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Apple talks Real, not Nothing Real

Zen Prank or graphics masterstroke?

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Perhaps Apple, which was founded on April Fool's Day, has a sense of humour after all. Yesterday Apple verbally confirmed, but didn't put out a supporting press release, that it was acquiring 2D compositing software house Nothing Real.

But it did find time to issue a rather contrived press release claiming that QuickTime downloads exceeded those of Real Player last year. Nothing... Real. Geddit?

Nothing Real - which vaped its website today, although plenty of orphaned pages live on in the Google cache - produces the 2D compositing rendering engine Shake, and Tremor for Windows and Linux and SGI's Irix, and Tremor was already on its way to Mac OS X, NR had announced last January.

The acquisition of Nothing Real honours the recent Apple tradition of buying in A/V applications. Final Cut Pro was acquired from Macromedia, iTunes from Casidy and Greene, and iDVD leans on technology from Spruce and Asarte. The guts of iPhoto was also bought in.

It's been noted, for example in this opinion piece at Digital Producer, that Apple's acquisitive policy will cause alarms at established rival software houses.

But that's only going to be an issue if Apple bundles the software at low- or no-cost against established pro tools. Apple does bundle aggressively, but only for consumer suites such as AppleWorks (free with the consumer Macs only) or with iTunes. These are capable but limited applications, and it leaves a little oxygen for differentiated or more fully featured rivals.

Although Adobe is said to be peeved at Final Cut Pro, which competes with its Premiere software, Final Cut Pro is priced at $999, considerably higher than Premiere. Admittedly, FileMaker, an Apple-owned product, dominates the Mac database business to the exclusion of any serious rivals. But that surely owes more to it being a well-loved and very capable piece of software, rather than to any nefarious collusion.

Tremor users include the BBC and major post-production studios. It's not inconceivable that Apple bought NR as much for its client base, as for the compositing wizardry, but if they're already running on SGI or PCs, Apple will need to treat them very nicely indeed if it wants to keep their business. ®

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