Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Apple iMovie story: An interesting lesson in modern software evolution

Apple's iMovie was a very good product for editing home videos. Apple decided, however, that they needed to provide a simpler product for managing small video fragments (phone, camera) including editing and organization (iPhoto also organizes video fragments, but even my fellow geeks don't know that.)

Apple decided to kill their original iLife product (iMovie 2006) and replace it with a new 1.0 product called, not coincidentally, iMovie 2008. iMovie 2006 and iMovie 2008 are very different products with some overlapping and some distinct features -- but 2008 is definitely not a superset of 2006. In some ways iMovie 2008 is a significant step backwards from iMovie 2006. If you don't like it, one imagines Jobs saying, you can buy Final Cut Pro and new Mac to run it.

This is arguably a rather arrogant move, but we Apple customers are accustomed to this sort of thing. Those of us who knowingly sold our souls to Mephistophejobs knew there'd be days like this. The iPhone doesn't have, cut and paste, tasks or search capabilities (ok, there's a long list of missing basic PIM functionality), Aperture can't modify image dates and the database is unbelievably slow, iPhoto can't import/merge iPhoto Libraries, etc, etc. Apple's software gets dumber and dumber, but that's what non-geeks want. Geeks just have to suck it in -- for us the pinnacle of software development on any platform was probably the mid-90s.

That's what I thought, until I read this: Buy iLife '08 and get iMovie '06 for free.  This is so unlike Apple I'm a bit stunned. It's almost as though Satan were say "John, I'm really sorry about that eternal hellfire bit, I'll drop the temperature". They're effectively apologizing for the kill/switch move, and providing the old functionality for those who want it. They barely waited for the screaming to start.

So what happened? Is Jobs grip weakening? Is some non-satanic force emerging within Apple?

Wow. Next thing you know they'll build an iPhone I can buy, or maybe even, dare I dream, fix Aperture?

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