Former Shake Product Designer: Apple Doesn't Care About Pro Market
Former Shake product designer Ron Brinkmann weighs in on Apple's Final Cut Pro X release. The latest release of Apple's video editing software has received much criticism from professionals due to absent features. Brinkmann was on the original team that developed Shake image compositing software prior to Apple's acquisition of the parent company. Brinkmann continued to work at Apple from 2002 until 2007 as Shake Product Designer.
As Brinkmann explains, Shake was "entrenched in the top end of the visual effects industry" with most major motion pictures of the era using Shake in some fashion. After Apple acquired Shake in 2002 there was concern about the company not willing to cater to the market, and sure enough the entire software was end of life'd a few years later. Brinkmann bluntly sums up Apple's attitude towards professionals:
And back then the same questions were being asked as now – “Doesn’t Apple care about the professional market?”
In a word, no. Not really. Not enough to focus on it as a primary business.
Brinkman goes on to explain that there are maybe 10,000 "high-end" editors in the world while the market for an easier to use more casual product is "at least an order of magnitude larger". The market size, however, isn't necessarily the only reason. Brinkmann offers an interesting anecdote about how the high end market tends to be 90% driven by product requests from the big customers. Apple doesn't work that way:
After the acquisition I remember sitting in a roomful of Hollywood VFX pros where Steve told everybody point-blank that we/Apple were going to focus on giving them powerful tools that were far more cost-effective than what they were accustomed to… but that the relationship between them and Apple wasn’t going to be something where they’d be driving product direction anymore. Didn’t go over particularly well, incidentally, but I don’t think that concerned Steve overmuch… :-)
Apple's hierarchy is also described as one in which easily demo-able features tend to be easier to promote within the organization. He goes on to say that in the case of FCP, Apple would rather introduce more easy to use features for the broader audience even if it means pushing out some items for high end editors.
Still, he is complimentary of Apple's products and describes them as an "incredible bargain in terms of price-performance", but that "if you’re really a professional you shouldn’t want to be reliant on software from a company like Apple." In the end, he says "your heart will be broken. Because they’re not reliant on you."