The Summer NAMM Show
BY FRANK FOSTER
Activity at Atari has reached an incredible level recently as a record number of new products are in final preparation for U.S. distribution. After the Portfolio and PCES introductions garnered so much favorable press, by the time of the summer NAMM show, Atari seemed to be on a roll.
Of course, successful NAMM shows are no surprise to the Atari community, but reaction to STACY laptop was so positive that, even if the rest of the NAMM show was slow, Atari would have been successful. STACY is the epitome of what a music computer should be and the whole industry learned it at the NAMM show.
When Atari first showed the Hotz MIDI controller at the Winter NAMM show, it was demonstrated by such musicians as Mick Fleetwood, Mike Lawler (from Steve Winwood's band) and, of course, Jimmy Hotz. At that show, Atari wanted to let people play it themselves, so Jimmy gave continuous one-on-one demonstrations to music dealers, reporters and musicians. Once again, the reaction was overwhelming.
In fact, reaction to the Hotz Box has been so positive that during Fleetwood Mac's production of a new album in Los Angeles, their producer gave them a room just to make sure that a Hotz Box was always available. A new housing design for the professional unit has just been completed by Ira Velinsky, the ST and STACY designer. Atari Manager of Product Engineering John Couch is overseeing the manufacturing, which is taking place in the U.S. Both Atari veteran Jose Valdez and new addition Scott Barrows are on the engineering team.
Summer NAMM in Chicago was widely viewed as the sleepiest one yet, with most exhibitors complaining about lack of attendance. Many of them indicated that they will cut back to one show per year. But for Atari, this NAMM was of pivotal importance because it set the basis for our continued dominance in the MIDI marketplace. Luckily for Atari, Apple Computers has been forced to postpone their multi million dollar attack on the MIDI market because of their legal dispute with Apple Records. Of course, we can't expect that postponement to last.
For the moment at least, somebody up there likes us. According to Keyboard magazine's latest "Trends in Technology" poll of over 3,000 readers, those who bought a computer in the last two years responded as follows: Atari ST: 31%, IBM: 27%, Macintosh: 26%, C-64: 7% and Amiga: 5%.
Despite Atari's success in MIDI, there's still one area that has been bothering me for a long time: there are now at least five different and incompatible MIDI switching/multitasking systems on the ST. Even though this indicates that we have a diverse and talented group of ST MIDI developers, it's still not what Atari MIDI users need and deserve. At the Audio Engineering Society convention last year, Atari met with key developers to start a dialogue toward a switching standard. Last February, in Frankfurt, I met with personnel from C-Lab and Steinberg to see if the two biggest rivals in the market could agree on a standard.
We followed up on these efforts at NAMM with a large "summit conference" that included some of Atari's top executives, as well as the most influential MIDI developers in the industry. Representatives from Dr. T's, Steinberg, Hybrid Arts, C-Lab, Intelligent Music and Passport Designs were in attendance. While most of what was discussed in the meeting is still confidential, everyone agreed that there was a wonderful spirit of collaboration and open-mindedness that prevailed throughout the 4 1/2-hour session. Finalization of an Atari MIDI-Tasking Standard has become such a priority that Leonard Tramiel, Atari's Vice President of Software R & D, is now personally advising on the project.
As Atari's Director of Specialty Markets, Frank Foster is responsible for MIDI and graphics products marketing in the U.S. This is his first article for START.