Apple’s software acquisitions: If you want something done properly…
By Eliot Hochberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 16, 2002
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I finally get it – Apple is done depending on third parties for software that works.
Apple announced that it has acquired Emagic, a company that makes music recording and editing software for anyone from the dedicated hobbyist to the professional recording engineer. Its main product, Logic, competes with Steinberg’s Cubase, a possibly more familiar name in the segment.
So what may be the significance of this purchase? Well, looking at past acquisitions, thus far Apple has been pretty focused on professional video editing and production tools. Emagic makes an audio tool that professionals use to edit music (and possibly other audio content) for film and TV, as well as professional music recording.
On the surface, this may seem like an obvious jag into a field directly related to video and film editing, and in the end this may be the case. But there are some interesting points worth noting. The main one is that, as of now, it appears that none of the major audio recording companies have updated their software to OS X, which probably makes a lot of sense – Apple hasn’t finalized its audio and MIDI protocols, so why would they? Perhaps Apple is tired of waiting, or maybe it wants to show the industry how music software integration is done. Is Apple scared that these companies won’t port their music software over to OS X, so it’s covering its bases? Another point worth noting is that most recording engineers are very loyal to the product they use, so it’s unlikely that Apple would steal upgrade sales from the competition. It may hook users new to recording, but it will likely only retain the seasoned pros who already use Logic. Finally, note that in the press release, Apple states that the Windows version will stop being sold by September of this year.
So what does this new acquisition tell us that might help predict what Apple will do next? So far, Apple has video editing (Final Cut Pro), compositing (Silicon Grail, Nothing Real), compression (Spruce Technologies), titling (Prismo Graphics), tracking (Cinema Tools) and now sound editing software.
What’s missing? First off, there’s 3D design software. So far Apple hasn’t purchased a 3D software modeling/rendering company. There is no burning need from an OS X availability standpoint, since many of the top products are already available for OS X. If Apple simply wants to make sure that the necessary software is available to do professional work in OS X, then it won’t buy a 3D software company. However, if it wants to make sure that software is always available, then it will buy a 3D company anyway, just to make sure it has the necessary product. My prediction is that Apple would purchase either Electric Image (Electric Image) or Newtek (Lightwave 3D), two successful but smaller companies.
So is there any other area Apple is likely to buy into? Well, that depends on why Apple is buying. If it’s simply to insure that there is a full suite of products available for pro video production under Mac OS X, then Apple may already be where it wants to be. But considering what Apple has done in the consumer space, my belief is that it will expand further into pro markets. Thus, I expect purchases in any or all of the following areas:
- Musical score writing/MIDI – Logic is a great piece of sequencing software, is great at professional editing, and even includes musical staff note entry. However, most composers who work with live orchestras prefer a straight musical score. Products like Finale are what these professionals need. However, Coda Music Technology has yet to release a Mac OS X version. Possible companies for purchase: Sibelius Software (Sibelius), Coda Music Technology (Finale), G-VOX Entertainment (Encore).
- Film production business software – The film and TV industries have special, unique needs for keeping track of various business aspects such as accounting, dailies, script progress, etc. There are many programs out there produced by relatively small companies that Apple could buy to insure that these products are available for Mac OS X and remain that way. Pretty much any company that makes this sort of software is a possible target. Some possibilities: Filmmaker Software, Easy Budget, Boiler Plate Software, Movie Magic technologies (ScriptLog, StudioSystem, Scheduling, etc.).
- Screenwriting software – This area has long been an arena for smaller companies. A search brings the following software: Dramatica, Final Draft, Hollywood Screenwriter, StoryView, Movie Magic Screenwriter and many others. But many of these companies as of this writing seem to be either out of business, having trouble with their URLs, or in a state of being acquired. If Apple went into this area, it seem likely that many small players would drop out, so it might not be a politically good move for Apple. At the same time, however, it also seems like there is a lot of upheaval in the niche, so a product distributed by Apple might be a welcome reprieve and offer some stability. Possibilities include: Dramatica, Final Draft, Screenplay (Hollywood Screenwriter, Movie Magic Screenwriter), StoryView.
- Image editing/creation – Of course, the biggest item in the Apple software arena would be pro photo editing software. Apple would have a tough time competing with Adobe and its Photoshop flagship product. Illustrator would also be a tough nut to crack, and competing with either of these products would cause Adobe to gag, so it might not be worth the trouble. However, if Apple decided it didn’t care if Adobe got upset, it could buy a couple of products that bill themselves as “complimentary” to Photoshop and Illustrator, even though they pretty much compete directly. Possible companies for purchase: Procreate (Painter), Creature House (Expression).
- Animation software – Competing on the Web end of the animation equation would also be tough; Macromedia pretty much holds the grail with Flash, and Adobe is trying to compete on two fronts, not very successfully thus far, with its SVG technology and LiveMotion. However, Apple could get into the TV and film animation arena. Flash can be used for these industries, but it isn’t optimized for them, and in fact it takes a lot of specialized, obscure techniques to get it to work. Apple could fill this gap with the purchase of: Cambridge Animation Systems (Animo), Lost Marble (Moho), Animation Stand (Animation Stand), Toon Boom Studio (Toon Boom Studio).
- Page layout/press/prepress – Adobe and Quark pretty much have the lock on professional print publishing. Even Corel is having a tough time getting in, although its Windows experience helps in some environments. However, for a long time many of the high end tools were (and in some cases still are) run on Unix systems. Mac OS X could be the perfect platform for these types of products. So, Apple may purchase any of the following: Multi-Ad (Multi-Ad Creator), Quark (Quark Xpress), Diwan Software (Ready, Set, Go!), Global Graphics Software (Harlequin RIP), Electronics For Imaging (EFI Fiery RIP).
These are just a sample of creative areas that Apple could get into, although they seem the most likely to me. If you are a forward-looking investment type, it’s worth noting that most of Apple’s acquisitions seem to come from countries other than the U.S. That may be just a coincidence, but then again, maybe not. Also, Apple seems to be acquiring small- to medium-sized companies in key niches but seeking to develop better working relationships with the bigger fish like Adobe and Macromedia who have products in many key areas. Big niche companies like Discreet and Avid appear to be left out in the cold.
In any case, it’s clear that Apple is trying to become a source of professional software for its system. It will be interesting to see where Apple goes next.Footnote:
Anyone remember Play Inc., the makers of the Trinity and Amorphium? In researching this article, an interesting piece of info turned up. This is old news now, but it’s worth noting that the company at MWSF 1999 with a booth that didn’t sell any Mac products, but sold live, real-time compositing and 3D hardware is now out of business. Or is it? Apparently, around the time when Play seemed to shut its doors, a new company, Play Streaming Media Group, was formed. it acquired GlobalStreams in February of 2001, then changed its name to GlobalStreams. You can read all about it at the Web site, and the press release.