This week, long-time Apple Computer supporter Adobe Systems announced a new version of Premiere, its high-end video-editing platform, but with one catch: The new Premiere will be Windows-only, making this version of the product the first that doesn't support Apple's Mac OS. Adobe's decision mirrors that of many third-party developers, most of which have far less emotional reasons to continue supporting Apple: Supporting the dwindling Macintosh market doesn't make financial sense, especially when Apple is busy trying to get its own hands on the Mac's few remaining lucrative software areas. How will this decision affect Apple and the wider market for PC-based video editing?
"We were rewriting Premiere from scratch, and it would have taken a lot of work to have cross-platform support," David Trescot, the senior director of Adobe's digital video products group, told CNET recently. "If Apple's already doing an application, it makes the market for a third-party developer that much smaller. I think you're going to find that more and more--if Apple's in a software market, third-party vendors are going to skip it." Apple has aggressively pushed into video-editing software with applications such as iMovie, Final Cut Express, and Final Cut Pro.
Apple and Adobe have a long relationship dating back to 1982, and Adobe is arguably the reason the Mac survived past the mid-1980s. Adobe's PostScript technology powered Apple's first laser printers, which created a new market for PC-based desktop publishing. But that relationship makes Apple's reaction to Adobe's decision about Premiere even more odd. "With the announcement of the new Power Mac G5 and the innovations in Final Cut Pro 4, there has never been a better time for Premiere customers to make the switch," an Apple statement reads.
Apple also noted that it still has a great relationship with Adobe, and that Adobe's PhotoShop image-editing program runs "twice as fast" on the Power Mac G5 as it did on the previous-generation Power Mac G4. But that relationship could suffer if Apple decides to create a high-end image-editing application, gobbling up that market on the Mac as well. In fact, Apple's recent moves into third-party territory should give Microsoft critics pause. Simply by introducing its own products, Apple has virtually erased the markets for Mac Web browsers, Instant Messaging (IM), music and video playback and recording, personal information manager (PIM) technology, and data synchronization. Apple's fans are extremely loyal and tend to gravitate to anything the company releases. In a market as small as the Mac's, this situation can have a devastating effect on third-party developers, especially when most of those developers are the mom-and-pop variety, as evidenced by the crowds at Apple's recent Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2003.
Adobe's defection from the Mac has wide ramifications because the company is one of the few remaining tier-one Mac developers and a long-time, high-profile Apple supporter. Earlier this year, Adobe posted a public Web page touting the performance benefits of editing video on Windows PCs, and the company recently released a Windows-only PhotoShop Album product when Apple shut down the market for consumer-oriented Mac-based digital-photo-management software by including iPhoto for free with new Mac systems. Adobe's decisions mirror Microsoft's decision to cancel Internet Explorer (IE) development on the Mac; Apple now offers its own credible Web browser alternative called Safari. Both iPhoto and Safari are excellent products, but when the OS and system maker essentially gives the software away to a shrinking market, those customers have even less incentive to pursue alternatives. The result is a further shrinking market. Few people will notice when a mom-and-pop outfit stops developing its Mac tinker-toy tool, but when major corporations such as Adobe and Microsoft back off, heads begin to turn. It's hard to ignore the import of this decision.
Apple isn't looking for this kind of news right now. With its market share sinking to an all-time low, the Mac maker has used recent announcements for its Power Mac G5, upcoming Mac OS X "Panther," new notebook computers, and other products as momentum springboards, hoping to gather good press and even better word of mouth. On the surface, this strategy has worked: Apple is always in the news, and most of that news is overwhelmingly positive. However, the reality of the company's situation stands in sharp contrast to the glowing press reports and the giddy product announcements. Apple is losing market share quarter by quarter; its share currently hovers at just over 2 percent. Previous stalwarts such as the educational market are abandoning the Mac in droves, seeking to standardize on less-expensive Windows PC systems. And now a major player in the digital-video market has jumped ship as well.
For professional digital-video editors--and developers--as for the more generalized software market, the platform of choice is, increasingly, Windows. Adobe's decision only helps cement that choice. Expect the exodus to continue.