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Apple released Final Cut Pro X yesterday (along with Compressor 4 and Motion 5).They are only available in the Mac App Store as downloads – no disc version is available. Yet again, Apple is cutting loose from the past, and once again, some are saying – is it too soon? (Well, ok, at least I'm saying it…)

Was anyone ready for the end of the floppy drive? Of course, they've only been phased out on PCs in the last few years, but Apple did it with the original iMac back in 1998. Back then, it was a revolutionary move. Nowadays, I can't even remember the last time I used a floppy disc, even on a Windows machine. But it certainly caused consternation back then.

But now we're cutting the cord to the optical disk (and, with iOS 5, cutting the cord to your Mac and its hard drives, if you want). This certainly doesn't mean the end of CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks any time soon. DVDs are mature, but Blu-Ray is still in its infancy. But that infant won't make it out of the crib on Macs – it's obvious Apple will never equip a Mac with a Blu-Ray drive from the factory. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the next generation of MacBook didn't come with an optical drive at all, just like the MacBook Air.

Apple is moving on and daring us to follow. But can we? Should we? Not everyone can, for one. According to a study published last year by US Department of Commerce, 30 percent of households have no Internet access. Worse still, nearly 40% of the population does not have broadband access (which is not to mean they can't get it – some can't – but just that they don't have it). However, only 4.7% of households are still on dial-up. 

If you are one of those unconnected (or virtually unconnected if you're on dial-up) users, how do you buy something like Final Cut? How do you upgrade to Lion, which will also only be available via a download from the Mac App Store? Apple says come on down to the store and use their WiFi. Well, that's probably not going to work out too well if you have an iMac or a MacPro. Also, you'll need an hour or so to download Lion, especially with others in the store doing it too. That's if you live close enough to a store to make that practical. While you could head to a local coffee shop or other free WiFi provider, I'm not sure they'll be thrilled to have you killing off their connection to download an OS. (And please don't buy it at a MacGroup meeting, either! The WiFi is already slow with so many people on it as it is.)

Another bad part of this trend – while Apple, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and the like are trying to get you to pull down more bytes, your ISP is throwing on caps. Comcast added a cap last year for most users (OK, they always had one, but it was a secret – you didn't know what it was or how close you were to it – now you can find out both). Other cable providers have also added caps. AT&T capped off their data plans for the iPhone, and Verizon is poised to kill off their unlimited plans. So on one hand we have content providers making it harder to do things off-line, while on the other hand ISPs are trying to tamp down the amount of data you use. And it only gets worse with high-speed data. For example, if you are on one of Verizon's new LTE devices, which have speeds that rival DSL, you can burn through your month's allotment in a few minutes. As broadband speeds improve to houses and businesses, you'll see the same sort of thing happen there.

So where will this trend take us? Hopefully to faster broadband with much higher (or preferably no) caps. But how does that infrastructure get built? Because the US already had an extensive communication structure in place for a long time, we're saddled with a legacy system (the landline phones) that can't really deliver high speed data (after all, they weren't designed for it) and are too costly to replace. Countries with younger infrastructure and/or smaller countries have much higher broadband speeds  on average. They haven't got a huge, ancient infrastructure to replace.

Is it too soon to wave good-bye to the optical disk and rely on the Internet? Maybe. But maybe, like the death of the floppy, we just need someone to give us a swift kick in the behind and move on.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

 

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  • Brian Stone

    Hi Jack:

    I also am thinking that Apple (Steve) is way out of bounds on this download only crap. What a pain to add Lion to 3 or 4 machines and be required to download it every time.

    Regarding Blu-Ray drives in Macs is no big deal to me I installed one in my MacPro myself but thinking people do not Need or Want an optical drive of any kind is Totally Stupid, IMHO. Goes back to no update to iDVD, I still make videos and distribute them on DVDs. I am tired of “Just Get It OFF The Web. I still feel we need options, and Steve seems to be hell-bent on taking them away.

    Remember the Old Days when Apple was like Burger King, “Have it your way” now it’s turning into McDonalds “Have it OUR way”. There seems to be more choices with Windows (Char and I have dumped all Windows machines) than with Apple anymore. And this philosophy at Apple seems to be growing.

  • Well, you can download once and put the installer in a shared area or copy it to other machines – as long as you sign in to the App Store with the same Apple ID on each machine you can use the single download. So at least you don’t have to download it over and over again. But hey, you have a 45 MB DS3 line going to your house, right, just like Steve? So what’s the problem?

  • And as for Blu-Ray – it would be nice to watch Blu-Rays on your Mac – but you can’t, even if you add one in, without some sort of third-party software (is there even something available on Macs to watch? Maybe VLC does it) since the OS doesn’t support it.

  • Jack, I think there’s some errors in your logic.

    First, many of those who lack broadband at home don’t have it for financial reasons. And if those users can’t afford broadband, they are unlikely to be able to afford Macs.

    Second, Final Cut Pro is targeted toward professional video editors, and they’re more likely to be using it in an office or studio somewhere, not from their bedroom.

    No doubt there are some potential FCP customers out there who will be inconvenienced by this, but I doubt the number is very high.

  • Steve,

    I think you’re overlooking the bigger picture here. Lion and FCP are merely examples of an *industry-wide trend* – I use them as they’re on the vanguard of change, as so often happens with Apple. Look at the floppy example. Also, Microsoft has already shown an app store in Windows 8 previews. Apple may again be leading the way with this trend, but it won’t be confined to Mac users.

    The study I pointed to says 26.3% of those without broadband said it was “too expensive,” but that doesn’t tell us if they simply think it’s a poor value or they can’t afford it.

    Addressing FCP specifically – many of the high-end editing functions have been removed from this version – a lot of editors are very unhappy, saying it’s no longer a pro product. It’s priced the same as the now-defunct FC Express, and works very much like iMovie on steroids. So actually, I think you’ll find it in the hands of consumers more than pros.

  • Very timely and interesting article. The accompanying video is probably the most ingenious and hilariously inventive Rube Goldbergism I’ve ever seen.