Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4 receive major updates

I seriously thought we wouldn’t see any movement on this before the NAB convention in April, but Apple still seems in the game with pushing the FCP X platform forward.  In addition to the updates appearing in the Mac App Store, a whole new page has appeared on Apple’s site.

FCP X 10.0.3 now includes multicam (up to 64 angles), better chroma keying, improved media relinking, support for layered Photoshop files, XML 1.1 support, and broadcast monitoring (this one is huge for professionals).

Even more telling is that at the bottom of the page Apple links to a third party utility that ports FCP 7 projects to FCP X.

This is a pretty major step forward for Apple’s much maligned rewrite to Final Cut Pro they released last summer.  Looking over the release notes, it seems that they’ve checked most items off the list of legacy features that were missed the most.  Whether this dampens the criticism heaped upon FCP X by professional editors and the press remains to be seen, but I’m sure downloading now…

Apple has an OK quarter

Much has already been written about Apple’s staggering Q1 earnings report that was released last night.  VentureBeat summarizes it well, so I won’t retread over the same points.  A few things jump out to me:

•iPod sales continue to free fall, dropping 21% compared to a year ago- and those numbers would probably be drastically worse if you removed the iPod touch from the category.  The 2007 iPhone release coincided with the cresting wave of “legacy” iPod demand, and today almost three quarters of Apple’s profit come from those iOS devices that didn’t exist five years ago.

•Apple had the second best financial quarter ever.  Not Apple’s best quarter, but any company’s best quarter in history.  Only ExxonMobile scored bigger in 2008 when gasoline prices were at an all time high.

•The iPhone generated more revenue in Q1 than Microsoft did in its entirety.  Breaking the numbers down, Apple’s phone raked in $24.42 billion, while all of Redmond’s empire collected $20.89 billion.

RIM can’t save itself

Dan Frommer:

New Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins — previously a co-COO at the BlackBerry maker, in charge of product and sales — is too little, too late.

Unless Heins is secretly a rare, freakish visionary genius whose creativity has been stifled by his former bosses for all these years — he’s been at RIM since 2007, right when it started to get into trouble — he’s not going to save the company from its decline.

It’s been almost five years since the smartphone industry shifted radically, and Research in Motion is finally starting to realize.

iPads, textbooks, and education

Apple’s announcement this week that they are jumping headfirst into the education market was an expected and well-received move.  With the additions of iBooks textbooks, iBooks Author, and a dedicated iTunes U app, Apple is looking to both improve the state of educational material available to students and make a whole lot of money in the process.

There’s a lot to like here.  The ability for anyone to create textbooks and then publish them to the iBookstore creates a much lower barrier of entry for smaller organizations.  Apple provides the publishing tools and the distribution channel in exchange for the usual 30% commission of anything sold, and the iBooks Author app restricts you from using it and publishing your final work to another retailer.  If you’re not interested in making money, you can still publish to iTunes U and students can download that content free of charge.

There are challenges, however, and most of them revolve around the hardware itself.  Sure, an iPad is lighter than a backpack full of books, but it’s also an expensive piece of gear with a large glass screen.  Mix that with the average student and you’re looking at a considerable risk of loss and breakage.  Will school systems be able to swallow the combined cost of the devices, replacement or repair, and the books themselves?  Some have suggested that Apple release a stripped-down lightweight (and lower cost) version of the iPad just for the education market, but I honestly don’t believe that Apple has any interest in fragmenting its product line this way.

Then there’s the distraction factor.  Imagine a room of high school students armed with iPads that can connect to the Internet, send instant messages, and play games.  Schools will want a way to control what these devices can do, especially if they are the ones purchasing them and supplying them to students.  This creates an additional layer of IT that could complicate the process for the less tech-savvy school systems.

Another potentially serious issue is crime.  If it becomes known that a elementary or high school has given each student a shiny new iPad to carry each day, those students could be targeted traveling to and from school.  This would be especially serious in disadvantaged neighborhoods, which arguably are the places where improved learning materials are needed the most.

In the short term, this new initiative from Apple seems destined to succeed at the college level.  My pre-Internet college experience consisted of grossly overpriced books and a mad crush in the school bookstore at the beginning of each semester.  It’s generally assumed that kids marching off to higher education need a computer, so perhaps the iPad can fill that role as well.  The big question I have is how can Apple make this work for younger students at all economic levels?

George Lucas hangs it up

NYT’s Bryan Curtis profiles Lucas and his plan to abandon blockbuster movies:

Sitting in a sun-drenched office, his voice boyish, Lucas talked about himself as if he were a character in one of his movies. He’s at the end of an epic saga; he’s embracing a new destiny (“Make the art films, George”); he’s battling former acolytes who have become his sworn enemies; and George Lucas is — no kidding — in love. Before he takes his digital camera with him into obscurity, though, Lucas has one last mission. He wants to prove that with “Red Tails,” he can still make the kind of movie everyone in the world will want to see.

Bing is now the best search engine

or so says Mat Honan at Gizmodo:

But I didn’t switch for political reasons, or as an act of protest. I don’t care if Google hurts Twitter or Facebook—or even Friendster for that matter. Boo-hoo. I only care if it hurts me. And this does. Google broke itself.

For years, Google Search has been the highest quality web product I’ve ever used. It has remained consistently essential as an information-delivery mechanism. I typically hit it hundreds of times a day—on my phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. But with one update it wiped out all those years of loyalty and goodwill it had built up.

I’ve never really spent much time with Bing, but the changes to Google lately have left me less than pleased.  I don’t need another social network, and Google’s desire to weave Google+ into the search results is intrusive and distracting.  Honan’s argument to try Bing is compelling:

In short, it’s a lot like Google. Not the Google of today, but the Google you fell in love with, the one that put your search results above its financial ones. The Google that delivered.

Dell taking another swing at tablets

John Paczkowski’s tongue-in-cheek headline for AllThingsD (Dell Really Hoping It Won’t Have to Discontinue Next Tablet) hints at the trouble OEM computer manufacturers face in this new world of mobile.

Dell also appears to be putting a lot more thought into its approach to the market this time around. Certainly, the company seems to understand that tablets don’t succeed on hardware or software alone, but on the ecosystem surrounding them.

“When you are talking about PC, people are more focused on the hardware itself,” Felice said. “When you are talking about the tablet or the smartphone, people are interested in the overall environment it’s operating in. As we have matured in this, we are spending a lot more time in the overall ecosystem.”

How much control over the ecosystem does Dell have?  They don’t produce their own OS so they are at the mercy of Google or Microsoft.  They don’t have an entrenched mobile marketplace so theres a vacuum of customers that needs to be filled.  And most importantly they don’t have the mindshare: when you think Dell you think cheap commoditized computers, not carefully cultivated ecosystem.