Perspective on Cycling74 dropping Pluggo support…

This started out as a comment on This CDM post but grew to the point I moved it here. Peter Kirn took this announcement as an opportunity to discuss free/open alternatives, which is great, but personally, I’ve really come to value the increased quality of software made by people who do it commercially over the myriad sketchy and semi-sketchy free alternatives. I’d sooner stab my nuts with a rusty fork than try and do anything with Pd…

Full disclosure, I’m friends with a couple of the Cycling74 guys…

Like a lot of decisions at Cycling74, what drives decision-making is the fact that they’re a small company — vanishingly small compared to e.g. Ableton.

While I don’t know the mind of Zicarreli, the actions of Cycling 74 over the years speak volumes: The company has stayed tiny as a conscious decision, and has only added new people when they find someone whose talents are unique and there is a good fit with respect to personality and philosophy.

Since Cycling74 is vanishingly small, they have to be very careful about what they say ‘yes’ to and they will say ‘no’ a lot. I surmise the whole partnership with Cycling74 came about because of personal contact, friendship, and shared vision between principles at the two companies.

Having said ‘yes’ to Ableton, Cycling74 is going to increase their customer base by a couple of orders of magnitude, and supporting this new base is going to be a challenge. Luckily Ableton has the larger staff and deeper pockets to share that burden.

Not continuing to support VST and AU and RTAS might be sad for those of us who bought those products, but it’s a completely understandable business decision.

Let it be said also, that while I love Pluggo and Hipno, they’re not what I’d call smooth or easy to use in VST hosts, for a load of reasons. The Max/Live integration might be closed source and a software monoculture but it will do a couple of really useful changes for musicians:

  • Live is really good at timing, and is a straightforward sequencing environment.  Max? Not so much.
  • Max will become part of a software ecosystem that — all bitching on the Ableton Forums aside — has considerable human resources devoted to quality control. Combine that with the much larger user base, Max will benefit in terms of reliability and performance.
  • Max for Live will mean considerably more bushel baskets of cash showing up at Cycling74.  This bodes well for their continued existence as a company, and should make it possible for them to do even more cool stuff.
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