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Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Apple scaling Final Cut Studio apps to fit prosumers

Apple's Final Cut Studio suite of video post production apps is getting a significant makeover to better target the software to the mainstream of Apple's customer base rather than high end professionals.

According to a person with knowledge of Apple's internal Pro Apps plans, the company has shuffled around management within the Final Cut team in order to retarget its efforts to more closely match the needs of the majority of its customers. Apple's Mac customer base has steadily shifted from desktop models to notebooks, while also broadening out from a high end creative niche to a wider installed base that includes more prosumer and advanced home users.

Apple originally purchased the origins of Final Cut from Macromedia, as part of a Pro Apps strategy intended to make the Mac platform attractive to high end creative professionals. After rapidly evolving to become one of the top desktop video editing suites, the pace of Final Cut Studio development has slowed, leaving some users questing Apple's commitment to its Pro Apps now that desktop Macs make up an ever smaller segment of the Mac OS X business that is itself now being eclipsed by the company's wildly successful iPhone OS mobile devices.

Where to next, Final Cut Pro?

Apple released the current, third major revision of Final Cut Studio last summer. It includes Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, Compressor 3.5, and DVD Studio Pro 4. None of the apps in the suite currently support 64-bit operation on the company's Intel Macs, however.

That curious omission, together with recent rumors of layoffs surrounding the Final Cut team, has left Apple's Pro App customers wondering what the company has on its road map for the future of Final Cut Studio.

In 2007, Final Cut Pro's original lead developer, Randy Ubillos, completely redesigned iMovie '08 to streamline and simplify the iLife title. The changes prompted criticism from existing iMovie users, as the new app didn't do everything the previous versions did. Last January, Apple released an enhanced iMovie '09 version that addressed many of those missing elements in the new app.

The Final Cut Pro team has since been put back under the direction of Ubillos, according to information AppleInsider has obtained, with the aim of similarly improving Final Cut Studio and making it more appealing and useful to the needs of prosumers. Currently, Final Cut Pro is targeted at advanced professionals with a scaled down, less expensive Final Cut Express version sold to users who don't need all of its high end features. Because Apple now primarily sells the Express version, the company wants to rethink Final Cut Studio and scale its overall development to better fit the majority of its customers.

Apple hiring interface designers for new Pro Apps

The layoffs related to Apple's Pro Apps team do not spell the end of the company's interest in building Pro Apps, according to new job postings Apple recently posted. The positions, which include a Senior Visual Interface Designer for Pro Apps and a Senior Human Interface Designer for Pro Apps, support the idea that the company is looking to overhaul its Final Cut Pro offerings rather than sell them off or leave them to rust.

The listing for a human interface designer states "Apple’s Professional Applications Design Group is seeking a passionate senior human Interface designer who also understands the intricacies of non-linear video editing."

It also notes that "the candidate will work closely with all designers, producers and engineers to design the future of Pro Apps; high-visibility applications that are used daily by creative professionals working in post-production (examples include Final Cut Pro, Motion and Soundtrack Pro)."

The visual interface designer posting says the position "is a key player in determining the future design language of Apple’s Pro Apps (including Final Cut Pro, Color, Soundtrack and others). We are looking for a visionary designer who is ready to and capable of setting the bar for UI design."