jellyjim wrote:I'm very surprised to hear the chips at the heart of the UAD engine are a bit long in the tooth! I wonder what their roadmap looks like with regards to upgrading the platform?
Anyone who jumped onboard with the original UAD1 basically knows exactly what happens - they run the hardware platform until it's incredibly outdated, and sales start to slow, then eventually introduce a new hardware platform that's more powerful, and requires everyone to buy new hardware, but still isn't that powerful compared to general purpose computers, and runs that until it's incredibly outdated, rinse and repeat.
It's a business model that's worked very well for them - they are the *only* powered plugin / DSP platform that survived when all the competition couldn't make it work, they are introducing ever more plugins at a somewhat dizzying rate, they can add DSP chips inexpensively into their other hardware as a significant value add, their plugins can't be pirated (and thus they maintain some desirable exclusivity), and their userbase consists of people who a) actually *buy* plugins, and b) have already invested heavily to get into the platform in the first place, so they are more likely to continue to buy UAD plugins.
jellyjim wrote:Of course, as you point out Hugh, the software that runs on the hardware is their real asset. That must be a big codebase and it wouldn't be a trivial task to migrate that anywhere.
Not so much. As I understand it, they code on/for regular systems, and then have a deployment system that compiles into the destination DSP code. To support new chips, you extend that deployment system to compile to the new format, and then theoretically it's "just" a recompile of the plugins to work on the new chips. (Of course, the reality is a little more complex, but the principle is there.)
I'm fairly sure there are newer Sharc chips that use the same basic code and instruction sets, but are simply more powerful, than the old ones UA still use for the UAD2 platform.
It's not like the UAD1 -> UAD2 translation where the hardware platform was completely new so they had to build a lot of new stuff from scratch - the old MPACT chip was a graphics processor, and quite different from the more general purpose Sharcs they are using now.
Basically, UA hold on selling the same old DSP hardware until the market literally stops buying them and sales slow down - at that point, they think about upgrading the hardware, as opposed to just adding more chips - which is much less expensive, and a lot easier.