Back in the 80′s and 90′s, if you were a creative professional using technology, you probably had a Mac. Macintosh computers were indispensable for the cool creative types. In fact, the Macworld conferences weren’t so much about the Macintosh computers as they were about creative software and tools that so many artists were using at the time. Most of the conference sessions were about things like learning about creative techniques in Photoshop, QuarkXpress, or Avid video editing.
Fast forward to 2013 and Apple is all about selling phones and music players and cheap little apps these days. Their professional creative products like the Mac Pro haven’t seen much support at all in recent years. Many video editors were very upset with Apple’s newest Final Cut Pro X software which removed many of the professional grade features video editors depended on. Apple’s Aperture professional photo management software hasn’t seen a major update since 2010. Can you really blame them for neglecting the creative professional market though? Their iPhone, iPods, and iPad gadgets are so so much more popular and profitable! Even Mac OS X has lost all resemblance of cool and creative. Sure it was new and different when the UI was first unveiled in 2000, but that was 13 years ago and it hasn’t change a whole lot since then. It still requires a mouse and looks basically the same besides new background images and a few add-on features here and there.
Now look at what Microsoft has been doing lately. The Surface Pro 2 was just announced and can you believe they have a dedicated DJ music mixing touch cover for it? That is an extremely narrow and focused target market. It remains to be seen how many musicians will run out and buy one, but it’s clear that this is a new direction for Microsoft. The original Surface Pro had quite a few creative converts as well though. When it finally got the WinTab drivers that enable pressure-sensitive drawing in all professional graphics programs, numerous cartoonists, animators, photographers and digital artists fell in love with the tablet. The Surface Pro 2 will still have the same pressure sensitive drawing tools, but it also brings options for more RAM and storage which will be very useful for other creative types. Microsoft even showed the Surface Pro 2′s ability to work with RED Dragon RAW video footage. That’s 6K HD RAW video with 15 stops of dynamic range from a $30,000 19 megapixel camera. Extremely impressive for such a small tablet!
Microsoft is even running a series of “Cre8tive” workshops in their Microsoft Stores. You can stop on by for free and learn the basics about digital photography, digital art in Photoshop Elements, creating digital music in Music Maker Jam, as well as movie making with Windows Movie Maker with BLINK clipets. Yes, those workshops are geared more towards family members who might want to dabble in some creative low-budget software, but I can easily see more high-end professionals switching to Windows 8 tablets for their portable creativity needs.
Yes, the Surface Pro 2 has some pretty amazing capabilities for creative pros, but there’s also a little something from Wacom called the Cintiq Companion. That’s another Windows 8 tablet, but it’s got an even higher level of pressure sensitivity for drawing, along with tilt sensitivity, dedicated customizable hardware keys and options for more RAM. It’s a Windows 8 tablet targeted directly at creative professionals.
The creative professional market is pretty small, so it’s easy to see why Apple wants to get out of that niche, but it’s an important market because everybody wants to be cool and creative sometimes. Do you think Microsoft can earn support from the creative professional community?