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Apple acquisition: greater Proximity to Avid?

7 December 2006

Apple Computer has acquired Emmy award-winning media asset management supplier, Proximity. More than 150 broadcasters, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and ESPN in the US, the BBC, Five, ITN, S4C, SVC and MTV in the UK, and Holland’s EO TV use Proximity software, writes David Fox.

“We are pleased to announce that all Proximity technology and intellectual property, including artbox workgroup and artbox enterprise, was recently acquired by Apple,” said a statement on Proximity’s web site. “Existing Proximity customers with current support contracts will be contacted by Apple with details regarding their specific agreements and support requirements.”

Artbox, which won a Technology Emmy in 2002, handles “ingestion, retrieval, browsing, editing, management, cataloguing and storage of broadcast rich-media assets,” and manages clips, animations, stills and audio. Components can include: project-based Newsroom Integration, with access to a single searchable media catalogue; Workflow Management; and Archive Integration.

“The software is fantastic” enthused Rupert Watson, director, Root6, Proximity’s UK dealer. “In many ways artbox is the missing asset management system that should have been in the box with [Apple’s] Xsan.” He believes that the Apple takeover is “good news. Artbox is a product that needs wider distribution than Proximity can provide.”

Artbox is a cross-platform Java application. “It has the ability to transcode to and from practically any format,” explained Watson, and automatically creates MPEG-4 proxies that are accessible anywhere and can autoconform offline edits done in the Java application. It also integrates “very, very tightly” with Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

One of the most common complaints about FCP is its poor media management when dealing with workflows that involve multiple projects and/or multiple machines, and it could be that Apple wants to integrate some of Proximity’s technology into a future version of FCP.

It also indicates that Apple is intent on improving its broadcast-focused applications, probably to compete better with Avid’s Unity network and Interplay MAM system. It is similar to both Interplay and MediaBrowse, said Watson. Because of its relatively low price and good feature set, FCP has become the world’s best-selling broadcast edit application (with more than 500,000 systems in use), and has been gaining ground in broadcasting, especially for stand-alone edit stations. However, it has required more work to incorporate it into shared-user systems.

Artbox currently costs about _14,000, but “undoubtedly Apple will bring it down in price,” as it did with Shake after it bought it. It also needs a Linux server (costing another _10,000), but that is also likely to change to a less expensive Apple system.

Apple had already been one of Proximity’s technology partners, and artbox is integrated with both FCP and the Xsan network. Artbox also integrates with AP’s ENPS newsroom system, Avid’s editing, Deko graphics and iNews, Discreet’s Smoke, Grass Valley’s Profile, Omneon’s servers, PixelPower and Vizrt graphics, and many Quantel and Sony products. Proximity also worked with Chyron to develop its Lyricstore.

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