Sonic and Daikin Join Forces: There Goes the Neighborhood
Stephen F. Nathans
March 1, 2021 | So where
were you when they announced the Great Sonic-Daikin accord of
2001? I'm not sure if it compares to the Nixon-Mao detente, the
Begin-Sadat summits at Camp David, the might-have-been 1976 Lennon-McCartney
reunion appearance on Saturday Night Live, Elton John and Eminem
at the Grammys, or catching George Wallace and Ella Baker in a
passionate liplock, but I sure as heck didn't see it coming. Looking
back on that spine-tingling moment from a safe editorial distance--nearly
three hours--I've got to say, like Nixon "opening" China, it makes
a lot of sense. Good fences make good neighbors, but sometimes
removing them entirely makes good business.
It also reflects good business sense
triumphing over dissent. For all the bad blood that's bubbled
between these two companies in the past--remember when the Prodigal
Sonic crossed the Redwood Highway and never looked back?--Sonic
and Daikin have given this industry yet another shining example
of hatchet-burying in the name of high profits. Old enemies and
crosstown rivals Cedar and Rimage made great allies once they
established a comfortable co-existence of Cedar's office-oriented
CD dupers and Rimage's industrial-strength producing pros. Until
very recently, Sonic has primarily sold Mac-oriented DVD authoring
solutions for its high-end offerings, while Daikin's DVD business
has concentrated on the Windows space. There's some nice tier-toggling
going on here, too. Sonic has done a remarkable job of appending
its entry-level DVDit! authoring software to every encoder, video
editor, and prosumer PC under the sun; these days they're partnering
more indiscriminately than the University of North Dakota hockey
program, and in Sonic's case, it's good business and good judgment.
Meanwhile, Daikin's least expensive offering, ReelDVD, takes aim
at a somewhat more sophisticated market that complements DVDit!
nicely, particularly as a sold-separately solution.
Then there's Sonic's new DVD technology
chief. Why is it that everywhere I go, some guy named James Taylor
seems to dominate the public consciousness? Growing up in Chapel
Hill, North Carolina, you couldn't get away from the guy, even
though he'd fled his hometown long before he ever signed a record
contract. Years after his run of hit singles had run out, every
seven-inch he put to wax flooded the airwaves in 919 country.
Even leaving the state and ol' JT's omnipresence behind was kind
of a Catch-22, since it made "Goin' to Carolina in My Mind" the
insinuating soundtrack to every offhand reminiscence you might
But we're not talking about senescent
popster Sweet Baby James here. The coup de grace for the
authoring community-at-large is that DVD's designated demystifier
will take a significant leadership role in the venture. In particular,
Jim's experience as Direct Show point man at Microsoft should
prove advantageous in future product development for the entire
line, as guaranteeing consistent and effective ROM drive playback
under Windows remains one of the lingering, vexing challenges
of DVD development. Software decoding, oft-maligned for its rapacious
appetite for system resources, seems to help a great deal in this
area, as it eliminates decoder-host system interoperability issues.
But other occasional stumbling blocks remain on the Mac side,
especially with OS X. It will be interesting to watch the unified
Sonic-Daikin brain trust make the most of Apple's cannonball plunge
into DVD, even as Apple itself joins the fray with iDVD and its
fuller-fledged stablemate, the DVDirector-derived DVD Studio Pro.
But how will the emergence of a
Daikin-Sonic juggernaut affect the rest of the DVD authoring field?
Much of its impact will depend on how Daikin and Sonic re-position
their products in the aftermath of the merger. We've seen a great
deal of fairly analogous consolidation in CD-R premastering software.
When Adaptec (whose software business is now called Roxio) acquired
Incat's Easy CD Pro and Corel's CD Creator, it made perfect sense
to combine the two products, since they were direct market competitors
with complementary strengths: Easy CD Pro's power and versatility
and CD Creator's ease of use. Later on, when Adaptec acquired
CeQuadrat's WinOnCD, their objectives were twofold: use it to
establish a European market presence, and then get it the hell
out of the way. Neither path seems clear for Daikin and Sonic,
although their products' relative reputations somewhat resemble
Easy CD Pro's and CD Creator's, respectively. But the competition
is less direct, so key products like Scenarist, Creator, Fusion,
ReelDVD, and DVDit! seem likely to survive. So in the high, middle,
and low echelons of the market, Spruce, Intec, Apple, and Pinnacle
(which recently acquired Minerva's Impression) should at least
be vying with the same products for a while. How they may develop
as a result of the merger is a different story.
The most recent coupling in CD-R
software involved Veritas and Prassi Europe. Prassi Europe was
a small company with a big technology brain and much less marketing
muscle than its longtime nemesis, Adaptec/Roxio. Prassi Europe
had barely been able to keep the aggressive Adaptec legal team
off its back. But with multimarket software behemoth Veritas backing
the PrimoCD line now, the game stands to change considerably.
Not so with the unification of the Sonic-Daikin product lines;
still more brains than brawn in these parts. But Scenarist should
see strengthened marketing, albeit on a smaller scale.
So we may see no cataclysmic changes
in the DVD authoring game as a result of the Sonic-Daikin accord.
But it's a fascinating turn of events all the same, as we behold
the formerly immeasurable distance between Old and New Town Novato
rapidly dwindling to a few friendly steps. As Sonic's new DVD
technology chief (or at least his namesake) might say, "I've seen
fire and I've seen rain."
Of course, we've all seen fire and