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Motion And the Big PictureHow Apple's new motion graphics program may -- or may not -- change things
Like many of you, I spent the better part of this last week constantly refreshing my various browser window in the hopes of catching the absolute latest news coming out of Vegas (insert obligatory "baby!"), where NAB just closed up shop until this time next year. Of course, I don't have to remind anyone who was grabbing the (very) early headlines; Apple was quite busy providing whiz-bang fireworks on what is usually a traditional day of rest. The scene stealer of the day was the more or less unexpected announcement of Motion, Apple's forthcoming (and presumably, by some, After Effects-killing) motion graphics program. But does the birth of Motion really mean After Effects is on its way out of Mac-land? After almost a week of thinking about it, I have to say I'm of two minds about what may play out.
Now, I have to admit that it's a weird feeling to experience simultaneous surges of excitement and confusion, but the news about Motion sure did that to me. On the one hand, I have to blurt out that everything I've heard about and seen of Motion paints it as a "gotta-have" application. There are plenty of details, fine print and other mouth-watering tidbits available at Apple's Motion page if you're not up to speed on the specifics. Motion looks to be chock full of all the great things that have endeared Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro to an ever-growing user base, all packaged up into a nifty-looking, largely real-time motion graphics app with that signature soft, chewy center. And at only $299, it's probably already at the aforementioned gotta-have level based on price alone. So given Apple's track record of creating great software (not just in the Pro space but with the iApps as well), I have no reason at all to to doubt that Motion will be very worthy of a place in that particular lineup, and I'll happily be plunking down three Benjamins to get in on the action once Motion ships this summer (whenever that actually ends up being).
But on the other hand, Motion's announcement also left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, one which hasn't yet gone away even as I think more about what it all means. Let me explain: Mac users are the beneficiaries of a relative embarrassment of riches of late with regards to the higher end of the digital content creation spectrum. After Effects has been around on the Mac for a long time, and has always been excellent, but in recent years companies like Discreet and Alias have been bringing their offerings to the Mac party as well. I'm not fooling myself, though - I realize that Windows users still have more choices (Digital Fusion, Maya Unlimited, 3DS Max, etc.) in the DCC space. But my point is that one doesn't have to go back very far at all to remember a much less hospitable time for high-end creative software on the Mac, and I, for one, don't particularly want to see a return to the bad old days of the Mac being the proverbial plague for developers to avoid. Mac OS X is a serious player of an OS, and the G5 is a serious player of a workstation, which should, in theory, make the Mac an attractive target for high-end creative software developers. So what's really going to happen with Motion's arrival? I'd be misrepresenting the extent of my knowledge if I tried to play know-it-all here, but I have what I consider to be two reasonable scenarios that could play themselves out in the coming months and/or years:
Scenario 1: The Domino Effect
For the purposes of this scenario, let's assume the worst about Adobe; namely, that they're feeling spurned by Apple and that they're looking for any excuse to standardize as much of their codebase as possible on Windows. There have been enough indications over the last year or so to at least lend some credence to that assumption, from the whole "PC Preferred" debacle to Premiere and FrameMaker being dropped to Encore DVD being written from the ground up a Windows XP-only product. If I'm Adobe, and I'm looking at Apple releasing a competing product that is at a price point way below my product and is quite likely to cannibalize future sales, then bam! There's my excuse. I may be thinking of making the next full version of After Effects XP-only. And if I'm me, which I am, I don't like that prospect very much. Why? Because it's hard to tell where the line will be drawn. Does Adobe decide that Apple has it in for them, and that it's just a matter of time before Apple offers it's own versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign? Adobe might be inclined to let the current CS versions of those products languish indefinitely while development continues unabated on the same programs over on the Windows side. That may be pushing things too far, so let me climb back up that particular slippery slope and just leave it at "Adobe takes their After Effects ball and goes home" for the moment.
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