Sunday, March 11, 2012


The iPad is naturally generating a lot of buzz around the internet in the last week.  Most of it's been pretty positive, with the standard regiment of malcontents deciding it was "disappointing" or "underwhelming" for whatever reason.  And that's the point... I don't think I've heard anyone adequately explain what it was they were expecting that they didn't get.  There was just no outlandish surprises.  Oh, well...

Announced alongside the iPad was a refreshed TV, bringing 1080p support and a new UI-  it was nothing groundbreaking, but anyone that was expecting something more during an iPad event was deluding themselves.  Many argued that Apple wouldn't announce another product during the event, but the more I thought about the way Apple has been positioning AirPlay connectivity since iOS5 came out, it really made sense with the iPad's 2x resolution to both start delivering iTunes movies and TV shows at 1080p resolution, as well as release an TV which could push AirPlay from your iPad at the best possible resolution.

Here again we had lots of complaints, on one hand you have people surprised/disappointed that Apple's 1080p isn't BluRay quality.

Well... DUH!

But the other complaint is one we've hit twice in a row now- TV appStore.  I have to admit that when this rumour cropped up before the announcement of the TV2, I was onboard.  Heck, I was even planning with a friend of mine to start a weekly TV podcast.  But it was not to be then, and there was absolutely no mention of it last week.

I've thought about it a bit this week and I've come to a conclusion- it ain't gonna happen.  Sorry.  Nope.

Thinking about it in retrospect, it was clear when Apple launched the TV2 at Macworld in 2008, and the refresh at last week's iPad event sealed the deal.

Why am I so sure?

It comes down to two things-  First, storage.

When Apple launched the TV2, they removed the bulk of the internal storage from the original version.  Gone were the 40 or 160GB internal drives that had to be synched with a computer on your local home network.  In their place in the tiny shell of the TV2 was 8GB of flash memory.  Enough storage to buffer streaming of a movie or two, and that's it.  We haven't heard how much internal flash memory lives in the new TV, but I guarantee you it's not much more than 8GB.

If Apple were to launch an appStore for the TV, where does the user store all these apps?  A couple of good sized games or applications, and your going to be running out of space.  Especially if you consider the TV MUST keep a certain amount of that flash memory available for media streaming.  There's just no room to be downloading any reasonable amount of apps in the TVs current form factor.

And the second nail in the coffin?  The processor.

Apple updated the TV with an A5 processor.   But it wasn't the dual-core A5X with quad-core GPU that Apple put into the new iPad.  Heck, it wasn't even the dual-core A5 they put into last fall's iPhone4S.  It was an all new single-core A5, beefed up specifically to give the TV enough horsepower to decode h.264 using the High or Main profile [thanks, ars technica] at up to 25Mbps.  So what does this tell us?  If Apple had any intention to giving the TV access to an appStore, saddling it with this single-core A5 chip makes no sense at all.  It would make it already less powerful than the iPhone4, perhaps even less powerful than the 2009 iPhone3GS at some tasks.  No, this device has been specially tuned to do one thing and one thing well- media streaming.

And really, what's Apple's motivation for putting an appStore on a device that costs $99, and potentially poaching sales of vastly more profitable iPhones, iPodTouches, and iPads.  There is none.

So what's the deal?  Well, it all comes back to AirPlay.  Apple sees the TV as the widget to get your stuff from all your Apple gear onto your big screen.  That's it.  It's that simple.  If you want apps on your TV, then you can do that... by pushing them from your iOS device, and later this year with your Mac running Mountain Lion.  By doing this, Apple eliminates all the interface problems that would have come from a straight up appStore for TV.  No new multi-touch remote, no alternate versions of apps for TVs interface.  Just all the apps on your Mac or iOS device... on your TV.

So where does this leave us?  Well, I do think we'll see customized functionality for TV.  Apple is already showing us what this will look like with the new interface.  But it won't be apps we're downloading, but CHANNELS, much like the VIMEO or MLB or NETFLIX apps that come preinstalled on the new TV now.  Apps like this are very small, basically shells for displaying content streamed from the net.  So the storage constraints won't be an issue.  And it leaves the TV processor to do what it does best, stream media.

So if you have no interest in sports, you can delete all those apps from the interface, and hopefully [should networks finally come to their senses] be able to download HBOGO, or HULU, or CBS, or NICKELODEON or whatever.  Essentially creating your own cable box with only the channels you're interested in subscribing to.

So, sorry, no TV appStore.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It seems like FCPX 10.0.3 just came out, bringing with it a host of new or renewed features including multicam, media relinking, layered photoshop file support, batch file renaming, and broadcast monitoring [Beta].  As well, it brought improvements to XML, colour correction, choma keying, and overall performance and stability.

But the biggest change, I think, might be the attitude towards the software.  I’ve seen lots of articles from people openly hostile towards the original release who’ve been converted, or at the very least their stance has softened.  Scott Simmons, who I’ve had several back and forths with on Twitter, wrote a great piece for Studio Daily about the current state of FCPX

The key point here in Scott’s article,

"...part of the argument against FCPX was its lack of certain core functions that editors have always relied on. Now that many of them are back the questions to ask about moving to FCPX is less about editing features and more about editing philosophy."

Quoth the internet, "THIS".  The reason I've been so frustrated to understand much of the reaction to FCPX, is that it seems most people's attitude was that ANY change to the way things are currently done means that it was no longer "Pro".

Well, to quote the ever-readable Philip Hodgetts of Intelligent Assistance,
"The first problem with making major improvements is that it will involve change and we know that no one likes change: they want things to get better but never change!"

I'm not going to go down this path too far, but to conclude this point, I've hear many people complain since the launch of FCPX that Apple is trying to "tell them now to edit".  Well, sure... they're proposing ideas that differ from the way things are currently done.  But as someone who's been editing since the first NLEs surfaced, I have to say, I don't remember being asked how I wanted to edit back then either!

In the end, there are two ways to look at Apple as a company investing into FCPX:

The first is that Apple is a company where editing software contributes basically nothing to their bottom line; their livelihood doesn’t depend on it’s success, so why should we expect them to take it seriously.
The second, is that Apple is a company where editing software contributes basically nothing to their bottom line; their livelihood doesn’t depend on it’s success, so they have the freedom to take chances that other companies that live or die on their software’s success cannot.
AVID isn’t going to do anything to rock the boat with their core user base.  Those users have their rut and dammit don’t screw with my interface or command keys!  This gives AVID very little room to maneuver in terms of innovating.  All they can do is make “the faster horse”.
Apple is willing to throw away core ideas and start over- and that’s where real innovation begins.

Wait... wasn’t this article about 10.0.4?
Ok.  Thanks for letting me vent...
Let’s take a look at Apple’s FCPX release schedule since the product first launched, with days between each update listed after-
10.0.0 - Jun 21, 2011
10.0.1 - Sep 20, 2011  [91 DAYS]
10.0.2 - Nov 16, 2011  [57 DAYS]
10.0.3 - Jan 31, 2012  [76 DAYS]
The smartest way to predict what Apple is going to do is look for patterns in their process.  We don’t have a lot of data to work with yet, but so far the update release cycle has been 10.0.1 [Feature Update], 10.0.2 [Bug Fix], 10.0.3 [Feature Update].  If we take that as gospel, we should expect to see FCPX 10.0.4 approximately 2 months after the release of 10.0.3.  The other thing to keep in mind is that with all but 1 of these updates, Apple releases on a Tuesday.
With that in mind, the earliest prospective date for 10.0.4 will be Tuesday, March 27th.
Now, this takes for granted that 10.0.4 will follow pattern and be all about bug fixes.  Should that be the case, expect to see no new “feature” functionality.  That said, I think we could still see further enhancements to FCPX’s XML [further expanding the hooks 3rd parties can use for cross-software compatibility] and added work on the CoreMediaIO Broadcast monitoring support.

However, we’re still in early days here, and it’s clear the FCPX development team has set itself aggressive goals for the software’s development.  So we might see another large scale release with 10.0.4.  Should that be the case, we could expect it no later than 3 months after the release of 10.0.3, or by Tuesday, May 1st.
Should 10.0.4 be a bigger update, I think the areas we might see some big changes are :
  • Audio mixing and improvement of the implementation of Roles
  • Improved multi-user and SAN support
Richard Taylor has posted an extensive list of improvements he’d like to see on his site FCPX.TV.  He’s already had to ace 9 items with the release of 10.0.3.  I imagine a lot more will be gone before the end of the year.
As with anything theorizing about Apple's plans, it's always a crap shoot.  They act like this, until they do that!  Though I didn't publish my predictions anywhere, I was within 2 week of my outside prediction of the 10.0.3 release date.  Let's see how I fare this time...
NEXT: my own take on ROLES.  The core idea is great, but I think they need to work on presentation.