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Graphics Professionals Need 10-bit Color

Last updated February 01, 2013 - Send Feedback

As used here, “10-bit color” is a proxy for all the needs of professionals, an appropriate and apropos proxy given the failure of Apple to take action to support 10-bit color for years, and ironic given Apple’s history as the platform of choice for photographic applications.

As a photographic professional, here are just a few examples that leave me feeling that Apple has left me twisting in the wind for hardware, as of early 2013:

  • No material change to the Mac Pro™ in 4+ years. My 12-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro configured as an MPG Pro Workstation is 2.5 years old as this was written in early 2013, and it is scarcely different from the 2009 model I used prior, other than having twelve cores instead of eight. Vague rumblings from Apple’s Tim Cook do not satisfy.
  • Setting aside a “new” model, Apple doesn’t even offer the fastest current chip in its 6-core or 12-core models (3.46 GHz).
  • OS X kernel bugs that preclude the use of more than 48GB memory on a 4/6-core Mac Pro or more than 96GB on a 8/12-core. Yet Windows 7 can boot that same Mac with 64GB / 128GB. And even at its inflated memory prices, Apple doesn’t even offer the option of more than 32GB / 64GB.

See When Will a New Mac Pro Appear for discussion on the first point.

Professionals need a firm statement that their investment will not be abandoned.

Apple has its fanatical privacy approach for new products, but the failure to communicate intentions causes serious damage to credibility for those who make a living using Apple products.

Hardware aside, the software is a more damaging issue

As for 10-bit color, it is NOT a bug. But it is an indicator, the tip of the iceberg, that speaks to Apple’s credibility to serving its base of photographic/video/graphics professional users.

  • The need for 10-bit video drivers has been there for years, noted by Adobe as being absent on OS X. Apple does nothing over at least three major system updates. So my NEC PA301W wide gamut display is still being driven with 8-bits, even though it accepts a 10-bit signal and is 12 bits internally.
  • Internal changes to the printer architecture (silent gamut conversion truncating color) have forced those looking for full color gamut to bypass Apple’s print architecture. This show-stopping flaw was introduced back in 10.7 (going from memory there). Apparently not yet fixed.
  • (Affects me directly)— Apple iPhone and iPad do support colorspaces, and do not display high resolution web graphics at full quality.
  • The Pro Apps debacle in which Apple showed contempt for its loyal base of Final Cut Pro users (since addressed in part with the 'X' version, but a migration away is now in progress for other reasons).

Reservoirs and flood plains

Apple’s professional users have long been a loyal and deep reservoir of support. At present the iPad/iPhone user base is vastly larger, but those customers are akin to a vast floodplain— it is impressive in its spread, but flood plains can dry up quickly when the sun comes out— meaning competing cool products on which Apple has no monopoly. Meanwhile, the reservoir of professional users is cavitating.


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