“July 2006: This is the year when mLAN FireWire Music Networking breaks loose!” Yamaha proudly proclaims on the mLAN Central website! Woo-hoo! Break it loose! Shake it down! mLAN, baby!
Uh, okay, here’s why I’m skeptical about this. mLAN is a perfectly reasonable, FireWire-based technology for interconnecting audio devices, and it does work on a handful of Yamaha pieces. But Yamaha has long claimed that mLAN would become a new industry standard format, embraced by other manufacturers. Sounds great — except, years into the mLAN format, that hasn’t happened. There’s a semi-impressive list of partner companies supposedly working on mLAN on Yamaha’s partners page. Semi-impressive because some of them (eMagic) don’t even exist any more. But good luck trying to dig up actual products on this already-modest list. While I was researching my book, I tried calling Yamaha, Korg, and Tascam, just to get them to name one product they make that uses mLAN. Korg and Tascam said, “Isn’t that a Yamaha format? You’d have to talk to them.” At best, it sounded like maybe you could get an optional expansion board. For something. Yamaha wasn’t much help, either, beyond their own gear. There are a handful of pieces of hardware out there, but it’s a tiny fraction of the overall sound market. But, of course, 2006 is going to be the year, so maybe at NAMM next week in Austin the floodgates will open and mLAN will be the hot — okay, I’m not kidding anyone here.
That said, you can now download drivers for your Yamaha-branded mLAN gear with Universal Binary support for Intel Macs, and — wait a minute. What’s this? The list of even Yamaha mLAN gear is getting shorter, because Yamaha has declared a number of its own mLAN products “legacy.” They’ll be happy to help you upgrade via a page entitled mLAN Loyalty.
I enjoy the picture, though. I think this person is driving through the Valley of Forgotten Technologies.
I’ve been proven many times wrong before, so if someone can explain to me what makes mLAN useful beyond a couple of pieces of Yamaha hardware that haven’t been redubbed “legacy,” I’d love to hear it. Knowing how these things go, I’ll probably shoot out my mouth only to have one of the mLAN engineers show up in comments. In the meantime, this one goes in the X-Files, for “did we ever really believe that was going to catch on”?