GV – July 1998

Macintosh Graphics Survive Industry Shifts
By Sheldon Liebman

The Macintosh platform is under attack. Virtually everywhere you look, programs that started out as exclusively for the Macintosh are being ported to the Windows platform. While Mac versions continue to be available, there are very few differences between these products and their siblings that run under Windows. The biggest differences, of course, are based on the platform itself and how Apple and Microsoft continue to battle it out in the operating system wars.

A few years ago, there were a plethora of products that only ran on the Mac. It was easy to justify this less popular platform when you needed to run one or more of these tools. For example, non-linear editing almost single-handedly kept the Macintosh alive in many production and postproduction facilities. Whether you were using Avid, Media 100 or Scitex Digital systems, you needed to have a Macintosh at the core.

Today, all three of these companies offer some software that runs in the Windows environment. Avid recently purchased SoftImage from Microsoft and part of the purchase price was that Microsoft now owns 7% of Avid with an option to purchase more of the company. This is on top of a similar ownership stake held by Intel. With these two companies owning nearly 20% of Avid, it's easy to guess where future development will be centered.

Media 100 has been hard at work on a Windows version of their popular editing system and Scitex Digital Video has released player software that lets Windows machines view projects created on the Mac platform.

As Apple has continued to develop products like QuickTime, the company has actually made it easier for developers to move their video-oriented products to the Windows environment. QuickTime 3.0, released earlier this year, offers all the benefits of QuickTime under the Windows Operating System. With this barrier removed, some companies may shift even more strongly to the Microsoft side of the fence.

One example of a company that started out as a strong Macintosh player and is now shifting to Windows is Strata. Originally, all of Strata's products ran only on the Mac. A few years ago, the company released Windows versions of its popular MediaPaint and StudioPro products, although new versions of the products were always available for the Mac platform first.

Earlier this year, Strata announced the first simultaneous release of a new version for both Windows and the MacOS. This new product, StudioPro version 2.5, is Strata's flagship product for 3D modeling, animation and rendering. The press release accompanying the release quotes the company as saying they are not "abandoning the Mac platform," but are "very serious about entering the Windows market in force."

Strata's MediaPaint product, which combines painting with special effects capabilities, is also now available in a Windows version. VideoShop, Strata's low-cost video editing software (SRP $89), is still available only on the Mac. The latest version of MediaPaint, version 2.0, includes links to VideoShop to make it easier for users to integrate the two products together.

High-end 3D animation is available from auto•des•sys Inc. through their form•Z product, which has been available for the Macintosh since 1991. Auto•des•sys claims that "If you can imagine the shape, you can build it with form•Z." This package is now available for the Windows platform, but continues to be a strong player in the Macintosh arena.

Another animation company that has traditionally supplied high-end products for the Mac is ElectricImage. The ElectricImage Animation System has held its own against SGI and PC-based competitors in spite of lacking an integrated Modeler. At NAB, it was announced that Play, makers of the Trinity system, have purchased ElectricImage. It isn't clear whether this means Trinity will start to work on a Mac or that EAS will be ported to Windows, but this is definitely a development to watch over the next year.

If your projects are more oriented to 2D animation and cartoons, Linker Systems offers Animation Stand, a powerful animation system that has always been released first on the Mac. The company has been supplying animation systems since 1989 and started to offer SGI and Windows versions of their products a few years ago. The Mac remains their first love, however, and all new releases are introduced on that platform first.

Illustration software has always been a powerful Macintosh application and a wide variety of products are still available in that arena. Deneba Software, in spite of releasing Windows versions of its high-end graphics product, Canvas, is usually thought of as a Macintosh graphics company. Canvas 5.0 runs on Mac, PowerMac, Windows 95 and Windows NT, but lower-end Deneba products are only available for the MacOS. These include Deneba artWORKS, a 24-bit paint program priced under $50 and UltraPaint, a painting and vector illustration package available for under $20 at select national resellers.

No mention of graphics software for the Mac would be complete without including the many products offered by Adobe Systems. When the Macintosh was first trying to get a foothold in the marketplace, Adobe PhotoShop on the Mac was the package used by virtually every graphic artist around the world. PhotoShop is still the standard by which every other graphics program is measured, and it is still going strong on the Macintosh. Over the years, it has been joined by other Adobe products including Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator and PageMaker, all of which are available today as both Mac and Windows products.

MetaCreations Painter is another groundbreaking Macintosh graphics product. Originally introduced by Fractal Design, which is now a part of MetaCreations, Painter was the first program to offer "artist's brushes" for use in the image creation process. This capability is now available in a number of other products, but Painter was first and was only available on the Macintosh at the time. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, MetaCreations today includes a number of 2D and 3D graphics products for the Macintosh including Infini-D, Ray Dream 3D and Studio, plus the full line of "Kai" products for image manipulation. As the company has grown, it has "folded in" both Macintosh and Windows oriented products and people, allowing it to offer a very diverse range of products for both platforms.

The companies mentioned above are just a few examples of how development of graphics products for the Mac has continued and changed over the past few years. The future of Apple and the Macintosh platform is always a subject for heated discussion, but companies still develop for the MacOS, even while they seek a larger market with Windows versions of the same products.

One scenario that keeps surfacing has Apple leaving the hardware business and porting the MacOS to support Intel chips like the Pentium II. If this happens, products like those mentioned in this article will be even more critical to the continuation of the Mac platform. It will also be interesting to see, if this occurs, which versions run faster, better and more reliably. To devoted fans of the MacOS, that answer probably seems obvious.

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