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Macworld Special Report

Welcome to Sweetwater’s Macworld Summer 2002 Report!

Coming up for air after more than a week’s worth of Summer Namm reports, your inSync crew is proud to offer a slice of Macworld straight from NYC.

Macworld Report:

Sweetwater has had a long and successful relationship with the computer community due in large to our ability to see and be involved with the trends in the professional audio/MIDI/music industry. In the early 90’s when the idea of using the personal computer to make music was still young, Sweetwater was on the front lines selling and talking about the digital revolution that eventually caught up with us. Today, we are experts on putting together Digital Audio Workstations and turnkey desktop solutions for the musician in all of us. The Macintosh has played a large roll in our ability as musicians, engineers and producers to create music on our desktop and we applaud the continued approach of Apple to bring to market these tools.

This year, as in many years past, Sweetwater exhibited at the Macworld Expo in New York City. We had the opportunity to see many of our loyal customers, and meet many new ones. The following is certainly not all that was interesting or newly released at the Expo, but just a few highlights from the Keynote, delivered Wednesday, July 17 by Steve Jobs.

Focus of the keynote was clearly directed at software, both new and updated. An updated version of Mac OS X, named Jaguar, will be available August 24 for $129. In keeping with the “Digital Hub” theme, many things beginning with “i” are new or improved. iTools, which has grown to over 2.2 million subscriptions, is being replaced with .Mac. Similar to the previous iTools, .Mac is intended to extend your digital life on the Internet. Email is of course still offered, as is HomePage, an easy way to publish and host your own web page now upgraded to 100MB of storage. Backup software for archiving to CD, DVD or iDisk and virus protection from Virex are both welcomed additions to the line up. Subscriptions to .Mac are $99 per year, $49 for any current iTools subscribers for the first introductory year. Shipping with Jaguar is iCal. This is Apple’s solution to the ever-growing need for a calendar program that incorporates several calendars in an easy-to-access single window. Quoting Steve Jobs, “…modern life fills multiple calendars…”. iCal addresses this as an extension of both your desktop and the .Mac family. itunes 3 was announced and is currently available on Apple’s website. While the download is free, this new version will run only under OS X. Extending your ability to manage your music further, iTunes 3 adds Smart Playlists. While we’ve been able to create our own playlists in previous versions of iTunes, Smart Playlists takes this concept to another level. Now, with “rules” that you set, Smart Playlists automatically create playlists for you by scanning your libraries of music and generating a list that matches the criteria you’ve indicated. While new hardware was not focused, a larger capacity iPod and a 17″ iMac was announced and shown to excited on-lookers. The 5 gig iPod dropped in price to $299 and the 10 gig iPod dropped to $399 making room for a new whopping 20 gig iPod at $499. Both the 10 and 20 gig iPods now ship with added accessories and are 10% slimmer than the 5 gig version. Additionally, a new OS sporting additional categories (and more) has been added to the iPod. One exciting, if not surprising announcement for Windows users is the new iPod for Windows, available in late August. Finally, Steve Jobs announced the 17″ iMac. Described as a “Landscape” flat screen (similar to wide screen), the new iMac features 64% more pixels than the 15″ iMac, an 80 gig internal hard drive and the NVIDIA GeForce4 MX graphics card.

Obviously, for those of us making music on our desktop, this is all great news. A larger iPod means you can store and reference more of your demos and songs as you travel. A larger screen on your iMac means more windows can be opened from within your favorite DAW. All of the Jaguar additions will eventually make our art better and easier (please read the following editorial for more information). Here’s to another great year to all of the Macintosh users!

Macworld NY 2002 Editorial:
Adam Cohen
Director of Marketing

The big question on the lips of everyone who uses the Macintosh to make music was what Apple’s recent acquisition of Emagic means to the Macintosh Music community. We spoke to major manufacturers, Mac-centric publications, and users themselves, and though there were no definitive answers concerning the move, here’s what the consensus seems to be:

The Acquisition of Emagic marks the first time in Mac history that Apple has openly and loudly acknowledged the importance of the audio content creation market. This is actually good news for not only Logic users, but Digidesign, MOTU and Steinberg customers as well. There is little or no chance that this development will adversely affect the companies previously considered Emagic’s competition. Unlike most creative markets, there is no single completely dominant player in the MIDI/Audio market; all of the major players have their staunch supporters, and to alienate any of those customers would be contrary to Apple’s main goal, which is to sell computers.

Many are looking to draw parallels between this apparent move into music content creation, and liken it to Apple’s successful assault on the Desktop Video market. However, as one developer pointed out, Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro addressed a market segment (low cost video editing and DVD authoring) that was wide open. The market space currently occupied by Emagic is anything but wide open, as previously mentioned, so it’s not likely that Apple is trying to appeal to new customers looking for audio solutions that do not exist; they do exist, in spades.

What is most likely is that Apple will use the technology and expertise acquired in this move to bolster the audio recording and editing capabilities of it’s successful desktop video products. It’s also possible that Apple will strive to create audio content creation tools that appeal more to consumers than professionals sometime in the future, but this would open new market segments rather than constrict existing ones.

SIDEBAR

Apple’s commitment to the professional market is most evident in the MIDI and Audio support imbedded in Jaguar (a.k.a. OS 10.2). In Jaguar, Apple has made available to the end user a suite of MIDI & Audio configuration tools similar in function to OMS and FreeMIDI, letting the user define their studio configuration at the system level. This API has been made available to Apple’s development partners, and word has it that many of your favorite MIDI and Audio developers have agreed to implement these tools in their OSX releases. What’s really cool about this development is that by implementing this at the system level, Apple has opened the door to MIDI and Audio Location Management. This means that you could, for example, work on a project at home with a pair of MOTU 828’s, unplug your laptop, hop on a plane, and switch to a location whose audio configuration has been defined as the built in stereo I/O of your laptop, and audio previously routed to outputs 3-16 would be automatically rerouted to outputs 1 & 2. When you return home, switch back to your home location, and not only will your TCP/IP settings be correctly reconfigured, but your audio and MIDI routing will be as well!

Apple has also officially announced a universal native audio plug-in format, which they are encouraging host application developers to support in the hopes that widespread acceptance will result in faster development of a larger number of plug-ins, and better compatibility across host platforms. The thought is that rather than a plug-in developer having to devote resources to developing TDM, RTAS, MAS, and VST versions of their software, they can develop for a single format, which will work exactly the same, regardless of the host platform.

We’ll obviously have to wait and see how all of this really pans out as time goes on, but one thing is clear – Apple is committed to being part of better tools and solutions for people making music with computers.

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