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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Avid And Mackie Play Nice

Recently Mackie released a new product called the Onyx-i Firewire Recording Mixer that was able to communicate with just about all DAWs, including Digidesign's (now Avid) Pro Tools. The problem for Mackie was that it appeared to reverse engineer the Pro Tools protocol rather than do the usual expensive technology license agreement with Avid, a skirting of the license that Avid had come down hard on in the past.

This lead to all sorts of speculation that Avid would soon be turning their expensive corporate attorneys loose on Mackie and we'd see one hell of a court fight as a result. Lo and behold, word on the floor at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention now going on in New York City is that Avid has forgone litigation in favor of an arrangement to facilitate Mackie and that an official announcement is forthcoming.

This is certainly surprising and could only mean a couple of things (putting on my speculators hat for a second). First, even though Avid's stock price of around $15 is actually doing a better of late, it's way off it's near $50 a share of 2005. Some analysts speculate that the reason why Avid absorbed the Digidesign name was to prepare itself for a sale, so the last thing Avid wants right now is more litigation, even if their the one doing it.

Secondly, this could be the beginning of a new open-source strategy for Pro Tools. Since Pro Tools has pretty much hit a saturation point in terms of both high end sales, they may believe that in order to secure the somewhat more volatile low end of the market that it's best to let other manufacturer's hardware talk to PT, giving the user one less reason to even try anything else.

Whatever the reason, I think it's probably a lot better for the industry if the Pro Tools protocol becomes more open. No matter what you think of the platform, it's still the industry standard, and until someone comes along with something a whole lot better, it looks like it will stay that way for a while.

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