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Talkin' Smack: Acquire and Conquer

New booty for Cupertino's imperialists By Dave Nagel
If you were in any doubt about Apple's direction in the past, you can now be pretty certain now where things are heading. With the acquisition of Emagic yesterday, Apple made its plans completely clear for the Macintosh platform: total domination of the creative market.

While all of the pieces aren't quite there yet, Apple is certainly building for itself a formidable empire--and shutting out the barbarians in Redmond at the same time. It began modestly three years and change ago when Apple debuted Final Cut Pro, which itself had debuted three years earlier for Mac and Windows NT under ownership of Macromedia. It's emergence as a Mac-only product under the Apple banner, despite the existence of NT code, said everything about Apple's faith in the Mac platform and its determination to secure the Mac's position as the dominant architecture for creative production.

If Apple had wanted simply to make some quick money in the high-margin software business, it would have been simple to release a Windows version of Final Cut Pro, nearly doubling the potential market for such software. Instead, Apple wanted to create a rallying point for the creative market to look to the Mac as a serious contender in video production, and Final Cut Pro, beginning in earnest with version 1.2.5, accomplished this beautifully.

What's important to note about this is that Final Cut Pro was certainly not Apple's first attempt at winning over users to the Mac platform by marketing outstanding software. There were certainly others, the most stellar example prior to Final Cut Pro being FileMaker Pro. But FileMaker Pro, a shockingly fantastic database application that actually made me care about database applications at one point in my life, had to contend with factors that simply aren't present in the creative marketplace. Chief among these was the entrenchment of Microsoft in I.T.

Database applications aren't things that individuals buy. They're things that corporate I.T. departments buy, and we all know who owns America's I.T. departments. There was simply no way Apple was going to convince the throngs of Microsoft Certified Professionals to commit career suicide by switching to the Mac simply because FileMaker Pro was better than everything else.

But, as Apple quickly learned (probably through a degree of sheer dumb luck), the creative market is different. It's a market in which a superior product can actually triumph despite overwhelming odds. It's a market in which a few thousand dollars for a great system seems hardly a serious capital outlay compared with yesterday's high-dig systems. And it's a market in which the purchase decisions are not made by those trained in Microsoft-funded I.T. schools.

And so began Apple's first truly successful campaign to sell its systems around software other than its OS. "If you want to edit video professionally and affordably, you have to buy a Mac" ... which you would probably prefer working on anyway.

So imagine nobody's astonishment when Apple took things further with the acquisition of Astarte, which led, of course, to DVD Studio Pro. And Spruce for their Windows-based DVD authoring technologies, which are no longer available for Windows. And Focal Point, for the technologies behind Cinema Tools, which allows Final Cut Pro to compete in the film marketplace. And Nothing Real for Shake, which, again, will become a Mac-only compositing powerhouse. And now, most recently, Emagic, the maker of the hugely popular Logic Audio and other software and hardware audio niceties that will no longer be available for the Windows platform beginning in September.

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