Apple App Store Subscriptions and iMovie/Final Cut Pro X

Thursday, 09 June 2016

Apple has announced that developers making apps for sale in the iOS, Apple TV and Mac app stores can now offer subscription pricing for any app:

Starting this fall, apps in all categories on the App Store will be eligible to offer in-app purchases for auto-renewable subscriptions to services or content. Users enjoy the reliability that comes with subscribing to a service that they love, and the experience must provide ongoing value worth the recurring payment for an auto-renewable subscription to make sense.

Although Apple is pointing to subscriptions being used to pay for updated content or a continuing service, Phil Schiller added two more categories in an interview with Lauren Goode on The Verge:

He suggests many enterprise apps could move to subscription, and that professional apps that require “a lot of maintenance of new features and versions” would be a good fit.

As I often look at the tech world through the lens of post production, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple use Final Cut Pro X as an example of the latter example at WWDC next week.

Many developers say that this change will make it much more likely they will create professional apps for the iPhone, iPad and Mac.

In the world of post production however, many Final Cut users thumb their noses at Adobe Premiere users over Adobe’s Creative Cloud compulsory ‘software rental’ subscription service.

Since Final Cut was ‘updated’ to version X (pronounced ‘ten’) in 2011, Apple have not changed upgrade fees for the many versions over the years. Those comparing the price for renting Adobe Premiere often compare that with the cost of owning Final Cut. If you bought it for $300 in July 2011, the monthly cost works out to $5 per month over the last five years. Any change in the way Final Cut Pro X is paid for is a big deal for those fighting NLE platform wars.

Final Cut Pro X subscription?

If Apple did introduce a subscription pricing to their professional applications, they have some options:

  • Next version of Final Cut Pro X only available by subscription - with or without a reduction for the first year for existing users.
  • Future versions of Final Cut free for those who bought / buy it for $300, $10 per month subscription option who can’t afford initial outlay.
  • Some features only needed for high-end or industry-specific workflows could be unlocked by subscription.

Final Cut Pro X as an iMovie subscription option 

Ever since X was introduced, traditional NLE users have joked that it wasn’t much more than ‘iMovie Pro.’ For a while now Apple has actually developed iMovie as a customised version of Final Cut Pro X with professional features turned off and with additional consumer-focussed features. They are currently the same application with different UIs activated depending on whether it is running as a consumer application or professional application. 

This might become relevant if Apple add a subscription payment option for Final Cut. Apple would need to decide what happens when customers no longer want to pay their subscription fees (which can be annual, monthly or even weekly). In the case of Adobe Creative Cloud users, if they stop paying Adobe, they can no longer open CC apps to view their projects or make any changes.

Apple have the option of going different ways with Final Cut if the subscription is stopped:

  • Final Cut reverts to the last full version paid for (for those who bought a subscription for new versions after having paid full price before).
  • Final Cut reverts to a ‘no modifications, just export’ mode.
  • Final Cut reverts to the iMovie feature set. This would allow changes to existing projects possible to do in iMovie. This would mean that Final Cut Pro X would be a subscription option for iMovie users.

Subscriptions and the wider Final Cut ecosystem

If subscriptions were introduced to Final Cut, its ecosystem of plugins, services and applications might need to update to reflect the changes.

Firstly, will any current developers move their products and services to the Mac App Store?

What does it mean for FxFactory? It is ‘The App Store for Pro Users’ who sell plugins and apps for Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects. They offer watermarked trial versions of most products. Will developers distributed by FxFactory release future products on the Mac App Store?

Red Giant Universe is a growing pack of plugins for Final Cut Pro X that is available by subscription. Would Red Giant trade some of their subscription money in return for making them available to the huge number of people who use iMovie?

Will Apple provide API hooks that allow Final Cut adjacent products check the subscription status of Final Cut so they can provide different features?

Will Apple Motion and Apple Compressor become subscription options for iMovie/Final Cut?

This change may make developers take another look at making professional applications for the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad Pro. Good news for post production at all levels.

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