For Google and Apple, Profits Outweigh Ideals Everytime: Commentary
Even the biggest, most industry-defining computing companies will turn against their ideas when there's a buck to be made. Just look at the Android operating system and Final Cut Pro X.
I’ve always found it confusing that on one hand, Google could spend $100 million on a codec and then give it away, all in support of HTML5, but then turn around and be such a strong supporter of Flash on the Android platform. After all, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.
For general computing, Google is known as one of the strongest proponents of HTML5. It pays the salary of Ian Hickson, the editor of the spec. It pushes the HTML5 envelope in Google Chrome. It periodically places cool HTML5-based demos on the Google homepage, probably the most popular page on earth. Yet Google made sure that Flash was supported in Android 2.2.
I recently saw an advertisement for an Android-based tablet and noticed that Adobe Flash support was the second feature mentioned. Get the “complete web” or some statement like that. I paid more attention during the next few Android advertisements I saw and noticed the same thing.
Then, the nickel dropped. Flash support is a significant competitive advantage of Android over that other platform that doesn’t support Flash. Google supports Flash on Android because it needs Flash to compete with that other platform. It’s not about the lofty goals of standards-based computing or the death of proprietary technologies. It’s about doing what it takes to succeed on all relevant platforms.
For general-purpose computing, it’s pushing HTML5. For Android, it’s pushing Flash. On both platforms, it’s all about the Benjamins.
Another, more emotional, example came in June with the release of Final Cut Pro X (FCPX). Long ago, pre-iDevice, Final Cut Pro was the shiniest jewel in Apple’s crown. It was the app that proved the Mac=Creativity concept, the app that justified the purchase of all those PowerPC-based workstations that (wink wink) ran just as fast as Intel-based workstations running Windows.
FCPX is much more accurately called iMovie Pro. Hey, it looks like iMovie, it works like iMovie, and it loads iMovie projects (and not legacy Final Cut Pro projects). It doesn’t offer all the critical features of Final Cut Pro 7; it lacks multicam, DVD menu creation, OML or EDL support, and tape output. Adding insult to injury, Apple pulled previous versions of Final Cut Pro off the market, further stranding the current installed base.
Much of the professional video community was outraged. Arguably, Final Cut Pro and the vocal group of editors that supported it were the critical cogs that saved Apple when it was teetering on the brink, oh so long ago. Now they are being abandoned.
The bottom line here is that there are 2 million legacy Final Cut Pro users and 50 million iMovie users. I’m pulling numbers totally out of the air, but if FCPX were a true upgrade to Final Cut Pro, maybe half of the users would upgrade. But if Apple can convince even 10 percent of iMovie users to upgrade to FCPX, it would get five times the revenue.
Unrequited love and unfulfilled admiration hurts. But like a great white shark killing baby seals, Google and Apple are only doing what they were put on Earth to do. We get into trouble when we ascribe higher motives and ideals to our favorite companies, because at the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins.
This article was originally published in the August/September 2011 issue of Streaming Media magazine under the title "It's All About the Benjamins."