Beyond the Barline
And They’re Off!
Last May, in my column Why I’m Waiting to Upgrade, I discussed the issues facing third-party developers in upgrading MIDI and digital audio applications to Mac OS X. Since then, Apple has released “OS X Audio Features Documentation,” a document describing their new Core Audio system, a set of APIs that tackle the issues of timing and latency created by the pre-emptive multitasking and virtual memory capabilities of OS X’s BSD core. Though there was no official announcement from Apple at the last Macworld New York Expo, I think it’s safe to assume that at least some of these capabilities are included in version 10.1 (would that be OS X.1 or X.I?) due out this month.
The release of the APIs has set off a mad dash among manufacturers to get to market first. Here’s a rundown of how the various companies look coming out of the gate:
First out is Emagic, with their beta versions of Logic Audio 5.0, along with drivers for the Unitor 8 MkII, AMT 8, and MT 4 MIDI interfaces, and the EMI 216 Audio Interface. These debuted at Macworld New York and are due out this month. With a complete hardware/software solution ready just in time for the OS X upgrade, Emagic has the early lead.
Hot on Logic’s tail is Bias, the Bay Area company that makes both Peak, the premiere stereo digital audio editor on the Mac; and Deck, the venerable multitrack editor that has changed hands more times than I can count. OS X compatibility is a must for this Mac-only company, and Carbonized versions of both applications are due out in November.
Logic’s German rival has an OS X version of Nuendo (a software-based multitracking program based on the audio portion of Cubase) in the works, and plans to include OS X support in their next version of Cubase VST. Given the universal acceptance of the VST plug-in architecture, everyone’s waiting on Steinberg to some extent.
Mark of the Unicorn
The pioneer Mac MIDI and audio company is also working on OS X versions of their software (Digital Performer) and hardware (the MIDI Timepiece and various MOTU audio interfaces), but hasn’t set any release dates. They already have a significant lead in the FireWire audio interface market with the MOTU 828. It remains to be seen if they can capitalize on this early lead.
No word yet from the industry leader. Rumors of their death, however, are greatly exaggerated. With their huge installed base, and virtual monopoly on the high end market, Digidesign can easily recover from a late start.
Dark Horse Companies
So those are the industry leaders. What about the smaller companies? A number of shareware applications are already Carbonized, including Felt Tip Sound Studio, Myriad’s Melody and Harmony Assistant, and Antoine Rosset’s Player PRO. These applications can’t possibly compete in the pro market, but for a hobbyist with a new iMac, they’re worth a try. Cycling 74 (Max) and U&I software (Metasynth, Metatrack, and Xx) are also working on carbonizing their applications, but these programs have always been marketed to a more select clientele. The die-hards (like me) will wait, but your average rocker (I was one of those too once) could care less.
So How Will the Race End?
It’s easy to jump to conclusions (as many who post comments online do). Those already predicting the unfettered success of Emagic, or, conversely, the demise of Digidesign are calling the race before the first turn. There’s a long way to go.
Also in This Series
- Ready or Not! · November 2002
- The Other Petition · August 2002
- The Samples Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent · May 2002
- Record Execs Ate My Hard Drive! · April 2002
- And the Award Goes to… · March 2002
- Expos, From a Distance · February 2002
- My Resolution · January 2002
- Too Much Hype · November 2001
- And They’re Off! · September 2001
- Complete Archive