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Should the MacBook Pro Have Waited for Photoshop?

Editorial - Should the MacBook Pro Have Waited for Photoshop?

by , 2:55 PM EST, January 19th, 2006

It is almost universally accepted that the Mac is the preferred platform for photo pros. Almost any photographer at a major organization will be using Photoshop for several hours a day, so Steve Jobs' announcement Tuesday of the world's fastest notebook computer should have been a great thing for them.

Those who watched Jobs' keynote though will have heard very a different story. During a demo of the new Intel-based Macs, Jobs admitted - to the dismay of professional users everywhere - that Rosetta, the technology used to run PowerPC only Mac applications on Intel Macs, wasn't good enough for professionals.

After a demonstration of Microsoft Word on the new Intel Core Duo iMac, Jobs opened Photoshop, explaining that he was about to run the kind of test Apple often did to demonstrate a new computer's capabilities. Showing Photoshop run through the actions undertaken to create a billboard advertisement for the movie King Kong, Jobs said:

"While the performance is not going to be strong enough for professionals who spend hours a day in Photoshop, it's going to be enough for the rest of us, even under Rosetta."

Jobs' candor is admirable, and he is correct in his statement that for most non-professional Photoshop users, the PowerPC version will indeed perform within acceptable levels. Yet to admit this on the same day as announcing a new professional notebook computer - one which replaces the legendary PowerBook line - is baffling.

Photoshop users are among the most demanding Mac customers Apple has, and they often need more power in as small a portable as possible. The svelte form of the new MacBook Pro has satisfied the latter requirement, but they cannot use this extra speed to its advantage.

Not all professionals will be left waiting for Universal Binaries to come, as several companies did announce Intel-native applications at the Expo. Apple itself announced a $50 crossgrade program for its professional applications due in March, and Quark, who delayed the move to OS X for almost three years, announced a Universal Binary beta of the next version of its flagship page layout product Quark Xpress.

But back in 1997, Steve Jobs made a now infamous keynote at Macworld Expo Boston remembered mainly for the announcement of a US$150 million deal with Microsoft that committed Microsoft to the Mac for a further five years. Bill Gates made an appearance on the big screen behind Steve Jobs, later memorialized in the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.

In another part of his speech that day, however, Jobs queried the direction of the Apple board, and said the following:

"There is something like 10 to 15% of Macintosh sales that can be traced directly back to people using Adobe Photoshop as their power app. When was the last time you saw Adobe and Apple co-marketing Photoshop? When was the last time we went to Adobe and said 'How do we make a computer that can run Photoshop faster?'"

While times have indeed changed, and not everything from that era applies now, if sales for the MacBook Pro are slower than expected, Jobs may wish he had remembered his own words from 1997, and delayed the launch until an Intel-native version of Photoshop was ready.

For too many users, the MacBook Pro has simply come much too soon for them to consider.

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