Avid is my VW, Final Cut Pro is my Mazda
One thing that struck me when discussing these new Avid announcements with a number of people in the days that followed were how many folks who were very interested (and very critical) of Avid were people who have never used Avid products at all. With all the Internet coverage and blog posts about Avid’s ups and downs over the years there has often been very vitriolic criticism posted in the comments. I’d often wondered if all these commenters were really Avid owners and users at all. When talking with folks during NAB 08 it seemed to be about a 3 or 4 : 1 ratio of those who talked critically about Avid to those who actually owned an Avid product. That’s only 1 current or former Avid owner to 3 or 4 who had opinions about the company and their products. If this is proportionally true to all the people who comment on blog posts and Internet articles about Avid developments then a whole lot of those folks don’t have any real investment in Avid products (or even Avid history) at all. To me this is quite surprising. Why be so critical of a company that you have never supported in the first place? I guess that’s part of the fun of the Internet, the ability to join in and post opinions on any and every topic whether it directly effects a commenter or not. I’ve done the same thing from time to time myself.Â This has been said before but it is worth repeating, a healthy Avid with a competitive Media Composer product is a good thing for the Final Cut Pro user base. Avid innovations drive updates in Final Cut Pro and vice-versa. The best thing for both of these products might be for Adobe Premiere to gain a significant and threatening market share just to have one more ingredient into the NLE pot!
It was pointed out to me in a conversation with an Avid employee that Avid is the only NLE manufacturer that makes the “whole widget.” The software and hardware are all developed and sold by the same company. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on who you ask. This kind of structure can mean that the whole product line works in a more streamlined fashion. It can also mean higher overall costs and a longer development cycle. But sometimes it reveals nice innovations. This is exactly the same kind of structure that Apple pioneered with the entire Macintosh business. They are the only major computer manufacturer who sells both the hardware and software and it has meant much of the same thing. Both higher costs than its Windows counterparts and first to market innovations are two common results. They’ve also lagged significantly behind the rest of the PC industry in a lot of areas as well. Why have such a closed system for your products? I’m no business expert but the advantages are probably two-fold. You rely only on yourself for development and innovations (and can be the only one to blame) as well as reap more profits from the products. One conversation with an Avid employee brought up the idea of 3rd party IO hardware support for Avid software. While technically it’s entirely possible, part of Avid’s business model is selling their own hardware which (hopefully) in turn brings more profit. It stands to reason that if AJA or Blackmagic sold the majority of Avid’s IO hardware then Avid wouldn’t be able to make as much money … or maybe none at all. Each and every company in the world is in business to make money so it’s hard to argue this point. I have no idea if a company like Avid could make money only selling a software product but it makes sense they can make more with the hardware components as well.
Which brings up the other idea that I think Avid is really going for with this “New Thinking” campaign. They seem to want to position themselves (or re-establish this position depending on your viewpoint) as a premium brand in the non-linear editing world. And I say, what is wrong with that position? Every market segment of pretty much every consumer retail product has premium products and premium brands. And they usually always cost more (hello Macintosh). Why shouldÂ non-linear editing applications be any different? TerenceCurren of the ProVideo Coalition recently used my favorite analogy by comparing the NLE world with the automotive world. He said (when speaking of Avid circa 2007) “since they were charging Mercedes Benz prices, they needed to be providing Mercedes Benz service.” This is something that Avid hasn’t always done. And Mercedes Benz has dealt with their own quality issues in the late 90s but returned to an above industry average in 2007. So I look at the Avid/FCP battle like I look at the cars in my garage (forgive me if I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating as it seems to be the best comparison that I can make to the NLE market and this Avid vs. FCP battle). When I need a utilitarian vehicle with more room, more doors and more versatility I reach for the keys of my wife’s Mazda. But when I want a more precise driving instrument that is faster and feels much tighter on the road then I jump in my Volkswagen. There’s a place in my garage for both and I suspect there is a place in a lot of people’s garages for two such NLE tools. For many there is only one parking slot and they need that versatility at a lower cost so the Mazda is an easy choice (the Mazda is Final Cut Pro if you aren’t following this analogy here) and they can’t really understand why anyone would spend the extra $$ on a Volkswagen when the Mazda will get you to the store and back at a much cheaper price. And of course there are a lot more Mazda owners out there thanVW. But for some, they can see and they desire the quality and value (and quirkiness) of the VW … and of the Avid products. Both Mazda and VW has been around a long time in the automotive market and there’s no reason to think that Final Cut Pro and Avid can’t both live peacefully in the post-production market as well.