Nearly 2 years ago we posed this question: "Will Avid Continue To Make Audio Interfaces Or Just Concentrate On Software?". Some thought the idea unlikely.
But as we look at the recent announcements around Pro Tools 12.6, particularly the ability to buy Pro Tools HD software without hardware and the new Digilink licence, one can't help wonder if this is even more likely than ever?
In 2014 we wrote this;
"If you join all these dots up and look at the direction of travel that Avid are currently going in, the future for Avid may well be software and services. Surely looking at what we know, in many ways this might not be a bad thing?
Wouldn’t Avid be much better placed to use their limited resources continuing to develop the core product? Firstly by fixing the long standing problems and then putting their resources into continuing to make sure Pro Tools remains the market leader, rather than use those limited resources developing services that third parties are already doing better. The third party plug-in model has been successful, making the move to AAX was no mean feat, involving mobilising a set of disparate third party developers on a new trajectory. Surely Avid would be better off extending the third party plug-in model to hardware and services? Our understanding from off-the-record conversations is that this is exactly what this new term ‘Connectivity Partners’ means, extending their software model to hardware as well."
The Change Of A Business Model
For a long time Avid built its core audio business on a philosophy which held that the best way to record audio was with Pro Tools hardware and software. This meant that for many years, in order to use Pro Tools software, you needed to buy their hardware. Both HD and non-HD systems were an intrinsically linked, proprietary system.
However over time as computers became more powerful and less costly, the possibility of recording without the need for a proprietary hardware system became more possible. At the same time more companies entered the hardware interface market offering better interfaces for less money. If people wanted to use those interfaces they had to use another DAW. If they wanted to use Pro Tools they had to use an Avid interface.
With the release of Pro Tools 9, Avid made the announcement that the non-HD version of Pro Tools would be officially decoupled from the hardware and people could use whichever interface they wished to use as long as it was either Core Audio or ASIO compliant. It was also possible to use a small number of unapproved interfaces that had DigiLink connectivity with HD systems but these interfaces were created using reverse engineering techniques, which meant that Avid did not receive any kind of licensing payment when people purchased these 3rd party interfaces.
Although with hindsight its easy to suggest that Avid might have foreseen the advent of native powered systems and third party interfaces and done things differently, in reality the challenge for them was as much as business one as it was a technical one.
How do you transition a business to the new world order without killing revenue?
The answer is slowly. In this case it has taken around 6 years. Perhaps some of it was intentional but it looks ever more likely that Avid want to move to an Adobe model of making a suite of software and then monetise that though sales and subscriptions.
Pro Tools has always been the audio jewel in the Avid crown, the interfaces, although not bad, were never going to be the thing that attracted users to Avid's audio products. There were some regions around the world where Avid interfaces were popular but on the whole, and given a choice, many pro studios would have chosen to purchase a third party interface.
As we have already said, although we have no concrete evidence, it would seem that Avid are most likely to concentrate on Pro Tools software, which can be no bad thing. Many would argue that it has suffered from a lack of development. Leaving aside the endless list of Ideascale ideas, some good and others plain silly, Avid need to give post production professionals wider tracks soon for example.
There are a lot of Avid/Digidesign interfaces out there in their various incarnations, but if we were placing bets then we would say they may be the last that Avid build. For those still waiting for a Digi 003 replacement may we suggest you buy a lottery ticket, you have greater odds of that one happening sooner.