February 2002 | Back in the Eighties, Rolling Stone published an overlong, overblown book called The Illustrated History of Rock ‘n' Roll that had one really interesting feature. They created a sort of rock band family tree, that would show how members of a famous band passed through other outfits to get there, chronicle the band's various personnel changes, and then trace the band's departed members through future endeavors of varying success. A typical example might be a "tree" that showed how the '60s band Jefferson Airplane evolved from the Great Society, split into Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship begat Starship, etc.
The rough-and-tumble adventures of Paolo Barettoni and Umberto Bassignani in the CD recording world might be similarly charted. You'd begin in 1993 with their development of the powerful recording engine of Incat's Easy-CD Pro, trace its lifeline through its sale to Adaptec (1995) to be merged with Corel's CD Creator as Easy CD Creator, and Adaptec's begetting of Roxio to focus on ECD and its offshoots. Somewhere in there you'd note Barettoni and Bassignani's brief tenure at Adaptec, and their subsequent formation (in 1997) of Prassi Software to market their new recording tools, the Editor's Choice-winning CD Rep and SCSI Rep.
Amid a great deal of courtroom controversy as nasty as any accompanying a rock band breakup, the two engineers developed two new CD recording applications, CD Right and CD Right Plus, which proved popular in Sony's Spressa CD-R bundles. In 1999, Barettoni and Bassignani formed a new company, Prassi Europe, to promote and sell a new CD recording engine, PrimoCD. The PrimoCD engine found success in a variety of packages. One derivative, MyCD, was branded by Veritas and (through Veritas) Stomp, Inc., best known for its Stomp CD-R labeling product. Veritas liked the software so much that in January 2001 they bought Prassi Europe and all rights to the PrimoCD line, along with the estimable services of Barettoni and Bassignani on a two-year contract basis.
In first 11 months following the acquisition, Veritas didn't make its strategy for positioning and marketing the Prassi products terribly clear, although the tools continued to show up in many bundles, including some CD-R-equipped PCs. According to Stomp Inc. general manager Bob De Moulin, however, the channel strategy is now set, and Stomp, Inc. has emerged as the exclusive North American channel distributor for Veritas' CD recording software line. The arrangement also solidifies a new product strategy for Stomp, Inc., which sold the Stomper product to Avery Dennison in 2001 and is now predominately focused on CD recording software, along with some ancillary packaging products, such as the DiscSavers jewel box covers and a desktop organizer called Clutter Buster.
The Veritas-Stomp relationship is simple, De Moulin says: "They develop the product and we handle the channel." The flagship of Stomp's line is RecordNow Max Platinum, a full-featured Windows-based package that offers recording and copying of all CD and DVD formats, multidrive recording for up to 64 CD-R drives, MP3 ripping, and BurnProof support—i.e., the whole PrimoCD package. While that opens a new chapter, presumably, of what Veritas and Stomp hope will prove a promising partnership, it closes one in the continuing saga of the Barettoni/Bassignani team and their rock star family tree. And while we can now answer the immediate question about Veritas' channel strategy, it may be time to start asking another one: where will they take their traveling CD-R innovation show next? Or how about this one, no disrespect intended: does it really matter?
Lord knows how the Jefferson Airplane got into this, but I keep thinking about an answer former Airplane lead shrieker Grace Slick gave about reuniting as an oldies touring act to cash in on old favorites like so many of their contemporaries. "I wrote those songs in the midst of what I thought was a revolution," she said. "I'm not going to cheapen them by singing them now that that revolution, real or imagined, is long since over." What's interesting is that she did make new music long after her interest waned—she just stopped singing the old songs.
Though apparently willing to admit she failed on her own terms, Slick at least retains the integrity to, uh, let it be. the Easy-CD guys, on the other hand, succeeded on their terms, providing the essential vehicles for a new storage medium, CD-R, that transformed the way many of us store and share information, and not insignificantly, preserve and enjoy music. But I wonder if there's as much in it for them these days. CD-R has gone as mainstream as the Jefferson Airplane's silliest "Starship" successor. The drives, and the PCs that host them, are much faster and more reliable than they once were, and there are loads of software jockeys out there that can provide what most CD-R users want. The latest CD-R tools highlight features like VideoCD, which are newly desirable, but not new.
Writable DVD seems one possible direction; PrimoDVD has been in the game for some time, but most do-it-yourself DVD premastering these days is being done by blood-simple DVD authoring tools from folks like Sonic and Apple, with specialization coming from video editing types like Ulead. And whatever its intricacies, the burning part is increasingly presented as the unskilled aspect of the process.
Differentiation-driven drives emphasize things like Yamaha's intriguing, but obscure and super-ancillary AudioMaster, and non-CD-R stuff like Memory Stick slots in Sony's latest drives. Beyond embedding recording to technology into, say, Web sites (which is also already happening), it's hard to say what real technical innovations of any relevance remain to be made. Even in its infancy, Easy CD Pro advanced with anything but baby steps, and it's hard to imagine its creators reveling in tiny triumphs now.