It is fair to say that no product is perfect. Software-driven products tend to be complex, and so are subject to “bugs” or simply outright errors. As users provide feedback, as problems were fixed, and important features added, a new problem arose: how to get the improvements into the user’s version of the product? Two barriers had to be crossed: that of cheap delivery of updates, and that of user apathy in installing those updates.
For makers of software that runs on personal computers, the ubiquitous nature of the Internet solved both problems. That the Internet provides cheap delivery is obvious, but it also allows the software to learn of and self-install updates. The Firefox browser is perhaps one of the finest examples of self-updating software, alerting the user that the update has occurred only after the fact.
Server companies are now complaining through ISDCF that their products aren’t being updated properly. As a result, the ISDCF website now advertises the current software versions that users should be using. Exhibitors are encouraged to review the software versions in their equipment with those posted by ISDCF. But it remains to be seen if posting a list is enough to encourage exhibitors to update.
There are interdependencies to consider. While a user would likely be very annoyed if a software update on a personal computer caused an another program to crash, such problems are unlikely to impact revenue. Recreate that problem in a cinema, however, and there is likely to be a revenue impact. Servers interact with projectors, library servers, and theater management systems. Theater management systems interact with point-of-sale systems and library servers. When these are not all provided by the same software manufacturer, the interdependencies become difficult and expensive to manage. For many exhibitors, the temperament towards upgrades is “better the devil they know than the devil they don’t.”
For the makers of software, interdependencies pose complex support issues. Product companies will eventually recognize the need to include extensive software support in their cost of goods. Exhibitors will eventually find that it’s cheaper to license software from fewer companies whose products have more breadth. Broader product lines reduce the scope of interdependencies and increase the efficiency of manufacturer-based testing and support. This becomes more fuel for the introduction of enterprise-level software solutions, instead of the stand-alone box solutions that now permeate the industry.
On a completely different front, following its July Plugfest, ISDCF has been planning a follow-up event in Burbank on November 17, in which it is hoped that far fewer bugs will prevail. The Plugfests have become the industry event for testing SMPTE DCP interoperability, with emphasis on accessibility. However, it appears that Regal, with support from NATO, has also announced an accessibility demonstration on November 17 in Washington DC. The Regal-NATO date was made known to the manufacturers slated to participate in the ISDCF event. It’s not known who else was invited to attend. Certainly not your author!