Adobe to drop Premier on the Macintosh

An article from CNet quotes Adobe executives as saying that it "would have taken a lot of work to have cross-platform support" and that in a small and crowded market for video products, Adobe was not interested in making the investment to release a new version of Premier Pro for the Macintosh.

However, they are going to be updating After Effects, their effects handling package, to include new features such as explicit support for OpenGL.

The article goes on to mention the recent Microsoft move to stop support for Internet Explorer and cites that, along with analysts perceptions, as a key factor in alienating third-party developers from doing software for the Macintosh.

I've heard this one before, many times, and it is not surprising. However, lumping the Adobe and Microsoft positions together is not appropriate. In the case of Microsoft, you have a clearly hostile organization that is already flouting its responsibilities under the settlement with the Justice Department (see this article from Reuters) and may well turn its back on the Macintosh community as it spreads its wings in an attempt to completely monopolize the software industry.

Further, if you look at Microsoft's so-called commitment to the Macintosh with Internet Explorer, you see a piece of software that hasn't had substantial development since version 10.0 of MacOS X. Because of this, a strong set of competing products (Apple's Safari, Opera, Mozilla, The OmniGroup's OmniWeb, and others) have emerged as the key players among Macintosh users who don't let their software languish.

Adobe's products are a different issue. The problem here comes with the diverging capabilities and APIs of the Macintosh and Windows platforms as well as Apple's strong push into digital media. There is no doubt that Final Cut Pro has played the key part in killing future Premier development. I have been a Premier owner for years, but didn't get the last upgrade because I had already moved to Final Cut Pro for my sophisticated video work and didn't see the need to have an inferior program in my arsenal any more.

However, there is also the comment from the folks at Adobe that "We were rewriting Premiere from scratch, and it would have taken a lot of work to have cross-platform support." Those who know me will immediately imagine me bristling at the idea that doing cross-platform support is difficult, because for years I have maintained that it is just a question of appropriate design. I still maintain this, but there are caveats when you get into areas of performance programming and working with heavy-duty graphics operations. In the case of Premier, most of what it does is required to be extremely high performance and thus must be hand-optimized to deal with the video and graphics pipelines of the operating system that they are running on. This means that the Macintosh versions and the Windows version would need to be basically different when it comes to manipulating all of the data that these programs are designed to manipulate, and it does make the task more significant.

Further, Microsoft's choice to alienate the rest of the software community by abandoning standards (such as OpenGL) and creating its own APIs (Direct X would be the example here) makes the job of software creators that much different. I can see where it helps with Microsoft's monopoly, but it doesn't help the customer, and it certainly doesn't help advance the state of the art for all platforms.

In the end, I'm neither surprised nor upset by this recent move by Adobe. They would have had a near-impossible time competing with Apple in the video software arena, and although it is unfortunate that the Macintosh is losing a serious competitor, I think that the cross-platform pressures will keep Apple's team pushing hard to make sure that the Macintosh continues to have the best video production software on any platform. As for Apple annoying its developers: that has always happened, and will always happen. More often than not, they push programs for improvement by decreasing the value of "easy" features. However, Apple still aims at a more general consumer base with most of its packages, and leaves open the opportunities in most vertical markets and for programs that have unique features.