So Final Cut Pro 7 was to be the 64 bit release?

Over dinner last night we were discussing the history of Final Cut Pro, various WWDC announcements and it suddenly struck me that Final Cut Pro 7 was originally going to be a 64 bit release, until Apple pulled the rug from under the Final Cut Pro team (as well as other developers, specifically Adobe).

For a little background you could read John Gruber’s The $64,000 Question but the salient points is that Apple announced 64 bit Carbon support at WWDC 2006 (and withdrew it at WWDC 2007). Like Adobe I presume that the Final Cut Pro team decided that would be the simplest way of moving Final Cut Pro forward and chose to use it.

Except when it was pulled a year later, getting to 64 bit became a major rewrite as most of Final Cut Pro is written in Carbon.

If we consider that Final Cut Pro is on roughly 2 year release cycles up until now (which it has been), a 2009 Final Cut Pro 7 release would have had to start planning well before the Final Cut Pro 6 release. The general way software is developed is that features are allocated to a release and then it’s decided 9-12 months before the release what is actually going to make it or not. This is generally before internal QA testing and external beta testing; usually before the version is finished.

That would suggest that the major features of Final Cut Pro 7 would have been decided sometime in mid 2006: around the time 64 bit Carbon was being announced. Given that would – if 64 bit Carbon had happened – meant that a 64 bit Final Cut Pro was a recompile (and tidy up) away, why wouldn’t you plan that instead of a major rewrite. While significant work, it would be nothing like a complete Cocoa rewrite.

Then came WWDC 2007 and no 64 bit Carbon. Features for the Final Cut Pro 7 release would have been pretty much locked by then when 64 bit Carbon was called off. That’s also why there were no 64 bit Cocoa releases in Adobe CS4 either! (I believe Adobe were able to get to a 64 bit Cocoa release faster is because most of their code is cross platform and the Cocoa-ness of the application is largely in the interface layer. Plus Adobe aren’t dependent on QuickTime at the core.)

Too late for Final Cut Pro 7 but I think that late 2007 was when the Pro Apps group decided that the only way Final Cut Pro would be able to follow the company mandate that all Apple software be 64 bit would be to rewrite the whole application. And if you’re going to do that, why not rethink it as well. Most Apple software has already switched to 64 bit, except where there are significant dependencies on QuickTime!  (See iLife 11 is still 32 bit.)