Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Next Generation of Red

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In some previous blog entries, I discussed the new products announced by Red at NAB. Scarlet, the "3K for under $3,000" camcorder announced for shipment next year, takes Red into an entirely new market segment, one in which the Japanese consumer electronic vendors (primarily Sony, Panasonic and Canon) have long played.

The current Red One lists for $17,500, but by the time lenses and accessories have been added, the cost can easily double (or more). At that price, there's enough margin for video system integrators to make money, and the systems are expensive enough for rental houses to have a steady market.

However, at $3,000 plus accessories, the Scarlet will clearly be a prosumer product that should sell in quantities many times that of the Red One. From interviews with Red executives at NAB, it seems clear that they see a market much bigger than that served by the mail-order video resellers such as B&H.

At the show, Red executives talked about the company's close relationship with Apple. It seems to me entirely possible that Scarlet, in a package closely integrated with Final Cut Studio, could be sold in Apple's stores, possibly even exclusively. This would give Red street-level access to consumers and media creation professionals around the world, without having to vet a sales channel store by store.

There have been rumors about Apple purchasing Red, but as I've written about previously, I think that Apple's hardware-agnostic approach to professional audio and video (as opposed to its hardware-centric approach to everything else) has worked in its favor vs. Avid. By buying Red, it could alienate its largest hardware partners, but by simply reselling a Red-branded Scarlet in its stores, it would remain agnostic, yet share the spotlight with the company that is fast becoming the Apple of video cameras.

Please keep in mind that this is speculation on my part; I have no inside information. However, I've felt for a long time that the design of camcorders needs a major overhaul in order to make them more usable, and that Apple is ideally suited to design and build such a next-generation product. A reselling partnership with Red could be the first step to such a product.

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