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Mac OS X, Windows XP: Editing Utopia?

A year from now, we?ll look back at this heap of junkware we're using now and wonder how we ever got anything done. By Charlie White
Something wonderful is happening in the world of computer operating systems -- something that will change digital video editing at its core. Im talking about the debut of Mac OS X 10.1 and Windows XP, two operating systems that will dramatically improve the way we do things by finally laying a solid foundation for increasingly sophisticated video editing and compositing on both Macs and PCs.

In the past, Ive been a vocal critic of both the Mac OS and Windows, especially Mac OS 9.x, Windows 98 and Windows Me. Thats because I think Mac OS 9.x and Windows 98/Me are in way over their heads when it comes to editing video on a computer. Sure, Mac fanatics will respond to this by telling me how much theyve edited with the Mac OS and how Im a Microsoft lover, but the truth of the matter is that almost all of these sharp-tongued respondents have never edited video on a multi-tasking, multi-threaded operating system with solid underpinnings (try the $200,000 UNIX-based Discreet Smoke, if you want to see how a real editing/compositing system should work).

I feel particularly sorry for those poor users of editing systems running on Windows 98 and ME, where crashes are so commonplace that hapless users of these two lame operating systems have simply resigned themselves to the fact that blue screens are a way of life. I say, to hell with all three of these Rube-Goldbergian compilations of drivers upon extensions upon dlls upon service packs! A year from now, well look back at this heap of junkware and wonder how we ever got anything done.

All this comes in the nick of time for me. Im growing tired of blasting Mac OS 9x and getting spanked regularly by the pathetic, bile-spitting bleatings of those who try to defend that decades-old dinosaur. And even though I do rather like Windows 2000, I have equal or more disdain for Microsoft and its Windows Me-too mentality, monopolistic price-gouging and inept consumer operating systems as well. Its a new day now, and thank goodness, the Mac and PC camps will soon be in a neck-and-neck race for editing supremacy.

As soon as the formidable Mac OS X is able to edit video, a feat that "whisperers in the know" tell me should be available soon after January Macworld, the Mac will finally come into its own for editing (Im talking about professional editing on OS X with apps like Premiere and Final Cut, not that iMovie software that seems like it should be offered on the outside of a cereal box). Further supercharging this Mac juggernaut will be the new G5 processors, set to hit 1.7 GHz by next spring. Imagine that -- a UNIX-based operating system with screaming fast processors underneath -- processors that are truly as fast or faster than their Windows-based counterparts (and not just at running a few Photoshop filters, either). These two factors, video editing on OS X and the new G5s, will make the Mac hard to beat, and will give former Mac-bashers like me the chance to evaluate editing systems without the constant distraction of a crash-prone operating system that just cant keep up.

And in the PC camp, finally the brain-dead DOS will be laid to rest. Lurking underneath Windows 95, 98 and Me for years, this pocket-protector of an operating system will threaten users no more, replaced by the much-improved Windows XP with its built-from-the-ground-up underpinnings. You might think that Windows 98/Me is not ever used for editing, but think again -- we regularly receive for evaluation turnkey (turkey?) editing systems based on Windows 98/Me. Finally, no hardware or software company in its right mind will dream of sending us such a system. Now, the worst theyll be able to do is send us a system with Windows XP Home on it, something well be able to easily live with.

So, does this mean the end of the Mac vs. PC wars? Of course not. But I think these conflicts will become more trivial when users realize that both operating systems are solid as a rock and never crash. The conflict will be reduced to who has the prettiest icons, what applications are available and which one costs less overall and delivers a better value. Then people can take their pick of which operating system to use, with neither OS being able to boast of overwhelming advantages over the other. Maybe competition will also spur the Evil Empire of Microsoft to innovate more and copy others ideas less. Maybe it will even convince Apples Steve Jobs to price Mac hardware more competitively as well. Is this a computer editing Utopia were heading toward? We can only hope.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past seven years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director with 26 years broadcast experience. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at cwhite@digitalmedianet.com.

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