iMovie 08: hate it or love it.

21Aug07

Last week in a media event, Apple released the new aluminum iMacs, iWork 08 and iLife 08. Apple fans have been waiting for the new iteration of the productivity and multimedia suite from Apple. The latest version of iWork 08 has Pages sporting a word processor and a page layout feature and Keynote with new transitions, themes, and animations as well Actions. Actions has the Move feature, which allows users to animate an object from point A to point B. This new version of iWork also completes the productivity suite with its own spreadsheet application called Numbers.

In the iLife suite, the photo management software iPhoto saw a big revamp, iDVD saw new themes and Garageband has the new Magic Garageband. What sent the Apple fandom abuzz though, was the new version of iMovie. Steve Jobs said that the software was made by an Apple engineer who wanted a quick way of making a movie. The old iMovie and Final Cut were too complex and took quite awhile to churn out a 5 minute clip. So the engineer decided to make his own movie editing software and Apple executives were so impressed by it that they decided to make it into iMovie 08. The new iMovie is an entirely new app and the iMovie 06 users didn’t like it.

Users of iMovie 06 felt ‘betrayed’ and they wanted blood. The most prominent of these dissatisfied iMovie customers is David Pogue. In his blog entitled “Apple Takes A Step Back With iMovie 08” Pogue uses words like “utter bafflement”, “incapable”, “gets a D” and, “embarrassing” to describe his displeasure.

I can’t remember any software company pulling a stunt like this before: throwing away a fully developed, mature, popular program and substituting a bare-bones, differently focused program under the same name.

It’s unusable, in fact, for anyone doing professional work that requires any degree of precision.

I can’t help thinking that Apple would have done better to call a spade a spade, and give the new program a different name. Call it FlyMovie, or ByeMovie, or WhyMovie.

This is coming from the guy who made a music video professing his love for the iPhone.

For a few days, the web echoed the chagrin of the iMovie 06 faithfuls. They derided Apple’s offering of free iMovie 06 to iLife 08 customers and saw this as an admission of guilt. (Though I think Apple already knew ahead of time that some of the users might want more control in editing their movies hence the iMovie 06 free download.)

I think that the noise generated is more likely a few shouting at the top of their lungs rather than a cacophony of a number of voices. One podcaster I regularly listen to made the observation that perhaps what the web is hearing is but the few vocal majority (made louder by David Pogue).

Through the din, Phil Shapiro of PC World said that not everyone thinks the new iMovie sucked. Shapiro noted that the co-founder of the iMovie Special Interest Group of Washington Apple Pi, Hal Cauthen, had a different opinion. Cauthen sums up his experience with iMovie 08 in his last blog posting about the app:

Overall, I’ve gone from surprised, I guess, to fascinated, and more than a little impressed. Apple again has come up with something completely original, very simple to use, stunning to look at — well this does assume you shot decent video:-) — and elegant in its execution.

Old iMovie 06 users felt betrayed, stabbed in the back. But Phil Shapiro advises reason:

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes. It’s important to reserve judgment and not be too quick out of the gate with your reactions. Apple sometimes makes big mistakes, but they seldom make colossal mistakes.

As software users, it’s our duty to look for the intentions of the software designer.

I look at the furor over the iMovie application with interest. I don’t belong to anyone camp but if the iMovie 08 is designed to make a quick movie without having to trouble yourself complicated elements, then I’m all for it. The iLife suite, aside from design aesthetics and ease of use, is a way for Apple to entice people to try out their products.

Of the four apps in iLife, the only one a regularly use is iPhoto and even though I really want to use iPhoto 08, I am not about to spend $79 to pay for four apps and end up using just one. On the other hand, the new iWork is very nice to use and maybe after the 30-day trial period is over I might just grab a copy.

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