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Old 2004-04-17, 01:34
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raymondh raymondh is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
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Future of music software - open vs closed systems

Hi
Thought I might start a discussion that could contribute to Prop's future product planning....

My prediction is this: "open" music studios will kill closed systems in the next 5 years. That's bad for Reason and that would be a damn shame because Reason is an excellent product. If Props agree with this prediction, they have plenty of time to open up the product. But they're getting mixed feedback from their users based on current technology constraints - so they have a quandry. So you guys... cast your mind forward, not to what you need today in order to create music on your slow old Pentium II, but where you think the software needs to be in 5 years.

So here is the rationale....
1. We all agree that Reason is a wonderful breakthru and Props captured early mindshare (and market share) when they launched their sequencer-synth combo known as Reason. Reasonable sequencer, very good synths, very low CPU overhead.
2. Thru Rewire, they have a story about "openness" that enables Musicians to use their own choice of sequencer with Reason's synths.
3. But those who like Reason's sequencer can't use third party synths. Or effects. And Rewire, while very functional, is more cumbersome than other defacto integration standards like DXi & VST.
4. Other virtual studios are now emerging (or maturing) that arguably do what reason does, but provides users with more choices about how their studio fits together (eg Project 5, FL Studio). Neither (IMO) are as slick as Reason and one of them can't compete in CPU efficiency.
5. ... But hardware capabilities in 5 years will make this a non-issue. You will have 5 GHz machines with 4 GB RAM and they'll be cheap. So the CPU efficiency of Props will no longer be a value proposition. Also, sequencers are getting smarter with "freeze track", enabling more complex synths to be used on less hardware.
6. No vendor wants to have an open system. Props want to lock users into their product. Why shouldn't they - they're in business to make money. Even Imageline have a tactic around this for their open FL Studio product - what they're doing is selling their cool Sytrus synth at a much higher cost than the combi Sytrus + FL studio product.
7. ... but open systems is the future. Business software vendors now realise they need to make their software open and componentised if they are to survive. Customers want to mix and match to their own ideal requirements. This revolution occurred years ago with hardware (who would ever put up with a PC now that requires a graphics card from the same vendor as the motherboard manufacturer). It is happening with software. It will happen with music software. Props need to decide whether they're going to play this game. They need to decide whether they'll ever offer the superb NN-XT sampler as a standalone component etc, or whether Rewire is sustainable to them as a long term solution for integration of their full studio to other products.
8. The same is true with file formats. One day, I think XML will be a platform for defining a common music arrangement format. Wouldn't that be great. Again, we know that Props are hanging on to their closed system stance because they aren't sharing the format of their proprietary Refill format.

If any of you have read the Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, you'd see a parallel between the great position that Props are in today, versus the risky future it puts them in.

They've built us users a wonderful product. We need to make sure that we give them the right feedback not only based on our current requirements and constraints, but what we'd each like to be using in 5+ years, so they can continue to be our vendor of choice.

Raymond