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Is Pro Tools dead?

Pro Tools is considered by many to be the king of digital audio workstation software. But it might soon be time for someone else to wear the crown. Here's why...


There is no doubt that Digidesign's Pro Tools has been massively successful since its launch in 1991. At first it was so expensive that only studios and top professionals could budget for it.

But the LE version together with the Mbox range of audio interfaces brought Pro Tools to the masses, where it has become incredibly popular.

However it is true to say that a product can only remain at the top for so long. Products have to develop over time, otherwise they lose out to the competition. But if they develop in the wrong way, they will lose support anyway.

But there's another way a product can fail - if the people who make it take their eye off the ball.

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Pro Tools was originally developed by Digidesign, which was already successful through its Sound Tools range of software and hardware.

But in 1995 Digidesign was bought by Avid, makers of video editing workstations.

This made a lot of sense for Avid because it used Digidesign hardware to run the audio side of its video workstations. Digidesign operated as a business unit within Avid, which later also acquired M-Audio, Pinnacle, Wizoo and Sibelius.

There is no doubt that Avid has been incredibly successful as a company. I personally remember the battle a long time ago between Avid and Lightworks for hearts and minds in the video industry. Avid went on to become a company worth over $470 million. Who has heard of Lightworks now?

But recently we have found when we start up our Pro Tools systems here at Audio Masterclass Towers, we are greeted with the message, "Digidesign is Avid".

Yes, Digidesign is Avid.

It says so on the Digidesign website too.

This is worrying. Digidesign has up until now operated as a business among the Avid family. Now the family is to be unified. Presumably this means taking Digidesign researchers and developers from their laboratory and mingling them with video people, and the Sibelius crew.

Doubtless Avid sees this as progress, and indeed it may be so.

On the other hand, it could amount to Avid taking its eye off the ball, the audio ball at least.

So potentially we could see Avid continuing to produce great video editing systems, with audio packed out with Digidesign goodness.

But what of Pro Tools? Will the Pro Tools team still sit together and take their already great product to new heights of achievement?

Or will the effort that has so far gone into Pro Tools be dissipated across the entire Avid company?

This is one instance where time will indeed tell, since no-one outside of Avid really knows what is going on.

But we'll be keeping a close eye on Avid Pro Tools. And we'll be keeping an eye on the competition too, because they might be about to benefit from an unexpected opportunity.

By David Mellor Sunday February 21, 2010