The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Jun/09

8

Why no ExpressCard34 slot on new MacBook Pro models?

Digital Rebellion blog called it “one step forward, two steps back” and questioned whether or not Apple are in touch with their “pro market”. I’m sure they care about their pro markets. Note the plural? While the pro video market is significant, the pro photography and pro audio markets by comparison are huge.

As for the ExpressCard34 slot. Sure I’m disappointed. I’m ready to upgrade laptop and want to use it for video and now my storage won’t be able to connect. That said, I have to take a step back and look at the business from Apple’s perspective. As Phil Schiller said during the presentation, only “single digit” numbers of their users use the ExpressCard34 slot. At least 90% of people were paying for a feature they didn’t use.

It’s not like the SD card slot is useless. There are a couple of Sony HDV models that optionally record to SD cards; the new JVC FCP-specific camera records XDCAM EX to a SD card and most digital still cameras work with SD cards (including a Canon 5D Mk II).

It won’t be as convenient for SxS users either, but USB adapters, although probably slower, are available as they have been for the old P2 form factor when CardBus was dropped.

I think it’s important to know that, while I’m convinced Apple are serious about Pro Apps long term, that division does not control the hardware direction of the company. There is still a model MacBook Pro that has everything (well except an eSATA connector natively) that a pro video or audio person would need. It’s bigger and more expensive than I’d prefer for most of my needs, but if my primary application for the laptop was digital video, then the 17″ meets the need as well, or better, than the 15″.

Frankly, my experience with the ExpressCard34 slot has hardly been stellar: cards unmount with the slightest bump.

So, I’m personally disappointed that Apple haven’t tailored the perfect laptop for me personally. Boo hoo. Life is full of compromises and I’ll either limit myself to digital ingest via FW or SD card or I’ll compromise and go for the 17″. I’d probably appreciate being able to play 1080 video full screen at last! That’s not possible on either of the other models.

As for QuickTime X – like OS X pronounced “ten” not “x” – we still don’t know anything more than when I wrote about QuickTime X about a year ago after the last WWDC. Sure, we’ve seen a new interface and we’re told it’s “all new” underneath (again – QT 7 was all new also). What we don’t know is if it supports all the non-video features of QT or if it’s an optimized video player targeting the <video> tag in HTML 5. (I’m not a developer and if I was I’d be under NDA on the subject, fwiw.)

It’s clear Apple’s goals for QT are now much more modest than the complete Rich Media Architecture that QT 3 introduced but hasn’t received much development since QT 5. Practically speaking, that also makes sense for Apple (and will annoy many QT-loyal developers) as Flash/Silverlight currently dominate the interactive space. But with faster and faster Javascript (note how much that was mentioned today), HTML 5 and a QT that was open to both and supported the <video> tag, that might be enough to replace most of what QT 3 introduced.

A while back I conjectured that Apple’s answer to Flash was QT/HTML 5 Canvas element/Javascript. Of course, my good friend James Gardiner pushed back, given Flash’s current dominance, how could Apple get traction against Flash?

Well, we now have Apple and Google actively pushing the HTML5/Javascript combination with the <video> element. (While what format the video element must support hasn’t been finalized MP4/H.264 is almost certainly to be one format with support for the significantly inferior quality Ogg codecs, which are open source, included in some browsers.) Two of the biggest companies pushing open standards against another two big companies with their own competing proprietary standards. But still, Flash is very entrenched.

Except there are 40 million active Internet users who see every Flash site as a black blob (iPhone and iTouch users according to figures from today’s keynote). Use Flash and alienate these mobile users (which account for 65% of mobile browser usage). Add in 20-30 million OS X desktop users who have a very poor experience with Flash, but who will get great performance with Javascript/QT X, also hating Flash.

If you were building a site, what would you use? Can you afford to alienate 40 million potential users? If you can, go ahead and use Flash or Silverlight. The rest of us aren’t able to be so arrogant.

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22 comments

  • Michael Horton · June 8, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    How on earth does Apple know how many MacBook Pro owners use the ExressCard34 slot? Single digits? No one polled me. I realize in this day and age we have no privacy and many companies seemingly know our habits, but honestly do they know if I use or ever borrowed a MXO2 or AJA Express a Sonnet Fusion or a CalDigit or G-Tech drive with eSata or adapters giving me a couple more USB or FW ports? Doubt it. Me thinks this is just a number and not even an educated guess. Or is this just because we are in Hollywood and everyone WE know uses and needs this slot?

    I’d not be happy right now if I were Matrox or AJA or CalDigit or G-Tech or……

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 8, 2009 at 10:39 pm

      I also wouldn’t be happy if I was Matrox, AJA, CalDigitl, Ge-Tech et. al, although Apple have made it clear that the 17″ model is the video pro model. (Because nothing else quite works as that.)

      As for how they know, I think there would be two ways. One standard method would be to sample a group of users and use that sample to extrapolate. Done all the time but unlikely to be accurate in this example.

      The other way would be to look at the total sales of all ExpressCard34 sales – something that would be known from the two channel companies that pretty much everyone sells through – and compare that with the number of MacBook Pro users with the slot. That would tend to over-estimate the number of users because I suspect the real pro might have more than one ExpressCard34 card for that slot.

      Back in the day they did the same thing with multi-slot macs. Only 4% of mac users ever put in more than one card, so they felt justified to reduce the number of slots to, effectively, 3. Screwed the Avid users with their six-card systems royally.

      Apple move the technology forward and don’t always consider the collateral damage to important (but small) segments of their markets.

      You don’t really think the Pro Apps team were asked for comment on the new hardware and how it might affect their users? I expect they heard about it the same way you and I did.

      Philip

  • Rob · June 9, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I avoided Apple for many years because of their propensity to move ahead at the cost of current customers. I guess it works for them, but I have to question if I want to continue to be their customer.

    I moved to the Mac Pro when they finally got a stable OS in OS-X mainly because Windows wasn’t stable for video editing. Now Windows is much better and the Adobe video suite has improved enough to be a contender.

    I love OS-X but I don’t like being constrained so severely by the Apple hardware policies. I was set to buy a laptop for video editing and was just waiting for Apple to refresh it’s design. Well, now I’ve got to reconsider.

    “Except there are 40 million active Internet users who see every Flash site as a black blob (iPhone and iTouch users according to figures from today’s keynote).”

    Yes, shame on Adobe for not supporting the iPhone, iTouch and the other Apple platforms. Clearly they are just thumbing their noses at those 40 million active Internet users. Apple had pleaded with Adobe to allow Flash on their hardware but you know those Adobe people … they’re completely unreasonable and unwilling to be accommodating.

    And you’re calling us arrogant?

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

      I think you’re being ironic in the last paragraph, but to be clear, it’s Apple keeping Flash off the iPhone. Adobe have indicated several times they’d be happy to write it.

      However, as Flash currently is on OS X (apallingly coded) on an iPhone or iTouch it would dramatically reduce battery life, and Apple would get the blame. So they keep it off the platform and at the same time push their own (and Google’s) agenda toward open standards on the web. You’ll notice there’s no Flash on any of Apple’s sites 🙂 For a good reason. On OS X, Flash is just plain badly coded. The only thing that makes the we workable is Clic2Flash which blocks Flash elements unless I want to load them. I pretty much run a Flash free browser and only occasionally load a Flash element. I’m happier, my processors run 20% lower load (even not playing anything – just from Flash elements loaded on a page) and when I go to YouTube I automatically see the H.264 higher quality/lower processor load instead of Flash. (Something Click2Flash does).

      Read me very clear: I think Flash on OS X is an apalling piece of programming and the world would be much better off without it. On Windows it’s not so bad. iPhone/iTouch are OS X. Also remember that no smartphone plays Flash, just Flash Lite a subset – for performance reasons.

      If anyone’s arrogant it’s Apple and I 🙂

      Philip

  • Andreas · June 9, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Hello Phil,

    do you have any idea or feeling if Final Cut Studio 2 will still run under Snow Leopard and Qt X ?

    Cheers
    Andreas

  • Admin comment by Philip · June 9, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Anyone who knows can’t tell, anyone who tells doesn’t know! With that in mind my educated guess is that FCS2 is unlikely to run under Snow Leopard or QT X (ten). Just based on the amount of under-hood changes that Snow Leopard is making, and that there is less support for the older APIs that FCP 6.x uses.

    We do know that Snow Leopard only runs on Intel Macs (as does the current release of Adobe Production Suite and Avid’s latest releases). Don’t know what that means for FCS.

    Philip

  • Andreas · June 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Hello Phil,

    thanks a lot for your educated guess. I guess then I have to spend money on FCS3 ( I need a new Mac sometime next year and that will only ship with Snow Leopard)

    Regarding the laptops. I do agree with your point from a product placement perspective from Apples view. I heard that the new battery is just soo big that the ExpressCard didn’t fit any longer.

    Overall I am not happy as well. I don’t like in particular the glossy screens. I hoped for an option on the 15″ to switch to matte as there is on the 17″ but no luck.

    In addition I really hoped for Bluray support in Mac OS X and drives on the laptops. I know Apples position on it but just don’t agree. I think Bluray drives are a good option for archiving and sharing HD video.

    Well I still love Mac OS X so much that I would never ever switch to a PC.

    Cheers
    Andreas

  • Tito · June 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve always seen the 17″ as the model for video work and have acted accordingly.

    On FCS: my suspicion, or perhaps simply my desires and hopes, is that FCS3 will be a 64-bit system that uses Snow Leopard’s 64-bit specificities, plus the ways in which Snow Leopard interacts with OpenGL and more recent graphics cards from Nvidia, for example.

    My hope has a corollary: that they have finally developed a new database model for the innards of Final Cut, and that we can get real-time editing features for a specific combinations Core2Duo CPUs and GPUs.

    Tito

  • Dustin Lau · June 12, 2009 at 3:12 am

    I have sent this feedback to apple at the following address.
    http://www.apple.com/feedback/macbookpro.html

    You are all free to copy it and submit your own grievances.

    I am very disappointed that you have decided to remove ExpressCard slots from all but the 17″ MBP line.

    As video professionals, this expansion slot is critical as we use it to connect to external hardware as well as E-SATA harddisks and SXS Cards, to name but 3 of the numerous uses we have for the ExpressCard slot.

    When you did away with the floppy disk drive, that was fine because there were viable alternatives to portable storage and support for alternative boot devices. This is not an equivalent situation.

    Many hardware vendors have built their products around the idea that a PRO level laptop would have an Expresscard expansion slot. By unilaterally deciding an interface is obsolete, you have burnt many companies which make products that make buying a Mac worthwhile.

    I strongly urge you to reconsider this move. Here are a few strongly worded reactions of some very widely read video professionals who have condemned the removal of the Expresscard slot.

    http://lfhd.blogspot.com/2009/06/apple-wwdc-and-new-computers-reaction.html

    http://philipbloom.co.uk/2009/06/08/apple-why-15-mbp-loses-its-express-card-slot-and-gainsan-sd-card-slot/

    http://www.philiphodgetts.com/2009/06/08/why-no-expresscard34-slot-on-new-macbook-pro-models/

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      Just to put this on the record. I do NOT condemn Apple’s move. If you re-read my post I demonstrate why I think it’s mildly disappointing for the small number of video professionals who might have used a 15″, but I totally understand why Apple did it. Dropping the ExpressCard slot on the 15″ makes perfect sense since almost no-one used it. Apple cannot make all their hardware for niche users like video pros. Video pros have the choice of the 17″ – which will give a much better user experience than the 15″ for Final Cut Studio.

      I don’t condemn, but I do understand. I’d appreciate it if you took me off that list of people who condemn the move as I believe you misrepresent my statements. Thanks

      Philip

  • Tess · June 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for the well written grievance, Dustin. I have sent this in as well. I, too, am unhappy that they’ve removed the Express slot from the 15″. I can understand the 13″, being smaller and used for slightly different purposes but they have blurred the line as far as ‘Pro’ machines are concerned. A 17″ is just a little too big. I was holding off buying a new macbook pro but it looks like I will be holding on to the one that I have for a lot longer now. Sigh. I hope that Apple listens, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be their strong suit. They do what they want most of the time and just figure everyone will ‘get used to it’ .. or at least that’s how it appears to me. The loss of the FW400 hurts but at least there’s other options. The loss of the Express slot (in the 15″) doesn’t leave room for ANY other true options at this point. Yes, I could buy a 17 like Philip suggests .. but I really dislike that Apple has left that as the only option.

    Glad we are making our voices heard somewhere, if nothing else. Maybe Apple will take heed … here’s hoping 🙂

    ~ Tess

  • Rob · June 12, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Philip,

    It’s a quibble, but you got it wrong on the Canon 5dMKII, it shoots to Compact Flash (which is what pros use on that camera, the 1D Canon series, and the Nikon D3/X series too).

    Apple can use whatever reasoning they want, but they really did impact working pros with this decision.

    ESATA would have made a much better port to include, then Compact Flash, and I can’t even fathom the SD slot except for soccer moms and dads with their point and shoots.

    Yes, I can afford a 17″, but I don’t want one.

    Maybe next year we’ll get ESATA?

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 13, 2009 at 11:18 am

      Rob, thanks for the correction. Given the 4D Mk II and RED are both CF, maybe they should have put in a CF slot instead/as well?

      An eSata (port multiplied) connector would be a perfect addition to a video pro laptop, but I wonder if the market is big enough. I’ve been hopeful that eSata would appear on laptops but I’m not so hopeful anymore.

      Philip

  • Dustin Lau · June 15, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Hi Philip, my apologies, I did not mean to misrepresent your opinion. I will send another message correcting that statement.

  • Dustin Lau · June 15, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Hi Philip,

    I have sent another note to Apple with the correction of my statement as quoted below.

    My apologies for misrepresenting your comments, I must have been absorbing all the negative chi from the other 2 posts which I quoted.

    Please find below the note resubmitted to Apple.

    +++++++++++

    I had previously sent negative feedback on the exclusion of ExpressCard slots on the new MBPs. That feedback included this statement which I have been requested to correct.
    ——–
    I strongly urge you to reconsider this move. Here are a few strongly worded reactions of some very widely read video professionals who have condemned the removal of the Expresscard slot.

    http://lfhd.blogspot.com/2009/06/apple-wwdc-and-new-computers-reaction.html

    http://philipbloom.co.uk/2009/06/08/apple-why-15-mbp-loses-its-express-card-slot-and-gainsan-sd-card-slot/

    http://www.philiphodgetts.com/2009/06/08/why-no-expresscard34-slot-on-new-macbook-pro-models/
    ———

    The writer in the last link Philip Hodgetts would like to clarify that I had misrepresented the gist of his article as posted below.

    11.Philip said …

    Just to put this on the record. I do NOT condemn Apple’s move. If you re-read my post I demonstrate why I think it’s mildly disappointing for the small number of video professionals who might have used a 15″, but I totally understand why Apple did it. Dropping the ExpressCard slot on the 15″ makes perfect sense since almost no-one used it. Apple cannot make all their hardware for niche users like video pros. Video pros have the choice of the 17″ – which will give a much better user experience than the 15″ for Final Cut Studio.

    I don’t condemn, but I do understand. I’d appreciate it if you took me off that list of people who condemn the move as I believe you misrepresent my statements. Thanks

    Philip
    ———
    Please note for your reference.

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Dustin, appreciate it.

      Philiop

  • Rob (the ironic one) · June 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Good answer.

    I guess I hold a grudge. When Apple claimed to have invented the personal computer, I had two at home and I only had to build one of them from a kit (Altair 8800). If you look at this link you’ll see that there were several before them. I always resented them for that. http://oldcomputers.net/kim1.html

    Later during my career they screwed over two companies I worked for and countless customers when they left no upgrade path or backward compatibility when introducing new products. Perhaps they needed to do this to survive but it made me wary of getting into bed with them.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of Microsoft, Intel, Sun or SCO. They all have their good and bad points. (I do like Adobe, AMD and Google, so far.)

    I guess I’m trying to keep some kind of score in my mind to help me decide who I should do business with. Apple won me over with OS-X and more reasonable prices. But now it seems that their prices are trending up faster than comparable Windows hardware.

    I was hoping to buy a laptop this year but now it would have to be the $2500 17″ if I want to use it for DIT work. Maybe I should look for a used 15″ our just haul the Mac Pro out to the location.

    • Admin comment by Philip · June 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

      There are some good deals on the just-superseded 15″ model, although I can’t imagine that would be good for DIT work – Color won’t officially run on a screen that small.

      OTOH, Apple’s prices are dropping faster than ever before. The new models are all substantially less than their predecessors.

      Philip

  • Rob (the ironic one) · June 17, 2009 at 11:39 am

    The first job of the DIT is to copy the raw footage from the camera media onto two hard drives. This frees the media to be reused. After that the work-flow varies.

    Dailies or rushes are one possibilities. That could require some color correction but Color is only one way to do that. Often the rushes are down-rez to standard definition and placed on DVDs for review. This would include syncing the sound, one-light color correction and adding window-burn timecode.

    Sometimes the editor is on or near the set and starts doing a rough cut as the footage rolls in. This gives the director a chance to see what may have been left out when there’s still time to shoot some additional footage.

  • Rob (the ironic one) · June 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

    CORRECTION
    Color isn’t only one way to do that.

  • Giuseppe Mazzeo · November 30, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Apple, I will no longer buy Apple products untill you give us back the Express Card slot on the MacBook Pro. How you dare call it a Pro machine without it? I’m shocked. BRING EXPRESS CARD SLOT BACK!

    • Admin comment by Philip · November 30, 2009 at 10:08 am

      While an ExpressCard 34 slot on a 15″ would make my next purchase decision easier, I think it’s fair to note that the 15″ without ExpressCard slot is still a great Audio Pro computer or Photography Pro computer, or even a coding Pro computer. It’s not that suitable for video pros (the smallest of the three markets) nor does it meet the minimum specifications for screen size for the Final Cut Studio suite (Color, specifically.)

      Philip

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