Ladies and gentleman, start your rendering engines! Adobe has at last announced shipping dates, product details, and pricing for its massive collection of updates to existing products under the rubric Creative Suite 3 (CS3).
If you think this is just another software update, take a look at the top-level page about CS3 that Apple is featuring on its site. Photoshop and the Creative Suite are powerhouse applications for Apple's demanding (and traditionally deep-pocketed) design customers, who have been waiting for Intel-native versions of the applications before purchasing new hardware. As John Gruber at Daring Fireball put it, "Translation: 'Please buy a new Mac Pro.'" Apple should see a huge spike in Mac sales as corporate purchase orders are cut, and individuals start tapping their credit cards.
CS3 now encompasses 6 separate editions and 13 major applications, each edition carving out a slightly different piece of the graphics, production, design, Web, video, and animation markets, with soupçons of scientific, medical, and other unique professional needs thrown in. Several additional support programs are also included in most editions.
Web and Design Coming Very Soon -- Adobe's first batch of revised programs will be available in Design and Web editions, which each appear in premium and standard flavors. Design Premium combines print, Web, interactive, and mobile device design tools, for instance, while Design Standard targets just production and design for print. There are a host of matrices on Adobe's site to help you figure out just what you might need. All these editions are available for Mac OS X as universal binaries, or for Windows XP and Vista.
The collective ship date for the Web and Design products is sometime in April 2007, bringing new versions of Contribute, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. (Acrobat was updated last year to version 8.) Photoshop CS3 comes in two editions: a regular version that's an upgrade of previous releases, and an Extended release that has analysis and manipulation tools for particular professions (see "Universal Binary Adobe Create Suite 3 Moves Closer," 2007-03-12).
Adobe continues to follow its path for better integration and more efficient workflow in this release. The set of programs and their connective tissue try to leverage the best capabilities of one program to let you work natively on a piece of media in that program, and then move it to another application without the loss of information or structure that happens when you import or export. This sort of inter-application communication may not be sexy, but it's what working stiffs need.
The support programs connect muscle to bone, and include Bridge (browsing and linking), Version Cue (workgroup storage and version tracking), Central (mobile device emulation), and Connect (rich conferencing). These tools facilitate and manage all this movement of media for individuals and large workgroups.
Audio and Video Appear Later in 2007 -- Two additional CS3 editions won't appear until the third quarter of 2007: Production Premium and Master Collection. Production Premium is a video and audio post-production package that comprises After Effects, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, and Encore in addition to Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Only After Effects will ship as a universal binary; Premiere Pro, Encore (part of the Premiere Pro package), and Soundbooth are Intel-only Mac products.
Two support programs for video production will be available only under Windows: Ultra (keying and compositing), part of Production Premium, and OnLocation (direct-to-disk recording and monitoring), part of Premiere Pro. Adobe notes that OnLocation will work under Boot Camp, however, as the idea is to dedicate the computer to the program while you're shooting.
The Master Collection includes every last Adobe CS3 product plus Acrobat in one box the size of the Lusitania and the weight of a cubic foot of neutron star. In reality, it's just a whole lotta software, necessary only for someone who outputs every possible mode of digital expression. Like David Byrne, perhaps.
You can see a full matrix of which products appear in which edition on Adobe's site. The packages have a huge variety of upgrade options ranging from $240 to $1,400 for existing users of Adobe software, and when purchased new will retail for between $1,200 and $2,500 depending on the edition.
I'm exhausted just writing about this array of software; we'll look into the programs in more detail as they come available.
I should also note that while the release of these products might trigger your Apple Store finger to click a Buy button next to the image of a Mac Pro, the Mac Pro line hasn't been refreshed in months, while Intel has eight-core processors just sitting there, staring at us, waiting to go into some unsuspecting computer. I'm holding tight, myself.