperfect results of these efforts have led some to claim that Apple “doesn’t get” the Web. And while that may be true, I think it’s also true that Apple hasn’t had a compelling need to.

But with however-many-umpteen billions in the bank and an astonishing streak of successes, Apple hasn’t really had to worry about its Web strategy. I believe those days are coming to an end. And for two reasons: Syncing and media.