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.