Milestone Launches DVRs

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 19, 2014

So much for innovation and the open platform, Milestone has entered the DVR business.

In this note, we examine the upside for Milestone, the downside for its partners and what this further signals for the overall video surveillance market.

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Comments (32)

Meh, wake me up when they get a combo VCR/DVR/NVR model.

When you have a large percentage of market share incremetal market share gets tougher and tougher to gain. So Milestone's entrance into the hardware busniness is kind of a no brainer since wrapping hardware around the software will double the revenue on a sale, albeit at much lower margins. I don't think it represents a shift in their open platform philosophy, it is purely a financial decision. Whether they will be succcessful at it is another story. Many software companies stumble when entering the hardware business. As for the hybrid products they are certainly a little late in the game as legacy analog conversions are declining. But I don't really see to0 much conflict with partners manufacturing encoder. Encoder sales are also in rapid decline and I would not be surprised to see some of the camera manulfactures get out of this business over the next couple of years. Most of the encoder sales we see these days are for specialized applications rather than legacy conversions. We still sell several hundred encoders a month and we see this continuing for some tiime. Most legacy converisions today are using hybrid appliances but, as already mentioned, these are diminishing.

"When you have a large percentage of market share incremetal market share gets tougher and tougher to gain."

Even Milestone admits they have less than 10% of the market for VMS software. Do you consider that a 'large percentage of market share'?

In a highly fragmented market where that make them the leader, yes, I think so. Even in a very mature market, like automotive, I don't think any car maker has more than 20%. Unless a company has got some proprietary technology allowing them to dominate a market I think that is pretty typical.

Ok, if you think 7% market share is 'a large percentage' so be it. I certainly do not.

Contrast Milestone's DVR with Genetec's new IP telephony support. Both are 'enhancements' but Genetec's will help it win over more large scale software business with a highly differentiated offering, while Milestone now has to compete among one of 100 manufacturers with DVRs.

You said less than 10% but, OK, let's disagree that 7-10 % is significant. I hope we can agree the margin for error one way or the other for research figures in our industry is enormous. Milestone is at least percieved to be the VMS market leader. In any case, we are moving off my points, one of them is this: I think it will be easier for Milestone to increase their top line revenue by introducing hardware than by selling more software. I realize it may be a big leap to think that is one of their objectives.

Your original point was that Milestone had a "large percentage of market share". Now, you are shifting to "Milestone is at least perceived to be the VMS market leader."

As for increasing top line revenue, it's fools gold. Revenue may be better, but how much more profit in selling lower margin, commodity boxes? And how much of this is offset by weakening relationships and less opportunities with their encoder / camera partners?

It's not that Milestone dominates VMS software sales and has no where else to turn. It's that they have, evidently, run out of ways to significantly improve their software and have turned to cannibalizing their partner's sales.

White flag. Take a deep breath John. I rarely comment here anymore but when I do I spend about 2 minutes thinking about what I'm going to write and 2 minutes writing. That is all I have time for. I am not developing a thesis and don't have hours to spend doing online research to demonstrate how clever I am. Just trying to share one perspective from someone in the trenches not engage in a gladitorial debate. If you want to encourage a higher percetage of your readership to participate in these discussions then easy does it. There is merit in what you have to say as I think there is in what I have to say.

Bill, when the premise of your argument is fundamentally and demonstratively wrong, I have to comment or else many readers will believe that we agree with the claim.

I'm just waiting for information and statistics to back up his claim that Milestone is "percieved to be the VMS market leader".

According to who? At least in the territory I work ExacqVision is thoroughly dominating them in sales of both Hardware and Software. Also, I had to laugh at the comment about being in the trenches. Sitting in a chair behind a desk at a small distributor is not "in the trenches"

Undisclosed B is an Exacq rep.

Take his argument against anecdotal claims with an anecdote a result of this.

Bill, IMS / IHS says Milestone has ~7% market share. They are the 'market leader' with 1/14th of the market.

Btw, also in essentially a tie with Genetec.

Finally, Exacq's revenue is higher than Milestone's. The issue is that IMS / IHS has two categories - one for software sales and the other for hardware. Exacq gets split across those two. Same thing will happen now for Milestone.

I wish I could leave it there but I can't. I take issue with your assessment. I did not shift. My position is both that Milestone has a large percetage of the market and is a market leader. Whether either of these are true or not doesnt change my central point. In a fragmented market, capturing new customers becomes more and more difficult and expensive as your market share grows. Sometimes you have to spend a lot of money justt so you don't to go backwards if you are in an extremely competitive environment or in a defensive position. In order for Milestone to significantly increase software sales they need to grow their customer base. They are not going to greatly increase sales by selling more software to existing customers. However, if they can expand their product offering to their existing customer base they can increase both top line revenue and profitability. Gross margin percentage is not the key factor for offering new products. The analysis is whether incremental gross profit dollars on new product sales exceed incremental fixed cost expenses. And this is a basic break even analysis which Milestone has apparently performed and feesl confident about. Personnaly I'm not so confident. But if sales of new products move past that breakeven point then the business makes sense even if the GM were 5% because that profit is dropping to the bottom line. And if their plan is not successful they now have the deep pockets of their parent company to fall back on. In my view the downside of weakening partnerships will be nominal. We can probably expect a Milestone camera offering next.

I think it's interesting that Milestone Systems, who touts themselves as "a world-leading provider of open platform IP video management software (VMS)" launched the Husky appliance at all- given its more analog than IP.

You'd be wrong, it's an IP systems with an analog option as well. I'm sure you can still buy the Husky without the analog card.

MIPs Expo 2014 - Milestone Husky NVR announced

ASIS 2014 - Milestone Husky DVR announced

MIPS Expo 2015 - Milestone Matrix Switcher announced

ISC 2015 - Milestone sequencer announced, Pelco announces cloud based VMS based on Microsoft Azure

ASIS 2015 - MIlestone adds DVR PCI-X cards to growing hardware portfolio

MIPS 2015 - Pelco acquires Canon/Milestone to flesh out their analog product portfolio

And we are full circle...

This gets even more bizarre. The official Milestone press release is out and the Milestone exec quoted is their "VP of Incubation and Ventures."

If you recall, this is Milestone's Silicon Valley 'division', whose objective is "to cultivate, incubate and accelerate new game-changing Milestone businesses and ventures in untapped market segments outside the video management software core business of today."

Milestone went to Silicon Valley to release a DVR, how sad....

I can't quite understand how the expansion of Milestone's product offerings comes in conflict with the "Open platform" concept. As a long time partner of Milestone in my country in Eastern Europe I have always seen this concept as the possibility to implements various brands and types of IP devices in a single, integrated software platform. Yes, Milestone was acquired by another company and still they do support (on driver level) more than 1000 different devices. Yes, they released an embedded NVR and still you can assemble your own server and put on top Milestone's software. So I would say that the "Open platform" concept still is pretty much alive. What will or might become in the future is pure speculation at that point..

I will give you another perspective based on my experience on the market in Eastern Europe. In fact various Milestone partners here have been begging them to release an embedded server/NVR. The reasons are different, some of them being:

- Large part of the system installers/security companies do not have enough knowledge and/or experience to calculate and assemble the right IT server. Or at least it takes them considerable time and human effort to do it. Many of them are still coming from the analogue world and they expect to have similar logic in the IP area, at least regarding the embedded recording device. The IP migration is quite a task for them, and any help in the way of a ready to use out-of-the box recorder is a big plus. I have had various customers (system installers) who are afraid to do all the calculations and assembling IT servers, not to mention the installation of OS, drivers, etc.

- The Husky NVR that I saw it is just a pre-assembled PC server with Milestone pre-installed. Nothing more. It does not hold any new technology, it does not lock or limit the future customers (it can be expanded with licences). There are not any PC cards or something, no propietary hardware. It is just a third-party PC made by DELL (even the warranty comes from them). So it is not a Milestone product, but rather an IT product distributed by Milestone. The main advantage for the customer as we will try to show it is the fact that it can save a lot of time for the installer, while the end-user can have a total-solution-equipment from one provider (which on our market is a plus)

The software itself is still hardware agnostic and any integrator can assemble and support any other kind of PC server, given that he has the adequate knowledge, time and desire to do so..

Rumen, because Milestone's 'open platform' was traditionally about being a pure play software that was hardware agnostic.

Don't believe me? See Milestone's "What is Our Open Platform Page?" In the video, Fullerton's first point is about Milestone being a 'pure software play.'

Obviously, offering NVRs, DVRs and being owned by a camera manufacturer eliminates that position.

Rumen, the way you are defining open platform, pretty much any end to end manufacturer meets it.

What was special about Milestone before was that they stuck to just software and did not pick sides or push their own hardware.

Now maybe this is a better (or worse) model but it's not what Milestone argued for the past decade was what made it special.

Maybe the competition is making them react in a way contrary to their previous stance or perhaps Canon is pushing this?

Maybe Milestone is trying to fill a demand it is hearing from its users. Say a user has a large number of locations with a small numbers of cameras, many existing analog systems that are functioning just fine. They want to protect their investment without having to rip and replace these systems. They want local recording because they know the bandwidth demand isn't going to give them a quality solution otherwise. Meanwhile, they have some large locations worthy of an enterprise VMS platform. They want to leverage that and bring all cameras online with one management system. Of course, there are ways to do this without depending on the hardware offered by Milestone. Maybe Husky product is just enough for some large chain convenience store or coffee retailer to pick Milestone instead of another and that opens their product up to a market they previously were not reaching. I wonder, will this offering solve the problem AND be cheap enough for that market to buy it?

Indeed, you are quite right about the "pure software play". I attended a seminar in spring 2012 where E. Fullerton argued exactly the same - they are only software focused manufacturer, they do not offer any hardware devices. He emphasized that IP is the only way to go. He even went so far as to suggest that if the customer asks for analogue or even hybrid - we should let him go and don't offer at all.. In a market where the ratio between analogue and IP was 80/20, this sounded really unrealistic (if not arogant). I would say that his presentation made a bad impression to many. Even from today's point of view in late 2014, IP is still not dominant on many markets and CVI/TVI/AHD are probably going to further threaten some parts of it - so I would say that the sectarian approach of Fullerton today sounds even more on the wrong side. And at that seminar in 2012 people were asking him about hybrid solutions (or at least not to pay for every channel of the expensive multi-channel encoders), about embedded devices with Milestone, about support of DVR devices..

It is a pity that they listened to the clients so late.. But hey, better late than never :)

Rumen, good feedback. For a very long time, Milestone was, as you say, 'sectarian.'

One big upside of this approach was that most of the other manufacturers, more than any other company, wanted to bring Milestone in to deals, because of this. They could trust that Milestone would not flip or steal other parts of the deal because Milestone only did software. These moves undermine this.

Will Milestone gain more by selling more parts than they lose by undermining their manufacturer partner network? Time will tell.

" Sad, very sad"...Why would this be sad? Sorry, but the personal Milestone bashing over here is getting old.

We use Milestone on pure analog retro fit projects--it works perfectly.

1. Because Milestone records at D1 vs CIF, it makes the old cameras look like new and all we changed was the software and server.

2. Your strictly analog system now has an upgrade path for IP cameras as they add new cameras.

3. How can you beat Milestone's new pricing??? 1 license per analog card IP address. You get 16 cameras in Milestone VMS for the price of 1 license. That's incredible! A huge cost saving that makes these analog only upgrades now competative with DVRs. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Avigilon (4 analogs for 1 lic).

4. New projects may be IP, but there's a HUGE market for upgrades that need to be done where analog is still going to stay.

We don't currently use the Husky appliance because our server builds are designed for us and more cost effective, but we'd certainly evaluate it for future projects.

I love IPVM but please, lets keep the personal bashing out of it. Just the facts....just the facts.

EJ, You're entitled to state you opinion here and so am I.

As for your facts:

  • Everyone offers D1 recording today, it's no advantage to Milestone.
  • The strictly analog path had a path before. It was to use encoder appliances.
  • I think Milestone's encoder license pricing is attractive. It can be done with encoder appliances, even without Husky hybrid.
  • Debating whether something is 'huge' is inherently subjective. However, Milestone is very late to this market, and it (SD analog) is declining now in their core NA and EMEA markets.

Finally, I find it sad that Milestone is leading with this as their big announcement for the fall. Milestone is (or was) better than that.

John thanks for the reply. I'm glad you removed the "sad" part. I love IPVM for the opportunity to learn about and discuss cameras--in fact and opinion. I don't think you realize when you add thinks like "sad" to the title of a discussion that you start, it shifts from an opinion to IPVM does not recommend this product or this product has issues. I'm not trying to fight with you, just stating my observation.

For the record, I'm clear on my IPVM posts I dislike Avigilon (for reasons I've stated) and like Milestone (we currently use). Milestone is not launching a DVR line, they're giving you the option to add an analog card to their appliance.

To respond to your items:

-I agree all "IP NVRs" offer D1. The problem is most analog DVRs are still at some version of CIF unless you buy their "enhanced" unit. At that price point, you might as well buy the Milestone appliance or build your own server. Same money for a lot of expansion and professional VMS. We have plenty of Pelco and GE DVRs in service that we're in the process of upgrading. So I don't see it as the same.

-Analog encoders are a path, they're expensive at $1000+ for a 16 camera encoder compared to an analog encoder card.

-We agree, it seems with the analog pricing and the hybrid option Milestone is going after the retrofit/upgrade market.

-Huge is subjective, so my wife tells me. :). I think as a business you have to be prepared for new IP installs as well as analog upgrades. Milestone does both.

I consider myself ultra demanding of the products we sell, I give Milestone high marks because they earned it. How about an internal analog encoder card review?

Milestone may have felt they needed to change their mantra because there has been a major market shift. I few years ago the integrators adopting IP solutions were more IT centric, or at least comfortable with IT products and networking, and the economics for IP solutions were making sense mostly for the enterprise and larger installations. Today the market is largely divided between higher-end integrators who are comfortable with both software only and appliance type solutions and smaller installers and integrators who service small to medium size businesses and who prefer NVR appliances. Most of these won't even consider software only solutions. This second category may even be the sweet spot since most in the first catagory have long siince adopted IP solutions and many in the second are just now doing so. So Milestone had a choice to abandon this second category to the competiton or abandon their "core beliefs" and try to capture some of that market. The arguments for using software only VMS are still very compelling but often fall on deaf ears. So if you can't beat 'em join 'em.

On the one hand this sounds crazy, but on the other hand one observes...

- encoders cost approximately zero (check out grandstream. is it really only 25% as good as the Axis equivalent?)

- all-in-one-box solutions are appealing to a -cough- technically challenged channel (i.e. trunkslammers don't need to learn so much networking)

- Swann and the others are climbing up the evolutionary scale, maybe these people are scared of that.

My opinion only, this is all Canon. John asked a question just after the buyout that basically asked if it was a good move or not. I remarked something to the effect it would not take Canon long to change things. Milestone has had a market stance for years - open platform, software only, etc. They are now owned by someone else. That old market stance no longer applies. That was them then, this is us now.

This was absolutely inevitable from a Canon perspective. To Bill's point, Milestone is "perceived" as a market leader, and yes the market is fractured to the point that there is no break-away leader. Milestone has always had excellent marketing. That too will change. Canon does not have the same marketing ability. That fractional market makes it tough on integrators and very tough on end-users in years to come. Who knows if half of these people will be in business 5 years from now?

There is a very old adage in business, you grow or you die. This was inevitable. I predict in the next couple of years, Axis will have a full VMS product that competes with everyone else. Their market share is slowing to a grind. Competition is everywhere and profits are tougher to realize. You do what you have to do to survive.

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