There’s been some chatter today about Final Cut Studio and “64-bit.” Now first, simply saying 64-bit is fairly meaningless. 64-bit applications can refer to 64-bit processing (as in computation) and 64-bit memory space. In audio, it’s even more confusing, as we routinely refer to 64-bit audio signal – which is something that can actually be computed on a 32-bit application running on a 32-bit processor.

One notable example:
Apple Releases New Final Cut Studio, All Apps Still Only 32-Bit [Daring Fireball]

I suspect that what people want when they say they want “64-bit Final Cut” is access to more RAM. If you compare 32-bit to 32-bit, at least, the Mac has a big edge on Windows and Linux, because it can give a full 4GB to each and every running app, provided available memory on the system. But 64-bit memory space, with access to far beyond that, could be fantastic. Both Sony Vegas and Premiere Pro now run on 64-bit Windows, with 64-bit memory addressing meaning you can, for instance, load video previews into RAM. Adobe claims big performance gains on their 64-bit Premiere Pro, too. And with all due respect for the quality of Apple hardware and OS, these apps run on any computer you buy – no vendor lock in, and no refusing to run on certain machines (like my non-Pro MacBook). Final Cut has its own strengths, too, of course. But, then, that’s what competition is for.

So, it seems there isn’t a 64-bit version of Final Cut Studio. It’s too bad: Apple’s got a 64-bit OS and 64-bit hardware. And I do understand the frustration. My guess is that Apple isn’t making an arbitrary decision, however. Their customers may be dependent on plug-ins that could break with the move to 64-bit. Or there may be some APIs on which Final Cut relies that haven’t become 64-bit — or won’t until Snow Leopard. That’s, incidentally, the kind of reason that keeps a lot of Windows and Linux users on the 32-bit versions of the machines. (It’s one reason I think it’s crazy that Microsoft treats 32-bit and 64-bit versions of its OS as separately-authorized licenses, but I digress.) Unfortunately, I can’t get any solid information on the subject (or on Logic), so I’m rather disinclined to speculate beyond that.

I should clarify, as Anton points out in comments — if you want a culprit for the lack of 64-bit, it’s QuickTime. QuickTime X in Snow Leopard promises 64-bit “computation” and I’ve seen a reference to 64-bit memory addressing, so it’s possible both these features will sync with a new release of Final Cut Studio.

One thing I will say is it’s time to stop blaming this issue on “Carbon,” as that’s a misunderstanding of how 64-bit Mac development works. Cocoa development is not automatically 64-bit, and conversely, just because something is 32-bit does not mean it’s “Carbon.” So, as Gruber argues that “I suspect they’re all still using Carbon,” he’s essentially making it up — there’s no real basis for that claim. In fact, if he’s implying that Final Cut is built largelyon Carbon, he’s almost certainly dead wrong — Apple’s internal developers made the move to Cocoa long ago, as it’s something heavily evangelized at Cupertino. I have no doubt that Final Cut is a very modern, heavily-optimized video app. If you’re still not happy with its performance or like an alternative, well, I also have no doubt that building modern, heavily-optimized video software is an immensely difficult task, period. (“Video sucks” is one of my regular adages, alongside “I hate computers.”) I’m not just giving Apple a free pass, either — this is true of what Sony, Avid, Adobe, and the open source community all face, as well.

I’m not entirely sure why this is making people lose sleep at night. If you’ve chosen the Apple toolchain, presumably you’re already reasonably happy with their software. I think it’d be reasonable to assume Apple — as the rest of the industry and even the open source community — is working on 64-bit pro desktop apps. It’s impossible to know when they’ll be done or what the hold up is because Apple doesn’t like to talk about those things. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Final Cut and Logic see some kind of performance bump synced up with Snow Leopard. Even if they don’t rely on Snow Leopard enhancements per se, an update of some kind in that timeframe seems inevitable. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see 64-bit then. But if I knew that, I couldn’t tell you — because it’s Apple, right?