Final Cut, the video editing and effects package Apple acquired from Macromedia earlier this year, is now in beta testing, but analysts question its future role.
Sources familiar with the product say it is very similar to Adobe Premier, supporting all major film and video formats, timecodes and deck controls.
It will also compete with a range of other Mac based effects packages, breaking Apple's tacit agreement not to compete head-on with its ISVs.
The upcoming revision of the product has extensive controls for logging and capturing clips, the ability to input and export edit-decision lists and 99 levels of undo - like Premier.
Its audio controls and filters and its support for digital video surpass those of Premier, according to sources, but it lacks the three-point editing capability found in Premier or the ability to preview effects before they are rendered.
Final Cut was first developed by Macromedia and was projected to be a high end, all-encompassing effects software package for Mac OS and Windows NT. Macromedia showed off an early version of the product, which was written by Randy Ubillos, the original designer of Premier, in 1996.
However, release of Final Cut was repeatedly delayed. Then in May, Apple acquired the product.
At that time, analysts thought that would be the end of Final Cut, speculating that Apple was only interested in the product's engineers.
But now that Apple Final Cut Pro, which was last revised in September, is in beta testing, that speculation seems to have been proven inaccurate and analysts are confused.
"The upshot is, no one knows what they are going to do with it," said the analyst.
While Macromedia was developing Final Cut, it seemed destined to compete with Avid's MCXpress, but in its new form, it will rival Premier and software packages from Radius, Media 100, Pinnacle Systems and Descreet Logic - bringing Apple into potential conflict with these important ISVs.
Responding to speculation that Final Cut may be targeted at a niche between editing and effects packages, Sujata Ramnarayan, multimedia analyst with Dataquest, said: "That would be a pretty small niche. Everyone is trying to push video as a way to sell more PCs but Macs are very conducive to video."
Ramnarayan continued: "This could be Apple's way of entering the market and establishing a position which they would then use to move into the consumer market."
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