Just because Apple is not exhibiting at NAB this year does not automatically mean that the company is going to stop making professional products, argues Will Strauss.

March is here so my thoughts are already turning to NAB, the broadcast technology exhibition in Las Vegas. Traditionally this is the event when manufacturers unveil their new ideas, products, workflows and applications.

They're often prototypes, early incarnations or calling cards with the products themselves actually being made available later in the year.

Usually by the time we get to IBC, the European technology exhibition, in September you can get your hands on the actual kit.

One of the big things at these shows is new updates to existing software, especially on the editing and effects side.

This year's NAB will be slightly different - especially for those visitors interested in editing applications - as neither Avid nor Apple will have stands. Avid opted out of the show last November. Apple withdrew in February.

Seismic shift

So that means, potentially, no announcements about FCP updates, new software or new hardware products from the makers of the iPod, iTunes and iJustaboutanythingyoucanthinkof

The decision by Apple to pull out of the Las Vegas show has set the rumour mill racing. Is the company pulling out of professional applications? Is it selling up to a competitor? Is Apple no longer interested in the broadcast market?

Its stand space at NAB has been taken up by Thomson, so I am led to believe, and this has prompted speculation that the giant French-based manufacturer could be buying the Final Cut bit of Apple. I, for one, cannot see this happening.

I'm not saying that Thomson won't be interested. But then I'm not saying they are either. What I don't see is a compelling enough reason for Apple to get out of the professional market.

Final Cut Pro may not yet have a huge market share in this country. But, to my mind, the importance of Apple's professional product range to the company is not just about getting broadcasters, producers and post facilities to use buy copies of software.

All of the popular applications - Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Motion - may start out being aimed at the professional but, eventually, incarnations of the technology filter down to the important consumer market.

As an example, the Logic technology developed by Apple is behind both Soundtrack Pro and the consumer GarageBand, which you get bundled in with a new Mac as part of iLife.

Does it make sense?

I honestly don't see how you can ring fence the professional products in order to sell them. Regardless of who the buyer might be, these products are interconnected.

Why would Apple spend the last god-only-knows how many years developing products that work for both consumer and professional only to sell them to a broadcast manufacturer who could dump the consumer bit, leaving a huge gap in many a bedroom media producer's life.

It makes no sense to me. But then, I could be wrong. We'll know more from about April 11th.

Besides all that, here are two more compelling reasons why I don't think Apple is going to sell its pro products:

  • One, on the day that Apple revealed that they wouldn't be at NAB they released Aperture, a professional product, albeit for the photography market.

  • And, two, there are still jobs being advertised in California, for senior developers and designers.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason that Apple is not going to be at NAB is that it is too expensive or doesn't suit Apple's marketing needs. But that wouldn't make for interesting rumours now would it?

Is Apple pulling out of NAB a bad thing? It is significant? Does it have a deeper meaning? Maybe you know something we don't. Have your say below.