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Apple & Application Software…iOS6 Maps Debacle Looks like Final Cut Fiasco

Posted by Doug Garnett October - 11 - 2012 - Thursday

I wrote my letter today to Tim Cook (CEO, Apple) informing him that, as a result of the Final Cut Pro/FCP-X debacle, starting 11/1 my company will create no new FCP projects.

As I wrote, it hit me – the iOS6 Maps fiasco and the Final Cut Pro debacle have eerie similarities…

- In both cases, Apple believed they were developing a dramatic innovation. (And in both cases, they might be – but who can tell given each product’s tremendous weaknesses?)

- In both cases, Apple was tinkering with application software – not systems software.

- In both cases, Apple ignored how dramatically software changes would impact their customer’s lives.

- In both cases, Apple replaced successful mission-critical software with software that can’t be relied on.

- In both cases, Apple hurt their brand trust among users who adopted their software and trusted that Apple would be smart enough not to screw up mission critical software.

- In both cases, Apple originally succeeded with professional quality software that was developed elsewhere. (I understand they inherited the FCP fundamentals and we all know Google delivered the original iPhone Maps.)

It May Be That Apple’s Innovation Skill Doesn’t Extend to Applications. Apple brings stunning innovation to integrated systems/products. But Apple’s successful clever applications generally work only for low demand users and products that aren’t mission critical – like iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, Pages & Numbers. All are inadequate for professional users.

Even Keynote (probably best suited for professionals) has significant flaws for those of us who would like to rely on it for all our work in that format. For example, it only allows landscape mode. But sometimes we need to create presentation material in portrait mode. Also, the transfer from the desktop to the iPad is so poor that we have to re-edit every presentation we take to the iPad.

For a Decade, Final Cut Pro Delivered Quality. FCP was so good that by 2005 we had jettisoned all Avid system work for FCP. (Avid was the dominant editing system.) And FCP worked well – bringing power through flexibility.

Then Apple announced FCP-X – a remake of Final Cut Pro that looked surprisingly like iMovie and lacked the professional features demanded by the TV advertising we create. Was it innovative? Who could tell. A lot changed. But it was so ineffective for our work that we still (18 months later) can’t clearly identify the innovation.

So I wrote a letter to Cook last year and an Apple representative called me. They suggested that FCP-X was great (no matter what I thought) but that also Apple would continue to support the old Final Cut Pro.

Then over the past 18 months, each successive operating system upgrade has delivered new and mysterious crashes to the FCP setups we rely on while FCP-X remains severely hampered in basic features. In the past month, those crashes became so severe that we determined we would start no new projects on FCP. Our hand has been forced.

Which Apple Hubris Causes These Failures? Here’s my guess. Apple has relied on bravado, vision, discipline, and brilliance to deliver ground-breaking integrated products like the iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone, iPod, and iPad.

But when it comes to application software, it looks to me they kept the bravado – but forgot all those others.

Also, having designed software used by mechanical engineers in automotive and aerospace earlier in my career, I think it’s possible that Apple is mis-led by Jobs’ vaunted Zen aesthetic sense. The same simplicity that benefits novices can impede the success of experts. That means expert software often requires complexity that clutters that aesthetic beauty.

Why Did I Write Tim Cook? While our next step is clear to me, I believe companies should know the impact of their actions. And should internalize feedback from product users to make future work more effective.

With that in mind, I have a habit of informing companies of my dis-satisfaction – hoping they can use the feedback to grow and learn.

Will Apple change? Who knows. Their eventual response to the Maps fiasco will show us whether the size of that mistake will finally cause the organization to come to grips with its application software weakness.

Clearly Apple could change – god knows they have the cash reserves. But only time will tell if they will.

Note: Apple followed up my letter with a phone call. In this call, with admirable honesty, I learned that they don’t support dual versions of software and FCP-X is where they put their work. While I dislike the answer, it is encouraging that this year the call I received was honest. Now we will move to Premier without hesitation. And, hopefully we can continue to thrive on Apple systems – because this problem fortunately seems limited to Apple application software.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved


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Doug Garnett, DRTV and Technology Industry Expert

Doug Garnett is founder and CEO of DRTV agency Atomic Direct and a leading expert on innovative uses of DRTV, infomercials and other in-depth TV and non-TV messages to build brand and drive sales.

Doug has been working in and around the technology field for 27 years. After starting in aerospace, he spent 5 years selling and marketing supercomputers. Since shifting to advertising, his clients have included AT&T, IBM, Apple, Disney Mobile, Ugobe, Presto, and Netpliance.

Doug sits on the editorial board of Response Magazine, is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University, and is a member of the Jordan-Whitney Greensheet Panel.

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