Apple's New Logic
Posted Sep 1, 2002

Continuing its bid to dominate the digital prosumer content creation market, Apple has taken another step closer with its recent acquisition of three digital audio and video software companies. Early in July, Apple announced the annexation of Emagic, Prismo Graphics, and Nothing Real. The latest triplet brings new digital audio, digital video graphics, and compositing software to Apple's digital multimedia arsenal.

Emagic, Prismo Graphic, and Nothing Real's flagship products serve various niches in digital audio and video technology. Based in Germany, Emagic is a provider of surround sound audio encoding and editing products, whose most popular software, Logic, reaches Mac and Windows users worldwide. Prismo Graphics is a developer of motion graphics for broadcast and digital video projects, including their DVFonts and India special effects software. Nothing Real's appeal stems from Shake, a high-speed compositing software optimized for high-resolution visual effects.

Apple reports that Emagic will remain a wholly-owned division of Apple, although they will immediately discontinue Logic for Windows, following the imminent release of version 5.2. Logic is Emagic's most popular software product for composition and editing of computer-based music, of which 65% of the approximately 200,000 Logic customers currently use the Mac version. That leaves 70,000 Windows users with few options unless they convert to Mac for future versions of Logic. In fact, Apple has already announced that September 30, 2002 will be the cutoff point for shipping the Windows product.

So far, Apple's actions seem consistent with its past strategies regarding acquired companies and products in the DV and digital audio space. For one thing, Apple is following a familiar "no-comment" approach, giving little hint as to its future plans for Prismo, Emagic, and Shake. Apple approached two recent acquisitions in the DVD world, Astarte Software and Spruce, in much the same way. Apple left Astarte users hanging for a year before relaunching their popular DVD authoring software as DVD Studio Pro (although the news was ultimately good for the Astarte faithful). Users of Spruce's DVD Maestro, a Windows-only product, have heard little or nothing to date about how Apple plans to take advantage of its mid-2001 acquisition of Spruce's line.

Another Windows application that was offered by Emagic prior to April was WaveBurner Pro, one of Emagic's "Studio Tools" of software for audio CD mastering. Since mid-July, Emagic's Web site has been tweaked slightly so WaveBurner Pro is now being only touted as Mac application. According to an Apple representative quoted on maccentral.com, Shake will also lose its Windows version. Previously only offered for Irix, Linux, and Windows, Shake will become a Mac-only product beyond 2003.

Tom Wolsky, an expert on Apple's digital video tools and author of CMP Books' Final Cut Pro Editing Workshop, says Apple's strategy in these acquisitions, including terminating the Windows versions, is simple: "To strengthen their position in creative software and sell more computers. If you want to do what these products do, you'll have to buy an Apple computer. That's what it's all about."

As for closer integration with existing Apple tools, will digital video authors soon find, say, the digital video fonts acquired with Prismo's products appearing in Apple's popular video editing software, Final Cut Pro? "In the recent past," Wolsky says, "Apple has acquired companies and maintained their products as separate software packages, DVD Studio Pro being an example. FilmLogic, which logically should have been incorporated into Final Cut Pro, became Cinema Tools," Wolsky continues. "Shake will probably remain a separate product. I suspect these new products will remain separate applications that integrate with FCP."

If nothing else, it seems certain that the addition of Prismo and Shake will enhance the positioning of Final Cut Pro vis-à-vis leading compositing and editing products like Adobe's After Effects and Premiere. Apple had no comment on other future directions it may pursue with these software products.--Nick Kortan