First off, the expected news from NAB: Adobe has announced the latest version of their creative suite, CS5. It’s 15 applications in all, so I won’t go into all the different new features. But if you’re planning on buying or upgrading your CS5 applications or suite, Adobe’s running a promotion right now where you can preorder CS5 before April 29 to get free shipping.
Some unexpected Adobe-related news came from Apple, just days prior to Adobe’s CS5 launch. I’ve written multiple times about Adobe Flash’s ability to export one application to several platforms, and how it could potentially allow indie productions to be able to produce cross-platform apps on the cheap. But then Apple gave Adobe the finger, inserting new language into its latest iPhone SDK potentially banning non-native applications from the iEcosystem; Adobe fired back by demonizing Apple, going so far as to say, “Go screw yourself Apple.” Short of both sides sending their programmers into an all-out, Braveheart-style battle to the death, no one knows how this is going to shake out — but the corporate battle does have potential consequences for independent creatives.
Blocking applications originating in languages other than objective-c is a dickish move on Apple’s part, since they already have an approval process within their app store. Their reasoning — that non-native applications don’t live up to native programming, from a quality standpoint — is a blanket statement that should really be applied on a case-by-base basis. Realistically I don’t expect Adobe’s cross-platform Flash exporter to work like magic, but I do think casual games and other relatively simple apps could perform perfectly fine. As an independent filmmaker/designer/writer who is planning on releasing application components as part of my next film project, I had high hopes for developing the app once and releasing on many different platforms at no additional cost.
Apple’s not only getting prickly with Adobe; while they played nice with Google for a while, now they’re killing the Google search button on the new iPhone, complaining about being violated by the big G (not a pleasant experience, I imagine), and warning of porn on Android (although that may be more of an endorsement to some). All of this makes sense — it used to be that Google was “just” a search company and Apple “just” a hardware/software company — but now Apple’s MobileMe intrudes on Google’s cloud services (albeit relatively poorly), and Google’s Android phone, forthcoming tablet, and set-top box intrude on Apple’s iPhone, iPad and AppleTV territories. By excluding and badmouthing competitors, to a certain extent Apple is just behaving as any corporation would (and as a certain rival company has so famously). But blocking Flash and inserting new language into a SDK specifically to block Adobe’s cross-platform strategy is not only competitive, it’s also creatively stifling to developers, designers, filmmakers, and anyone planning on releasing an app for iPhones or iPads.
Personally, I’m committed to the Apple platform for creative work; I have too many Mac-specific applications that I use on a day-to-day basis, and the OS is rock-solid and efficient, so I have no desire to switch back to a PC. But I also enjoy having a much more open Android phone, and despite my use of iTunes to listen to music, I have never purchased a DRM’d file from the iTunes store. There are two sides to Apple: their solid technological foundation, and the “our way or the high way” consumer-facing ecosystem. I’m reliant on the former, and have a strong distaste for the latter.
This duality is one of the reasons I wrote earlier this year that I might switch to a PC. After thinking about it some more, I realized that it’s probably not going to happen (if anything, to save money I’d build a hackintosh). But the catalyst for my thinking about switching was Adobe CS5′s Mercury playback engine, demoed here at NAB:
Why is this important? Because increasing our efficiency and that of our team is going to be the only way many of us will be able to achieve our creative goals in the coming year. Like a lot of people, I don’t have a bunch of employees carrying out my will, and so I need to find ways to be more productive myself. With only so many hours in the day, something like the Mercury playback engine could easily convince me to switch from the Mac-only Final Cut Studio (of which I presently only use Final Cut and Compressor) to an all-Adobe workflow. I’m not the only one considering this, because, by extension, switching to exclusively Adobe programs opens the door to no longer being reliant on Mac OS.
From a strategic standpoint, Apple’s been focused on the iPad and other mobile devices lately, even going so far as to lay off 40 Final Cut team members. They’ve seen their most profitable quarters in history by switching their focus from pro hardware and applications to these lower-cost devices. Whither the future of the Mac as a superior creative/development platform? Apple should get something similar to Mercury out the door using their own OpenCL technology soon, or I won’t be the only one dropping Final Cut in favor of Adobe CS5.
Here are some interesting (p)reviews of the new versions of Adobe’s flagship video-centric products: After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5. At this point I plan on building a hackintosh as a sort of “best of both worlds” approach, to run a Mercury-optimized Adobe suite. When and if this happens, I’ll post a how-to — complete with filmmaking-centric components and benchmarks — here at NoFilmSchool.
(And yes, the Apple logo up top is supposed to be stretched; it’s a visual entendre…)