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Apple extends push into professional video market

The computer company buys a software firm and says it will partner with two others to accelerate a push into professional-level digital video publishing.

    Apple bought a software company today and said it will partner with two others to accelerate a push into professional-level digital video publishing.

    Apple, having successfully rejuvenated itself in the consumer market, is trying to do the same in the lucrative market for video publishing equipment for ad agencies and Web designers.

    The company said it had acquired the intellectual property of Astarte, a DVD authoring software company. Astarte's DVD engineering team will join Apple as part of the acquisition. The company did not disclose a purchase price nor the number of employees involved in the transaction.

    Simultaneously, Apple said it would partner with Pinnacle Systems, a provider of digital video editing tools, and graphics hardware specialist Matrox, on new products for the content authoring markets.

    Pinnacle will work on supplying new technology for editing high-definition video. A Mac with PowerPC G4 processor and specialized chips from Pinnacle will cost around $30,000 and will compare to specialized editing workstations costing much more, Apple claimed.

    Matrox, best known for its graphics display hardware, will provide hardware for editing digital video on the fly. The product will be available starting this fall.

    Both the Pinnacle and Matrox technology will be available first on the Mac platform, a turnabout from recent years when companies were increasingly focused on bringing Windows-based products to market first.

    Apple's efforts to increase its visibility in the publishing arena--a historical stronghold for the company that has been absorbed in recent years by Windows-based PCs --comes as the company is set to release second-quarter earnings next week.

    Apple is expected to post earnings of 80 cents a share, according to analysts polled by First Call/Thomson. A move to sell more of its high-end products should please Wall Street, as the company must look to new areas to continue its strong revenue and profit margin growth after having successfully mined the consumer market with its iMac and iBook products.

    "Our goal is to expand the market (for digital video products) dramatically by reaching out to new users and customer segments," said Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing.

    For instance, Matrox is developing a new video accelerator card, called the RTMac, to go along with Apple's revised Final Cut Pro software for video editing. There are real-time video editing packages available for PC users, but Schiller said customers have had to stitch together several different programs, each with a specific function and often running on separate computers, resulting in a less efficient workplace.