Avid’s NAB hangover

It was an overwhelming week on the show floor. With meetings and events, I opted out of the “blogging live from the show” stuff. I wanted to take it all in before doing any analysis. Based on the traffic on the sundry mailing lists, blogs, and forums, the big news of the show got out.

A few observations.

pure what?

Apple really does think differently. Imagine what Avid would have charged for the Color option on Media Composer or Xpress. The upgrade for Symphony owners would be significantly more than $499. Is Color going to revolutionize color correction? Yes. Like all high end tools that get democratized, most of us will never use Color to its potential, but we will expand our skills with it incrementally and our work will be better. I won’t be doing the color grading for CSI anytime soon, but my clients will see and appreciate the results of this new tool set.

Putting Color in the hands of rank beginners is akin to giving toddlers chainsaws – some ugly stuff can happen quickly, but overall it’s a good thing.

Color’s not the only big news, Final Cut Server is pretty impressive. It does to Avid’s Interplay what Apple’s done to Avid’s everything else – 80% of the functionality — or at least a perceived 80% of the functionality — for less than 20% of the price. Apple could have easily hobbled Server to only work with XSAN – as Avid has limited Interplay to working only with Unity and Media Composer and above.

Talk to some Avid people and they don’t understand why customers are so frustrated with Avid’s approach to the independent market. Sponsoring Sundance isn’t enough. Independents need real tools at reasonable prices. Must fish or cut bait with independents. Lip service without serious action just annoys people.

Here’s what Avid needs to do.

Simplify the product line. No more Xpress. Kill it already. Media Composer is the baseline editor now. It should be priced aggressively. Five thousand is not aggressive, it’s an insult. A standalone editor that costs more than 3x the competition’s full suite of tools just makes Avid look arrogant or stupid. Media Composer, as long in the tooth as some of its features are, is still a superior editor to Final Cut Pro. It can be more expensive, but not much more.

Get a real suite solution. Does anyone have a working as advertised version of Xpress Pro Studio installed right now? It’s going to take a lot of cash to buy up the necessary components. Besides, Apple and Adobe already beat Avid to the good stuff. The answer is to partner with Adobe. Premiere and Media Composer don’t appeal to the same markets. Both companies would benefit a lot from tight integration between the Adobe suite of tools and Media Composer. And it would all work on Windows.

Of course all this is only useful to Avid if it wants to continue to play in the editing space. That might not be the case. It might be happy becoming an infrastructure company with Unity and Interplay becoming the pipes for a lot of FCP seats. It’s Avid’s call. It can let its NLEs atrophy and just milk as much revenue from them as it can for as long as it can. Soon enough we’ll see if Avid’s serious about remaining an NLE company. (I suspect it is.)

11 Thoughts on “Avid’s NAB hangover

  1. I’m with you. I like the Adobe tie-in. I just posted that OMF needs to be opened up. That kind of includes this idea of partnering with Adobe. The partnership takes it one step further. The biggest problem with this idea is that it should have been done YEARS ago.

    Avid sat on its hands for so long in this arena that the good deals have been done. They could have bought AJA maybe (I don’t know the historical economics of that) they could have bought Silicon Color (I DO know the economics of THAT), they could have made partnerships that didn’t require buying people up, but I think there was a level of arrogance that prevented it.

    Of course, they bought DigiDesign and we hardly see any benefit on the video editing end of THAT equation, so maybe partnerships are a better solution because at least the PARTNER would be smart enough to try to integrate themselves.

  2. Terence Curren on April 20, 2007 at 12:19 pm said:

    As predicted, Apple came out the winner on this one. Avid has shown that it is going to become a server company in spite of what its employees think.

  3. Pierre on April 20, 2007 at 3:55 pm said:

    I was thinking about writing something on the Avid-L2 about scrapping XPress altogether, but you did it here! That exactly what I think they should do – among other things – scrap XPress and sell MCSoft for the price of XPress or just above. Then launch a big upgrade program where XPress owners could get MC for 500$. For that price, most if not all users will upgrade.
    Then open MC to one or two carefully selected third-party hardware cards. Why does Liquid Chrome gets AJA hardware when we’re stuck with Mojo or worse (Adrenaline)?
    Oh well, what do I know anyway…

  4. But it’s way too late.

    Even if Avid were to do these things, it wouldn’t make a scrap of difference in the “war” on FCP (which 8 years after the release of v1 they’ve only just acknowledged as a competitor).

    Avid have done very little recent innovation in the NLE space, have zero buzz among the “kids” and don’t sell iPods. The days of being the industry standard NLE are over.

  5. Avid is not dead… Avid is not going to become a server company… Avid is today what it has always been. The best NLE on the market. Are they stumbling and getting in their own way right now? Yes, of course. Do they need to rethink their product line and pricing structure? Yes, of course. That’s what happens when you’ve been around for decades. It’s only natural. One good NAB does not make Apple the victor. The 2006 NAB was a slam dunk for Avid… where were the calls for FCP’s death then? It’s a premature oversimplification IMHO. Avid has weathered the competition storm before and I have no doubts they’ll do it again. iPods… please… what does that have to do NLE? Apple has a larger overall revenue stream as result… good for them. I’ve been a Mac user for 14 years now and support the CPU line 100%. But to me their software does not compare, and I own it, because they force me to buy it, so i can use their other products like DVDSP and Compressor. Color was a nice demo… but it was just a well orchestrated demo and nothing more. That render requirement is nasty. Getting knocked around a little by Apple is a good thing for Avid, as it will force them rethink their business model, something that will ultimately benefit Avid editors.

  6. Todd,

    If Avid rethinks its business model, the NLE line is not likely to get many resources. NLEs are now a commodity product. Avid (wisely) doesn’t play in the commodity space. Avid as a company is not designed to make a profit on $1,200 software.

  7. Perhaps Frank… I like the chances of Symphony CC eventually trickling down to MC. That would be something I would applaud.

  8. Kraig Bailey on April 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm said:

    To truly compete Apple needs to offer solutions where if you use THIS ProMac and THAT capture card and THIS monitor, etc they will provide complete tech support so you only need to make ONE phone call when you have problems.

    For Avid: they need to take the Media Composer software package that is currently $5K and price it at $1299 and price DVEpress or whatever lesser product they have at $299 like
    Final Cut Express is.

    But Avid users, FCP users, etc… still use Adobe products like Photoshop and After Effects-even if they aren’t using Premiere. So it’s win/win for them. VERY interesting to me that
    Adobe is back with Premiere for Mac.

    Avid really needs to get Media Composer to $1299 to stay competitive with Apple. It may hurt them-but it will hurt them more if they permanently lose those customers. To make up the cost they can charge $800 a year for support (I think that’s what Apple charges).

    Apple can’t be losing money on FCP. It’s around to sell hardware-but editing is still a niche market so they must at least be breaking even on it.

    Avid can spread those development costs around their entire product line so they should be able to break even as well.

  9. Ron Diamond on May 9, 2007 at 11:26 pm said:

    Excellent analysis, Frank — thanks for the insights.

    Does anyone who’s anyone at Avid read this blog?

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