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Public beta of Adobe Creative Suite 3 may boost Mac sales

Exclusive: Sales of Apple Computer's professional Mac line could receive a shot in the arm later this month if Adobe Systems proceeds with plans to release an early public beta of its Creative Suite 3.0 software bundle.

Thus far, graphics professionals have been slow to adopt the Intel-based Mac Pro workstations introduced by Apple this summer — a trend which both Apple and industry analysts have attributed to the lack of an Intel native version of Creative Suite for the Mac OS X operating system.

For its part, Adobe has gone on record in stating that native Intel Mac support of its most popular graphics applications, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, will have to wait until the Spring 2007 release of Creative Suite 3.

Though traditionally tight-lipped, the San Jose, Calif.-based software developer earlier this year came under immense pressure from its large Mac customer base to outline plans for Intel Mac support in its industry leading applications.

Like almost everyone else in the industry, Adobe was caught off guard by Apple's decision in the summer of 2005 to make the jump from PowerPC to Intel processors. After some analysis, the company concluded that it would be most effective to support the Mac's architectural changes as part of its ongoing development cycle of Creative Suite 3.0, rather than go back and re-release an Intel Mac version of Creative Suite 2.0.

"This enables us to advance our technology at the aggressive pace that our customers expect, while also adding support for significant new system configurations," Adobe explained in a statement released in February. In the same disclosure, it also indicated that Creative Suite 3.0 was unlikely to ship for another 14 months.

Word of Adobe's plans quickly spread amongst creative professionals, who for the most part have decided to hold out on purchases of new Mac systems until they can get their hands on the Intel native version of Creative Suite. Similarly, sales of the current version of the software bundle are slowing as customers eagerly await version 3.0, now just a few months away.

But those slowing sales trends could all change relatively soon, AppleInsider has learned. People familiar with Adobe's software strategy say the company plans to whet the appetites of its approximately 3 million creative professional customers with a public beta of Creative Suite 3.0 some time this month.

The beta would be available to all current Creative Suite 2.0 license holders in the form of a Universal Binary that would run natively on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs, those people say. The early beta release would also be available in a version compatible with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems.

So far, Adobe has offered very little information on the features, components and pricing og the upcoming release, which is referenced internally under the code-named "Banana Split." However, AppleInsider has reported previously that Dreamweaver, which was acquired as part of Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia last year, will replace GoLive as the primary web authoring application in the release. Similarly, Macromedia's Fireworks will take on the role of Adobe's Image Ready application.

Information also suggests that Adobe will market a variety of Creative Suite 3.0 package bundles, each of which will include a different assortment of applications at various price points.

In a note to clients this month, PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster estimated that "new seats and upgrades" will cost about the same as "buying Creative Suite and Macromedia Studio separately and then discounting by 15 percent."

Munster's checks also indicate a strong adoption rate for Creative Suite 3.0 following its release, which he believes will help drive Mac sales. In a poll conducted during the September Photoshop World conference, 87 percent of graphics professionals told the analyst that there is a greater than 50 percent likelihood they will purchase the software bundle within 12 months of its release.

"The bottom line is that there is significant pent-up demand for Intel-based Macs among the Adobe creative pro community," Munster said. "Adobe creative pro customers cannot run their Adobe apps at full effiency on an Intel-based Mac until Creative Suite 3.0 is released, so many are waiting until that time to upgrade their machines."