Toast 11: How Does a Disc Utility Survive in a Future Without Discs?

In a disc-less age, what is a disk burning platform to do besides re-invent itself? The challenge is which way to steer your product. In the case of Roxio and its market-leading disc burning tool Toast, that direction points down two different paths. I’ve long been a Toast user, and recently spent some time with Toast 11, the latest version, focussing on everything but its ability to create optical media.

One path Toast is taking is to focus on its core strengths and make use of its encoding and decoding expertise by becoming a media conversion utility. The second direction appears to be more of a business partnership move, through the creation of a software bundle with other vendors whose programs complement Toast.

Toast as a Media Converter

Out of the box, Toast is a decent media conversion tool. I compared it to two other media conversion tools that I use regularly, the well-established Handbrake, and the lesser-known Pavtube, to see just how good it is. As you can see from the chart above, it lags behind Handbrake and Pavtube in terms of its ability to take content directly from disc-based sources and create different files using those sources. It also lacks a lot of fine-tuning options and the ability to queue conversions. Still, with a little more work, it could become a very competitive conversion tool thanks to its extensive output format support.

Toast as a Complementary Utility

By placing more of an emphasis on conversion than burning, Toast has entered into the media conversion market with a decent offering. On its own, Toast isn’t exactly a powerhouse of creativity. Sure you can create a DVD menu system, but for the most part, the creativity happens outside of Toast itself. To that end, Toast Titanium Pro has partnered with some other software developers to create a bundle of utilities that complement the creativity process of established media creation powerhouses.

Roxio has been very careful to choose what software to bundle in with Toast Pro.  They didn’t directly challenge iMovie, Premier or Final Cut by resurrecting some of Avid’s now retired consumer-based products for Mac (s aapl).  Instead, Roxio made the smart move with Toast to focus on complementary tools that fill the creativity void it has in this space.  Boinx Software’s FotoMagico is a great choice to author clips that will be added to a movie.  BIAS SoundSoap helps remove unwanted background noise from videos.  SmartSound SonicFire adds the ability to create great soundtracks if you are not a musician.  Combine that with Toast’s existing burn and conversion capabilities, and you have a powerful set of media creation utilities.

Looking the core value of Toast in a disc-challenged world, if Roxio sees fit to expand Toast’s conversion features to handle a little more control on some of the low-level settings like de-interlacing and noise reduction, as well as add in the ability to process a batch of media files in series or in parallel, it has the opportunity of being the best media conversion utility on the market. Unfortunately, Toast’s current strengths lie in its Pro version and its strategic business partnerships. I would definitely recommend purchasing the Pro version of Toast over upgrading to the latest version of iLife or investing in Adobe Premier(s adbe), but if you want conversion tools, look elsewhere for now.