Having already heard from M-Audio, we now have a response from Digidesign regarding concerns about driver support and Pro Tools software compatibility for the latest Windows and Mac operating systems. Bob Langlie, VP of Customer Support and Service, and via Digi’s forums, Digidesign’s product marketing and general operations representatives all weigh in with some clarification and answers. There’s even a response to me complaining about the lack of explicit Vista Home Premium support. (The short answer on that is, if you’ve got Home Premium, give it a shot and see what happens; a lack of explicit support doesn’t mean that mature Vista software and hardware drivers won’t work.)
It’s also important to note, however, that there’s really an apology to users. That almost never happens with any software developer. It’s impossible not to make some mistakes with the complexity of software development; everyone does that. Not everyone apologizes or communicates openly about the situation. This represents a real change in the level of communication from Digidesign and M-Audio, and I think they deserve some applause for that — it makes a difference. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue to be frustrated by specific support you may want, but at least it’s a step in the right direcition, and it means you can make informed choices with your production setup.
And as for Leopard, given the reports that we’re hearing, it might be more accurate to say Apple isn’t adequately supporting music rather than the other way around. There are some details on that situation, as well.
I’ve reproduced all of this, because there’s quite a lot of information here:
I’m Bob Langlie, the head of Customer Support and Services for Digidesign. I saw your blog post on createdigitalmusic.com discussing the current state of Digidesign and M-Audio driver development as well as OS compatibility, and I wanted to thank you for your input, as well as to respond directly to some of the important issues that you have raised.
First off, I think that your opening sentence sums things up pretty well: “There aren’t many positive ways to spin this.” We are behind in releasing a supported version of Pro Tools on Leopard, as well as on supporting Windows Vista on our HD systems. Additionally, it is more than fair to state that M-Audio is late with needed driver updates for Vista and Leopard. We at Digidesign and M-Audio want to apologize for these delays and let you know that we completely understand the frustration and disappointment being expressed in your post and the subsequent comments from your readers. It’s our number one job to provide quality tools to our customers that can help make them creative and successful in what they do, and it’s very frustrating (as well as damaging to our business) when we fail to deliver on that.
As you know, the Leopard release and its subsequent updates have been problematic for demanding real time applications. That said, we are working hard with Apple on Pro Tools Leopard support and should have a supported version out very soon pending the release of a much-discussed-on-the-rumor sites dot release from Apple and a few final days of testing. You can trust that we will publish a hard release date just as soon as we can.
Regarding communication around Leopard, we did post an apology and information on our User Forum from Dave Lebolt, our general manager in April, which explained the situation in detail; at that time we said we’d likely ship by June; we’re still on track for that pending Apple’s release. Just recently, David Gibbons (Digidesign’s VP of product marketing) posted to reiterate and update this news. If your readers haven’t seen that info, this is the link:
You’ll find the info starting in the second post down from the top.
As for Pro Tools|HD support on Vista, we don’t expect to be able to announce something on that front for a few more months. We look carefully at the needs of the largest groups of our users, and try to fix the most widespread needs and problems first. Unfortunately, the setbacks we have encountered with Leopard compatibility (and having to spend a lot of our resources and time on that) have caused significant delays to our plans for Vista and Pro Tools|HD. We are at work on it, however, and will take the same proactive approach to providing info as early and as often as we can. As mentioned by at least one of your posters, some high-end pros are not as focused on using the latest OS versions because they want to have a stable, non-changing environment (and will make changes only when things have settled). Many of our higher-end Windows-based customers work in post production and have this mindset regarding Vista at this time.
With Vista Home Premium support, it is true that we say that it is not officially supported or tested, but we also have noted in the same compatibility document that we currently have seen no issues from the field with the Home Premium version. Frankly, this is really driven by our desire to best utilize our testing resources well; doing so gives us greater reliability for product sets that do get qualified on what is a very large test grid. We made a conscious decision to do our full regression testing on Vista Ultimate and Professional knowing that there was an extremely good chance that the benefits would filter down to Vista Home. While this positive is indeed turning out to be the case, we still want to err on the side of caution, and have taken this position with our compatibility documents.
One poster mentioned that he thought that Digidesign clearly wasn’t focused on entry-level customers (and that we don’t realize that many of our customers aren’t higher end pros who would be more willing to sit tight on OS versions, etc.). We have many thousands of entry-level customers, and focus closely on their needs — that’s one of the reasons this transition is particularly painful. A very significant portion of our business is in the home hobbyist/project studio market and we want to create the best possible experience for everyone — I want to assure folks that we’re committed.
As for driver development on the M-Audio side, I think Niels has given a pretty good overview of M-Audio’s path forward to correcting some of these delays, and on getting M-Audio driver support back to a level that meets our customers’ needs. M-Audio has grown rapidly, partially due to their flexibility and the ability to get a large number of cool products into the hands of customers quickly. As with any fast-moving company, it can be a difficult balancing act to provide for the needs of a base of committed, passionate users who want or need their products to work well with the “latest and greatest” computer and OS technology as soon as it becomes available, with the desire to continue to quickly produce new products that your customers are asking for. There are plenty of challenges, but we can assure you and your readers that the focus is not purely on new business; as you can probably tell from Niels’ posts, the M-Audio team are also motivated and passionate folks that really have a desire to do right by their customers.
So, while this e-mail unfortunately doesn’t provide instant solutions for you or many of our frustrated users, I hope it does offer an insight into our thought process and our plans going forward, as well as our commitment to listen to our customers and to engage in productive discussions that can be beneficial to all of us. Thanks again for your input, and for keeping us on our toes. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or comments.
VP of Customer Support and Service
Also, in case you missed it, there’s still more from M-Audio’s Niels Larsen, via comments:
Sebastien Orban raised the issue of MIDI controllers and 64 bit support: all our current Keyboards and MIDI devices are USB class compliant and therefore work without any additional installation requirements (immediately “out of the box”) with new versions of OS X and Windows XP/Vista (including 64 bit versions). We embrace class compliancy wherever possible because of the straight forward installation experience and, of course, forward compatibility.
Monot asked about the Fast Track Pro. We have release versions of both Vista and Leopard drivers for the Fast Track Pro so its possible that what you are struggling with is a simple setup issue. If you would like assistance I can have tech support contact you. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Regarding Vista 64 a few questions where raised about making the beta drivers available. Its very likely we will do that once we are confident they are in a state to release without causing further frustration. We typically want to know what outstanding issues our customers are likely to experience and message that in release notes so users themselves can decide whether to install the beta drivers or not. With Vista 64 we are not at that point yet but hope to be soon. I should also mention that we are getting good XP64 results from this development so its possible that we will be able to give a commitment very soon to new drivers for this version also.
Derek Pegritz and Dead_red_eyes both raised the issue of what it takes to write drivers for new OS versions. There isn’t necessarily one straight-forward answer to this but I can tell you that our struggles with Vista and Leopard have been a combination of having to rewrite firmware (you may have noticed that the firmware updates in our Firewire products for instance when the Leopard drivers install), older driver framework needing updating and frankly that we underestimated the amount of work required.
As General Manager of M-Audio I have to take responsibility for this and make sure we don’t make the same errors of judgment going forward. I am sorry that we have frustrated our users by not getting it right but I hope to show you our commitment to support current products in the future as well as being more transparent about activities within the company.