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Final Cut Studio Update Coming Sooner Than Expected?

Logic Express set for release soon after Logic Pro By Dave Nagel
[Editor's note: Some information in this article has been updated as of Jan. 27, as noted below.] Apple Final Cut Studio's move to Universal Binary form may be coming sooner than previously anticipated by users. Without committing to a specific release date, Final Cut Studio Product Manager Paul Saccone told DMN today that he believes the Universal Binary version of Final Cut Studio will arrive "sooner than most people expected."   

The previously announced schedule for the Final Cut Studio Universal Binary conversion was "by the end of March." Of course, any ship date between now and then fits into that announced timeframe, but users in general are anticipating an arrival timeframe of late March. It was announced at the NAMM convention in Anaheim, Calif. last week that one Apple pro application--Logic Pro 7--would be released some time in February as a Universal Binary. Update (Jan. 27): Apple says the Final Cut Studio update will not be released as soon as that--not before March.

Apple also revealed last week that Logic Pro 7.2 (the Universal Binary version) would receive a few minor enhancements, including support for additional hardware and third-party software, including enhancements to ReWire support, integrated Apogee Ensemble interface support, compatibility with garageBand 3 and other minor tweaks. However, according to Apple's Saccone, such will not be the case with the Universal Binary releases of the Final Cut Studio applications. He confirmed today that the updates for Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Soundtrack Pro and Motion 2 were pure conversions and would offer no enhancements to the existing feature set whatsoever--no additional hardware support (such as Pioneer's Blu-Ray burner for DVD Studio Pro 4), no bug fixes, etc. "It's just about Intel compatibility," Saccone said. Update (Jan. 27): Apple now tells DMN that the Logic Express Universal Binary is set to be released "shortly after Logic Pro."

This information isn't entirely unexpected. Apple has given no indication that the updates would be anything other than Universal Binary conversions. Additionally, the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is coming up in April, and Apple often uses that convention as a forum for major announcements relating to Final Cut Studio applications--though there is no indication that this will happen this year.

It should also be noted in light of the forthcoming NAB convention that there is still no release date set for a Universal Binary version of Shake, Apple's high-end compositing tool. Saccone would not reveal any information about Universal Binary conversion of this program except to confirm that it would continue to be developed and that, "Clearly we're going to be moving all of our applications to Universal Binary."

Universal Binary is a format that allows software to run natively on both PowerPC and Intel hardware. Standard PowerPC software can, in general, run on Apple's new Intel hardware (though Apple's pro apps are not supported), but it runs in emulation through a technology called "Rosetta." Emulation naturally causes a performance hit. Apple has not published data on its professional applications running natively on the Intel Core Duo-based systems (the iMac and MacBook Pro) except to say that rendering HDV 1080i/60 in Final Cut Pro is roughly 2.1 times faster on the 1.83 GHz MacBook Pro than on a 15-inch 1.67 GHz G4-based PowerBook. Saccone, however, said users "should not expect desktop Power Mac performance" when running the pro applications on the Intel-based iMac or MacBook Pro systems. Apple's performance comparisons have been, to date, pitting the new Intel hardware against previous-generation consumer-level G5 iMacs and G4-based PowerBooks, neither of which approaches the performance of desktop PowerPC-based machines.

As announced earlier this month, all of the applications that Final Cut Studio comprises will no longer be available for separate purchase. Saccone said that after Apple spoke with users, the company determined that with the way its typical users work--one person performing numerous tasks--it made sense to consolidate the pro apps into a single package. He said that the move has been well received. "Reception has all been really positive," he said. "We're being very aggressive with our pricing [to help ease] the transition."

As previously announced, beginning Feb. 1, users of Final Cut Studio will be able to purchase crossgrades to the Universal Binary version for $49. But in addition to this, Apple is offering upgrade deals for users of of Final Cut Pro and other Final Cut Studio applications. For users of Final Cut Pro 5, an upgrade to the full Studio suite will run $99; $199 from Final Cut Pro 4/HD or the Production Suite; $199 from DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 2 or Soundtrack Pro; and $699 from Final Cut Pro 1, 2 or 3. The full version of Final Cut Studio currently runs $1,299.

We'll bring you more information as it becomes available. For more on Final Cut Studio or Apple's Intel hardware, visit http://www.apple.com. Upgrade/crossgrade information is available at http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/topquestions.html.

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