1. Part 1
STAYING AHEAD Nero’s Man Shows His Cards - Page 1
Ahead has shown a rapid growth in the last 2 years with Nero Burning
Rom having become a synonym for CD/DVD burning/authoring, and is successfully
with the majority of burner manufacturer’s retail packages. With key
management decisions and strategic alliances, the company has adopted a formula
based on satisfying market demands while maintaining technological prominence.
Mr Jim Corbett, Exeutive Director of Ahead Software AG, is the key figure
behind all these successfully managed innovations from Ahead in the global
market. The following interview was kindly given to CDRInfo, just a
few days before CeBIT 2004, Hanover, opens its gates.
CDRINFO: When Ahead's founders originally started the company, they had a
vision in mind. What was that vision, what is it today and what is it for the
future. We would like to know whether their vision has changed, and if so how
J. Corbett: Well it might sound a bit of a cliché, but we genuinely
had this vision of producing World class application software with instant
brand name recognition. That vision still exists today, and probably more so
as Ahead strives for mass market appeal in a converging IT and CE industry.
CDRINFO: What standards and criteria does Ahead enforce with regards to the
level of their employees, especially in the fields of research and development,
quality control and marketing.
J. Corbett: We’re very customer orientated, but also we’re a people
company. We have some unbelievably creative employees at Ahead, and there is
a lot of freedom. At the same time, we have a big responsibility to our users,
so we’ve been very fortunate in getting a mix of talent that I think
is quite unique in today’s software industry. Developers have a degree
of freedom to expression that probably goes beyond that of our competitors,
and importantly we have a management team that listens.
CDRINFO: What is the position of Ahead in the software market at this moment.
How do you plan to maintain or even improve that position and what are your
plans for future expansion?
J. Corbett: The past year has seen a huge change in Ahead Software. We’ve
gone from being a one product company known primarily for CD Recording, to
one that is marketing a complete suite of applications, targeting the DVD,
Home and Mobile Entertainment, and Consumer Electronics Industries in general.
We’ve expanded our engineering enormously over the past 2 years, and
this is set to continue. Investing more in R & D, and naturally bringing
more creative people on board, is paramount in our future planning.
2. Part 2
STAYING AHEAD Nero’s Man Shows His Cards - Page 2
CDRINFO: Being a leading figure in a profitable and expanding corporation, what
are the main ingredients of your success?
J. Corbett: Our people. However I strongly believe that being able to deliver
what consumers really want in application software has been a critical factor
as well. We’re lucky in having quality people delivering quality products.
Put that alongside a loyal and committed customer base, and it’s probably
a strong recipe for success in any ones imagination. But at the end of the
day, we’re only as good as our customers allow us to be, and that’s
why we are totally committed to going that extra length to ensure we keep their
CDRINFO: There is a lot of pressure lately from the European Community, regarding
copy protection issues for DVD. Some companies have been forced to stop developing
their software or even move overseas to protect their company's advantages.
What is your opinion and where does Ahead stand on this issue? Will this impact
on Ahead’s plans?
J. Corbett: We totally respect Intellectual Property and the law. So we would
never do anything that would undermine this, and put our customers and company
CDRINFO: A couple of years back, Bill Gates announced optimistic plans regarding
Internet TV. How have Ahead and other software companies in general, reacted
to Microsoft's plans?
J. Corbett: Well we are expecting the Media Centre approach to become increasingly
popular, along with IP based home media servers. This is an area of great
interest for us, and there is a definite part for Ahead to play in the future
of the Internet based living room. Already some competitors have been following
the MS approach with PVR kind of applications, but we are working on a concept
CDRINFO: Microsoft was one of the main supporters of Mount Rainier. However,
its implementation under the Windows OS has not been announced yet. Has or
does Ahead plan to cooperate towards this direction and how closely will
UDF writing software (InCD, etc) be related to this effort?
J. Corbett: We’ve been spending a lot of energy in this direction, and
our InCD development team has a significant size. We’re not always privy
to what MS plan in their Operating Systems, but there have been plenty of rumours
about Longhorn and Mr Rainier packet writing integration. We’ll just
have to see, but we are totally committed to UDF and Mr Rainier support in
our InCD product.
3. Part 2
STAYING AHEAD Nero’s Man Shows His Cards - Page 3
CDRINFO: Besides hardware, what other factors play a key role in the quality
of DVD recording?
J. Corbett: Media is probably the single biggest one after hardware, and there
have been plenty of stories about format and hardware incompatibilities. On
the software side we have implemented a rigid check procedure to ensure the
quality of a Nero written DVD will work where the hardware and media allows
it to. But with competing formats, and differing media standards, we believe
there is still a lot of education needed before the consumer really understands
why sometimes things will not work the way he or she expects them to.
CDRINFO: Hardware manufacturers have already announced the market roadmap
for DVD, saying that the 16x recording speed is the top limit, and the recording
speed race is in full progress. Philips and Pioneer have announced dual layer
recording. On the other hand, users are complaining about the incompatibility
of current recorded DVDs (single layer). It appears that DVD recording has
not followed in the footsteps of CD-R regarding quality consistency. With
this in mind, is dual layer recording feasible while even overburing on single
layer DVDs has not yet been achieved?
J. Corbett: Our initial testing with double layer DVD recording has proved
very successful, both from a writing and playback point of view. We believe
double layer will prove hugely successful, and whilst it’s very true
to say DVD has not been able all the time to follow CD in terms of quality
consistency, there have been several mitigating circumstances. What’s
undeniable though is that DVD is the fastest growing consumer format of all
time, and we’ll continue to see unprecedented growth for years to come.
CDRINFO: Both AOD (Toshiba-NEC) and Blu-Ray technologies seem to be addressed
to professionals due to their high price for the mid-user. Do you believe
that they will be more affordable in the near future and how will Ahead support
J. Corbett: We’re already co-operating with the AOD and Blu-Ray groups,
but there are a number of factors that could determine which one will eventually
win through. Cost is a big factor in mass market adoption, and it’s conceivable
that both formats will find a niche for some time in the professional or pro-sumer
market, with double layer drives becoming the main consumer format. Newer codec
technologies such as AVC/H264 could also have a deciding factor in determining
CDRINFO: What do you believe will be the next generation(s) of mass storage
recording media to hit the market and how far away are we from this?
J. Corbett: Well speaking for the consumer market, I think long term it will
still be DVD based. Probably when CD first came about in 1982, you wouldn’t
have given much hope for this being around in the next century. But that is
exactly what has happened, and even in 2004, the sales of CD products will
be extremely high. But with double layer on the horizon and AOD and Blu-Ray
to come, we’ll be well served for some time yet in DVD mass storage.
CDRINFO: So what new products or technologies can be expected from Ahead this
J. Corbett: 2004 excites us a lot because we have so many interesting developments
taking place. For CeBIT you can expect some pretty major enhancements to our
existing applications, including the likes of Recode, and NeroVision Express.
We’ll be featuring DVD+R DL (double layer) demonstrations with our partners,
and in the case of Nero Digital, we intend to implement key technologies such
as Parametric Stereo, giving for the first time, terrific quality at bit rates
as low as 24kbps, and realising 5.1 audio at 64kbps. We believe this will raise
the stakes in low bite rate, minimal quality loss encoding, but the video side
also excites us. We intend to preview AVC/H264 for the first time, which takes
MPEG-4 onto the next level. Recode will also support multiple file import,
(not just DVD folders), so the transparent transcoding into Nero Digital format
will become even easier for existing content that exists out there. But there
will be a whole lot more, which is why we’ll be promoting in so many
different areas during the show. So we’re looking forward to welcoming
as many of our customers as possible.