08
Aug
moviestudio

Back in February of 2011, Eric Schmidt took the stage at MWC to announce Google's latest tablet-oriented app: Movie Studio. It was a rather exciting new addition to Google's first foray into the tablet world. This made it possible for tablet users to not just view content, but to create it as well. This was a big deal. At the time, Apple already had a year-long head start on tablets. Not only would Android need a lot of third-party app support, but first-party apps would be essential to the platform's success.

You may recall the Xoom didn't sell too well.

Part of the problem is that Movie Studio sucked. Sorry to be so harsh, Google, but it's true. You could trim the ends of a clip just fine, sure. But if you wanted to cut a clip in the middle and insert something in between? Nope. Playback was impossibly slow (though, to be fair, this may be because of the Tegra 2 processor inside the Xoom). The effects library was sparse. Really, unless you just wanted to cut off the beginning or end of a project, the program was useless. Eventually, YouTube got its own video editor that was miles ahead of Android's, rendering this one more or less obsolete.

To this day, that's where Google's native video editing app has sat. Languishing in its own lack of updates and meager feature set. A small bump came with the advent of ICS: from version 1.0 to version 1.1. Don't bother looking for what's new. It wasn't much. And that's the real problem. It's been a year and a half now since Eric Schmidt announced this video editor. Google has switched CEOs and launched two new versions of Android since then. Nothing has changed. In fact, the Movie Studio app isn't even bundled with the Nexus 7. It was (and still is) present on the Galaxy Nexus, but apparently Google didn't think it deserved to be part of the stock OS on its flagship tablet anymore.

Why Does It Matter?

So what if Google didn't update an app that so few people used before? Is a video editor really all that necessary? Interestingly, the Nexus 7 can give us a clue as to why content creation apps like this are important. Android's most successful, most popular tablet to date is its own Nexus 7, a $200 tablet with razor thin margins. This device is a loss-leader. Designed to encourage interest in the ecosystem and to kick start the market, rather than to be a source of profits itself. In terms of financials and long-term sustainability as a cornerstone, it's the exact opposite of the iPad. For Apple, the iPad is the product it's trying to sell. The Nexus 7, however exists to sell content on the Play Store and to sell developers on Android as a tablet OS. It's a means to an end, not the end itself.

asusmemo7

Remember when the Nexus 7 was going to look like this?

Manufacturers, simply put, will not be satisfied by selling devices like the Nexus 7. Amazon sells the Kindle Fire to push its own content ecosystem. Same with Barnes and Noble and the Nook. ASUS, interestingly, would've only brought the price of the Nexus 7 down to $250 back when it was called the MeMO. These devices do not cater to crowds of big spenders. They cater to people on a budget, or people only casually interested in a content consumption device. The moneymaker for tablets in this price range are not the hardware themselves, but the content you'll buy on them.

Meanwhile, the most interesting Android tablet right now that's not a loss leader is the Galaxy Note 10.1. Following the success of the surprisingly popular Galaxy Note, the Note 10.1 will include the same impressive stylus with a slate that's large enough to give creative types plenty of room to write and draw, as well as a host of digital tools to experiment with and express ideas. It obviously won't replace a full desktop for work, but if you're already looking into a tablet, and one of your options is a device you can sit on a bench or on the subway and sketch with, wouldn't that be a factor in your purchase decision?

If you squint, it actually kinda looks like the Courier a bit. (And if you close your eyes altogether, it sounds a bit like Mario Party.)

Of course, all of this is being done without Google's help. Maybe Google can just let the problem sort itself out, right? I mean isn't that what third-party developers are for? Well, funny thing about that...

Third Party Developers Have Failed Us

I hate to say something negative about developers. As a group, independent app developers have made the mobile landscape fantastic. Could you imagine what your phone or tablet would be like if you had to stick to first-party apps? Yeah. It would suck. However, when it comes to video editing at least, third party developers just aren't very good at making apps to fill the void left by Google.

Here is an article from Mashable with 9 different apps for editing video on your mobile device. Six of them are for iOS. Of the remaining three, one is for creating time lapse videos. Another is a simple video trimmer. The final app, AndroMedia, is at least closer to a real video editor, and could probably do in a pinch, but it still lacks basic abilities like cutting clips. It's not a very productive environment. Update: As an addendum, I downloaded AndroMedia to take a look at it while writing this piece. A few hours after I hit publish, I discovered that this app utilizes those annoying notification shade ads. Yes, the best third-party video editor I could find on Android uses the worst form of intrusive, ad-pushing revenue models.

bestvideoeditor

So far, this is the one of the best video editors Android has produced.

Simply put, after four years, there still isn't a video editor with a decent UI and basic features that would be required of even a prosumer program. Now, it's hard to blame developers for this. Video editors are extremely difficult to make. The sheer volume of formats to support is daunting and many come with licensing fees, so it's no simple task to put together an app that supports even some of the various codecs one would need. Which is all the more reason why Google should be doing the exact opposite of leaving its own video editor rotting on the vine.

It's not all about video editors, though. Music creation is severely lacking. In my search to find compelling music mixer apps for Android, I came across this sentence on metafilter: "I've got an iPad2 running Garageband, which I've used pretty indepth, plugging my guitar into it." Umm. That's awesome. Even failing to plug a musical instrument into a tablet, I would settle for a nice Fruity Loops port. Unfortunately, that project has been in the works for over a year and the current status is "progress is being made, don't ask for ETAs."

In fact the only area of content creation that's really made any major headway is Adobe's investment into the visual arts. The suite of premium apps like Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas is a significant boon to the ecosystem, even if they're not supported on the Nexus 7 or any Android phones. Of course, we may have Apple to thank for Adobe pushing apps for Android first. The two haven't been the best of bedfellows after the whole Flash fiasco. Still, only one area of digital media is getting much attention in a market segment that desperately needs it. And why do tablets need this attention?

If You Create It, They Will Pay

In the history of consumer electronics, there have been a few key demographics  that are vital to the success of hardware manufacturers. Gamers, and multimedia professionals are (among several) important market groups that drive hardware innovation for a few fundamental reasons: they have high demands for their hardware, they have money to shell out on products they might not necessarily need, and they are more willing to adopt new technology. We're starting to see Android tablets really cater to gaming enthusiasts (particularly with NVIDIA and the Tegra 3 platform), but video and image artists are sorely neglected.

Make more stuff like this and more expensive tablets will start selling.

The iPad saw success because its key early adopter, high-spending market is, well, Apple customers. The $500 price tag on the base model of the iPad may not be a huge sum of money by itself, but in terms of convincing people to buy a device that doesn't replace their laptops, it's a lot of money. Fortunately, Apple already had a large number of fans who were ready and willing to buy into the product line and subsidize the future of the product line. Google is quickly developing a similar type of devoted following, but manufacturers are not so lucky. Android in the phone world had to find success by appealing to a broader customer base, including the budget-conscious and the enthusiasts with cash to burn.

The trouble is, there's no such thing as a budget tablet. Even the Nexus 7, fantastic value that it is, remains a luxury product. It is a very compelling, very inexpensive luxury product, but a luxury product nonetheless. As popular as tablets have become, very few people buy them because they need a tablet and no other device will do the job. If you suddenly found yourself without a computer—laptop, desktop or otherwise—would you find a Nexus 7 to be suitable for everything you need it to do? Likely not. Close. And getting closer. But not there yet.

Meanwhile, the upper end of the pricing spectrum lags just the same. It's not that we look at the more expensive tablets and wonder why they're not laptops. The difference are obvious. A 10" tablet that's extremely portable, has LTE support, and a shockingly impressive battery life compared to a laptop is a very desirable piece of hardware. The trouble is that the apps for it, specifically for content creation, are lagging so desperately that it makes them unusable for enthusiast markets with a lot of disposable income. The hardware may be great, but the software doesn't give anyone a reason to part with their hard-earned cash.

Productivity is an area that's getting better, though even that is hardly thanks to Google. Docs Drive has received some much needed overhauls lately, but creating anything besides basic documents is atrocious. Don't even try to open a spreadsheet. Hopefully the recent acquisition of QuickOffice will prove beneficial, but in the meantime, even first party productivity apps wait in limbo. Thankfully this is one area where the developer community has picked up the slack, but it could be better.

Conclusion

Make no mistake, there is still a ton of money to be made in the Android tablet world. The Nexus 7 is a fantastic content consumption device. The Play Store doesn't have the greatest content library in the world, but it's growing every day and the infrastructure and branding is now there. It's great. It's going in exactly the direction it needs to go.

Content creation, on the other hand, is not. Up until this point, Google's approach has been to let the community handle filling these rather large gaps. Sometimes this works. Adobe will always be better than Google at creating image editing software, for example. However, in many other cases, leaving the ecosystem unattended just lets weeds grow and leaves healthy apps to wither and die from a lack of support. This doesn't just mean that we don't have the best software we could, but that the devices that would be sold to people interested in that software will continue to sit on store shelves.

Maybe the solution isn't for Google to create a bunch of apps by itself. To be honest, if the Movie Studio we saw launch with the Xoom is any indication, Google probably wouldn't be the best at making a video editor. It would certainly be nice if they did, but I could see how that might not be the way to go. But partner with someone, at least. Lend some devs or support to Fruity Loops. Get Adobe to create a version of Premiere Pro for tablets. Get some investment in your community going. We desperately need apps that allow for more than just couch surfing. Not just because consumers want it, but because without some really powerful, professional-grade applications, manufacturers will continue to have a hard time selling Android tablets that aren't dirt cheap. And no one can survive on the margins of the Nexus 7.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://resaberz.blogspot.com/ Rebornyama

    Finally! I've been thinking about this even before I got into Android. Android seems to lack the creative apps that is presence on the ipad or apple app store as a whole. Video editing looks so damn cool on the ipad/iphone (well at least that was how I see it a few years ago). People were uploading short clips/movies done 100% using only their iphone/ipad to youtube, and I have to say that I'm pretty jealous of the lot of apple for that.

  • Todd Kleinert

    yep, even SiMPLE editing is not possible, sad... fill in the gaps android authors..

  • Optamizm

    I'm a big fan of Android and I love my Nexus 7, but even I was considering buying an iPad for it's productivity apps...

  • Itchy_Robot

    Great article. I couldn't have said it better. As a musician, it has been extremely frustrating owning an Android phone. Seeing all these great recording apps and latency free music instrument apps come out for iOS has almost pushed me into moving to the dark side.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

      FL Studio for iOS hasn't helped the struggle, but then again wouldn't you do most of your recording, composing and mixing on a desktop with a desktop OS and programs such as FL Studio, Cubase or Famitracker?

      Truth be told a lot of these musicians tend to be huge Apple fans, I blame the iPod craze! :-)

  • mmmcfc

    Someone should start a pledge whereby the first dev to make a app that fits a certain criteria gets all of the money. I think there are quite a few people, including myself, willing to donate for an app of this nature. The only thing it must have imo is a Holo UI theme.

    • oneillperson

      +1 again...This is what needs to happen. If devs had a good reason to create and then maintain a good productivity app, it would be hugely successful and people would pay for it.

  • http://www.androidradar.de/ Leif

    Looking forward to the announced Cyberlink Power Director Mobile for Android. This was impressive.
    http://www.cyberlink.com/prog/company/press-news-content.do?pid=2936

  • Trill43

    I've contacted 2 developers who have very successful editing apps on IOS and I knew it wasnt going to be good as soon as I heard, “Thank you for expressing interest in our application."

    They just said they had no plans on developing for the Android platform due to rapid piracy and they wen on to say they wouldn't make any money.

    • http://www.androidradar.de/ Leif

      Although thats not really true if they do it well. Wind-Up Knight devs reported piracy rate on android plattform 12% and 15% on ios for their freemium app. As it was a paid app it was also on iOS a 80% piracy rate. It's the press which is spreading this rumor that they can't make money on android and some iOS developer who just failed because of bad apps. But there are enough examples who showed that it's possible.

      But I see a bigger problem. For most people a tablet is a consumption device. They want to relax and consume with a tablet, not create. If you try to create on a tablet, doesn't matter if iPad or Android Tablet, at the end of the day you mostly end up on a pc/mac and you can do it much faster there. That's why Macbook Air and Ultrabooks are so common. If the iPad would be the ultimate productivity tablet the Macbook Air sales would have dropped heaviy, but they didn't. We are years away from this post pc era. Touch inputs are horriblel to write, speech recognition got better but is far away from being perfect and can't be used everywhere. If you carry a bluetooth keyboard with you can completely switch to an ultra book or mb air and have more power and better tools.

      Just my opinon.

      And yeah, I've tried that as well. Photoshop touch, but well, even todays PCs struggle with the huge camera raw files we have these days - tablets can't even handle it. So for photographers useless...only good for presentation of jpegs. Writing texts? Well, that works even on the Nexus 7 well, but the formating, editing and implementing of pictures and such things are still quicker done on a pc/mac.

  • fixxmyhead

    I've had this app for about 2 months and I still can't figure out to use the damn thing its so confusing and no instructions

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    The Nexus 7 has no rear camera, it is not designed to be a content creation device, especially a "VIDEO EDITOR". But I do agree with you about the lack of content creation app -- music creation is a disappointment on Android, but we do know why -- before JB, the Android OS simply couldn't handle it. However, JB's audio architecture has been rewritten and it is now ready to embrace music creation. Whether developers will come is another story and we will see.

    • marcusmaximus04

      The iPad's camera isn't exactly something I'd call "good". I think he's talking about editing video from other sources(plugging a camera in using a usb-host cable), rather than video taken directly on the device.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kamontryst Tyler Walles

    yeah... that was the first app i deleted when i got root... that's what my desktop is for, something that has the processing power to do

  • Asphyx

    I predict the landscape is going to change a bit once Windows8 makes it to market and all three major players in the OS field will have touch support to contend with.
    The best Multimedia and content creation apps are all for desktop systems because they have much higher storage and ram capability to work in high the resolutions most content creators want to work in and once the Desktops start integrating touchscreen support (look for Apple to do it next if they haven't already!) as a base navigation method we will start to see the desktop offerring ported for Tablets as well.

  • Pablo Herrera

    I'd prefer a tablet interact with editing programs on Windows or macs. I would just like a smoother experience with my editing program, for example, enlarging the preview screen with a pinch or scrolling back and forth through your timeline. Tweaking the colors with your fingers, and if possible, creating masks with a stylus.

  • StriderWhite

    I wonder how many people will use tablets to create something...maybe the 1% of the total? Maybe less...

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    I find that Google's lack of first party applications in their stock ROM such as a Notepad, To-Do Checklist, Stocks Checker, File Manager... to be really annoying.

    Then there are the shameful first party applications like the stock calculator app which sucks because it has a terrible layout, huge lack of functions and the only thing it can do is not give an error when divide by zero (gives infinity).

    Overall Google's first party applications could be WAY better, especially when compared to iOS something rectified for the next Android release I hope (4.2 Key Lime Pie).

    PS: I know you'll all say "Yeah, but you can get them from the Play Store, SlideME or Amazon App Store. I know, but as a former iOS user I believe they should be there in the first place! :-)

    • Abhijeet Mishra

      Google's really lazy in that aspect. It's as if they expect that there are alternatives available in the Play Store, so lets just not worry too much. Or there are other devices as well for things that the Nexus devices miss, like external storage. But yeah, Google might have improved their Nexus devices' a lot, but still a lot missing in stock Android. It still feels like Google is targeting developers more and normal users less with their Nexus devices. Google has like almost left it to other manufacturers to improve the usability of Android, but manufacturers mess it up too much with heavily bloated skins, so that doesn't work out well either.
      As for the file manager, according to a Google employee, Google is against having to use file managers, hehe. Just like they are against external storage, for reasons explained in another Android Police article.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

        I don't understand Google on that as file management is still important on internal storage as much as external storage (heck when I do file management on Solid Explorer about 90% of the time I am on either the Root or Internal Memory).

        I agree that most average users who only use their smartphone for media such as games, apps, music and communication via calls, SMS, e-mail... and wouldn't like to do file management, but as a power user I expect it!

        I am not surprised at all that Google expect only developers and enthusiasts to make up the vast majority of Nexus users (especially considering that many carriers seem to forfeit them), but I really would like to see some more useful Google stuff on my next CyanogenMod ROM.

        • Abhijeet Mishra

          Actually, a file manager is something you would expect Google to put on the Nexus devices as those are aimed at developers and enthusiasts, but I guess they think we are bright enough to grab thirdparty apps. And Google is now focusing more on the end-user as well in order to kill the word on the street that Android is a geek OS, but is somehow stuck somewhere in the middle. They should be better off focusing at only one, either developers/enthusiasts or the general public, haha

          • jake

            aaaand that's why you don't work for any company in any marketing capacity.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

            I want them to do both because iOS is way too consumer orientated (to the point where you can't do anything extreme and different without jailbreaking). Why can't Google make Android an OS that has better first party support?

            Also remember a lot of OEMs include a file manager (ASUS, Samsung...) so it isn't an entirely geeky addition. I think maybe it's just laziness and that is what this article is about!

          • Abhijeet Mishra

            Yeah, I think Google thinks "the manufacturers will take care of it, let's not worry too much" with these things. no Notepad, no File Manager, no timer in the camera app + no hardware camera button = very tough taking self photos with your own hands, etc. Google needs to step up their game for sure. And I think with the poor marketing Google does for the Nexus phones (don't know if that is Samsung's fault, in which case Google should push them for better marketing), Google isn't interested in selling those devices either. So hard to even grab hold of a Nexus device in some countries. It isn't even available here India prompting me to get it from eBay. I think its the fact that Google doesn't really care. They make money from their advertising, and that's it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

            All I can say as a reply to that is thank God for CyanogenMod. Stock Google without a Nexus.

        • Philippe Serrano

          If they put everything in a device... their "OWN" file managers, a very good calculator, video player (great decoder), To-do checklist...

          then how about the developers who make apps like these? their download count will decline, and if they're earning from it, then they could be doomed...

  • RedPandaAlex

    Multimedia editing? I'd be happy if Google Docs worked as well on Android anywhere near as well as they do the web.

    • Josh Flowers

      agreed; i love Docs via web interface, but hate hate hate editing anything on my phone. and i'll never consider creating a doc from my phone.

    • marcusmaximus04

      Plain documents aren't bad on the Google Docs app. It's just anything else(Oh dear God, spreadsheets) that's horrible beyond horrible.

      • RedPandaAlex

        Plain docs aren't bad, but I'd appreciate the ability to set paragraph styles--not to modify them, I'm not greedy. But just be able to type in a heading 1.

        But yeah, spreadsheets are terrible.

  • Slighter

    IK Multimedia, makers of Amplitube (guitar amp modeler +) politely told me a few times in the past few years that if the latency issues within Andy were addressed they would be more than happy to offer it up to us. There is a guy trying with an app called Gehttoamp in Play but with the same latency issues.

  • Android Guitarist

    It is the Android engineers' total neglect (or incompetence) regarding the latency issue that is pushing me away from my Android tab and phone towards Apple (yech). Android simply cannot be considered a serious operating system on par with iOS until it tackles audio latency. Android's attitude towards audio is very similar to MS attitude towards the same on Windows until Win 95 in the mid 90's. This total "lack of taste," as Steve Jobs used to characterize it, is what created the mistaken impression that only Apple products would do for creative types, a reputation that sticks to this day. And now Android seems to be falling into the same trap. We are already past Jelly Bean and still no progress or action. This is simply unacceptable and the Android engineers should be ashamed to call themselves professionals for failing to make audio latency a priority. One has to assume that they are just not up to the task.

    Right now, there is an abundance of music creation apps (including a 48 track DAW that rivals the pro stuff at a fraction of the cost) and a whole host of hardware to match it on iOS, and nothing on Android. It is not only frustrating for users such as myself who really prefer Android, but are starting to losing patience waiting for Android to get its act together, but it is just plain incompetence on the Android developers' part from both an engineering and business perspective.

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