Tag Archives: Nab

Avid to unveil new strategy, bails on NAB

Of course it’s not news anymore. Avid’s forgoing the 2008 NAB show floor. The full announcement is here.

The company said it would reveal the full details of its 2008 [strategic] plan to the public in February, which will set the stage for a blitz of new user-community initiatives, technical support programs, highly-personalized events, and innovative product announcements throughout the year.

Like other frequent NAB attendees, I found the palace intrigue surrounding the decision more interesting than the actual decision. And the palace intrigue wasn’t really that interesting. I won’t miss Avid on the show floor, and don’t know anyone who will. I can’t remember the last time I actually learned something new at the booth without buttonholing an Avid exec. Booth demos are merely musical versions of the press release.

For two years in a row, the typical attendee could sit through the complete Interplay demo and have no idea what value Interplay would bring to his or her organization. Like the Popeil Pocket Fisherman or a set of Ginsu knives, Interplay seemed to solve all problems but no one knew how.

Most of what Avid does well doesn’t lend itself to simple explanations against the cacophony of the NAB show floor. 2006 attendees’ ears are still ringing from the at first catchy, then quickly irritating cover of “What a Wonderful World” Apple used in 2006 that drowned out every conversation in Nevada.

That an attendee remembers the soundtrack, but not the plot says that maybe NAB has outlived its usefulness as learning environment. Maybe Avid’s ahead of the curve.

If Avid uses the resources spent on NAB to develop better products and establish better relationships with its customers, it’s a good move. If it’s merely a cost-cutting maneuver that brings customers an off-Broadway version of the Vegas show, then it’s a wash.

There are risks to this approach.

  • When you’re not at the party the other guests are given the opportunity to explain your absence. We’ve already heard folks declaring this move as a harbinger of Avid’s exit from the NLE business. In light of Final Cut Studio’s recent success, it’s easy to believe Avid might be throwing in the towel. Had Avid done this two years ago, or waited until it had regained some momentum in the NLE space, this move would be easier to peddle to the masses.
  • NAB is expensive and Avid appeared to spend more there than anyone except Sony. To some this will lead to speculation that Avid’s running out of cash. Many are speculating the company is up for sale. (I’m not. Word on the street is that a group of investors wanted to take the company private earlier this year. If the company was on the block, more would have come of those attempts.)
  • Avid might appear less interested, not more interested, in connecting with customers. As Apple continues to push its message of democratization of the means of production, smaller Avid customers may be lured to Final Cut.

It’s a high risk strategy, but now is a time for bold moves by Avid. If it can gets its story out more effectively with roadshows, and if it can divert engineering resources away from the annual artificial NAB deadline to allow for more reasonable development cycles, this could be a great move. Otherwise, it’s just window dressing.

It’s going to take more than improved communication regain momentum for Avid. The total marketing approach needs to be revisited. Pricing strategy needs to be re-examined. While Media Composer can command a premium, it’s not a $4,995 value for enough facilities to justify the price. Adding to Avid’s marketing challenges, Composer’s hobbled sibling, Xpress Pro doesn’t match up as well against Final Cut Studio in a battle of the bullet points.

The line needs to be simplified. Avid must find a way to get Media Composer in the hands of independents. One solution would be to sell Composer’s high-end features a la carte possibly lower the base price of Composer to somewhere around $1,500, sell Animatte, ScriptSync, and other specialty features separately. A full studio solution needs to be developed. Adobe’s phone should be ringing. After Effects and Encore run on both Mac OS and Windows. A little bit of metadata exchange can go a long way towards generating some buzz.

BAVUG presentation

I’ve gotten a couple of requests for copies of the presentation I made to the Boston Avid Users Group meeting on May 10. I’ve uploaded the PowerPoint file. If it doesn’t play properly on PCs (I made it on a Mac), I might have to upload the 26 MB PDF version. Leave a comment if you need the PDF.

Anyway, the key takeways weren’t my impressions of what I saw on the show floor at NAB. The theme was that the Web 2.0 technologies, mainstream broadband penetration, and the adoption of IPTV models will allow for the disintermediation of big distributors for long tail content. It’s a great time to be a content producer. Just make sure you retain at least partial ownership of the contnent you produce.

And that’s really what led us to launch Xprove. We believe that building tools for the growing the independent production industry is a huge opportunity. If we build tools that we would use ourselves, that video pros can learn in a few minutes, and that pay for themselves after just a couple of hours, we’ll be OK.

Enjoy the presentation. Send me your feedback.

CES a yawner, NAB not looking much better

There’s not much of interest for video content professionals coming out of CES this year. NAB doesn’t seem to be generating much early buzz either. By definition a consumer show, in the past CES has illuminated trends of interest to video pros.

Early NAB rumor

According to ThinkSecret, Apple is planning a major announcement for Final Cut Pro 6.

Preliminary information from sources suggests that Apple will take advantage of the April show to demonstrate Final Cut Pro 6 to the public for the first time. Even more significant, Apple will use the stage to unveil Final Cut Extreme, an extremely high-end version of its video editing software designed to grab marketshare away from rival Avid.

Priced at $10,000 per license, FCP Extreme is rumored to handle 4K files generated by the yet to be released Red camera. The price, and the size of the potential market just don’t seem to fit with Apple’s recent strategy. If Apple were to simply fix media management and update the built-in FCP color corrector, it would generate more revenue at less cost. But every time I declare a Mac rumor site wrong, I turn out being wrong.

FCP for digital intermediary work? Maybe.

The only thing that lends this rumor credibility isn’t even mentioned in the ThinkSecret piece. Apple recently hired former Avid product designer Steve Bayes as the senior product manager for Final Cut Pro. For seven years, Steve was Principal Product Designer for Media Composer, Symphony and Nitris at Avid. For my money, Steve knows more about nonlinear editing than anyone on the planet. Hiring Steve to do anything less than shoot for the highest reaches of the biz would be like engaging the Manahttan Project team for a fireworks show.

CES roundup

In the portable video world, the Toshiba Gigabit S series players look like they can give the iPod a run for its money. Lots of gadgets sport spec sheets that compare favorably to the little white player but don’t seem to catch on. It always comes down to two things. How easy is it to use? And, how cool does it look? I gleaned nothing of the former from the Engadget write-up, but the coolness factor is below room tempertaure. But five hours of video playback capability, the ability to download TiVo Series II media directly, and apparent compatibility with the Vongo service makes the device look promising.

The Mac rumor sites are reporting that the online movie subscription service Vongo (don’t bother clicking if you’re on a Mac) is making overtures to Apple. Until now Apple’s turned a cold shoulder on subscription services, but in the age of Netflix, Steve Jobs’ “people would rather own than rent” their content dogma will be challenged in the video market place.

Toshiba’s HD-DVD pricing: brilliance or desperation? Today’s NY Times features a blurb about a $499 player. Interesting. These high definition DVD players that should be able to find a spot on Wal-Mart’s shelves. With Blu-Ray players in the north of $1,000 neighborhood, Toshiba might have a survival strategy. Not too long ago it looked like the game was over for HD-DVD. What does this mean for DVD authors in 2006? Not much. Blu-Ray has a more robust feature set, but we’ll pretty much continue authoring to the lowest common denominator until one format wins over the other and gets significant penetration.

Like a vampire in a B-movie, TiVo is pronounced dead by the pundits every year, expected to perish at the hands of a new killer. This year is no different with CNET assigning the executioner’s role to the Scientific Atlanta MCP-100. It’s a sweet HD DVR with a DVD burner. Yeah, that’s going to be huge with studios and cable cartel. As TiVo’s advertising strategy continues to evolve, look for big media to embrace it as the best DVR option for it.

Two duds of the show… The Motorola ROKR E2. Taking a step in the right direction shedding Apple and iTunes, the phone still requires a USB connection to a PC to download songs. Um, Moto, a wireless device should be able receive stuff wirelessly. Alienware’s under $2,000 iMac knock off. That thing is just plain ugly. The iMac is cheaper and doesn’t scare small children.

Intel’s keynote tonight should be interesting.

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