Thursday, January 24, 2013

All Things Must Pass. Maybe.

Atari has filed for bankruptcy in the USA. The filing was not nearly as surprising as the realization that the company, a pioneer in arcade-style video games, is actually still in business in 2013.

[Image credit: Rijk-Jan Koppejan]

Atari is not alone. The downward arc of the PC technology cycle is bringing about exits by several former industry leaders.
Dell is considering going private, perhaps funded by Microsoft. Intel — whose eponymous 'Intel Inside' ad campaign created consumer demand for branded CPUs where none existed — announced it was phasing out manufacture of branded desktop motherboards. HP CEO Meg Whitman, whose company's stranglehold on the business of printing on paper did not lead to innovations in 3D printing, said in an interview, "We've ultimately got to be in the smartphone business."
No technology remains dominant forever. Neither does any music delivery format. Jan Koltai published an extraordinary graphic summarizing the four technology cycles in the music industry 1975-2007. (See below.)
  • Vinyl record sales peaked in 1976 at $344 Million, trending down to near-zero by 1991.
  • Cassettes peaked in 1988 at $450 Million, with demand bottoming out in 2004.
  • CDs peaked in 2007 at $942 Million and are on a steep downward trajectory, falling another 13.5% in 2012.
  • Digital downloads are still on the rise, up 9.1% to a new high in 2012, but are threatened by the growing popularity of streaming audio services.
While technologies fade, they seldom go away completely. Atari's backruptcy filing is intended to shield its US operations from the financial woes of French parent company Atari S. A., so that its assets can be sold to continue a now-profitable line of Android and iOS games. The resurgence of vinyl is well-documented, with double-digit annual sales growth in each of the last five years (though vinyl still represented only 2.4% of physical album sales in 2012). Cassette singles still have a following in the UK, while sales of pre-recorded cassettes fuel the growth of the music industry in Africa.
What goes around.

            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #50            

Artist: Old and New Dreams
Title: Playing
Genre: Jazz
Year: 1980

Jazz continuously evolves. Old and New Dreams, founded in 1977 and composed of trumpeter Don Cherry, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden (a personal favorite), and drummer Ed Blackwell, made for a mighty team, performing high-quality free bop in the tradition of the Ornette Coleman Quartet (of which they were all alumni). This Austrian concert CD features the quartet stretching out on three of Ornette’s tunes, plus a song apiece from Cherry, Redman and Haden.

© 2013 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.