Some people may remember the last time Pro Tools did this in the year 2000 (cue Conan O'Brien) with Pro Tools Free (v5.01). The Mac version worked relatively well and the Windows Me version... well it was a Windows Me version. It did, however, let me learn how to use Pro Tools and allowed my university (which no longer exists, so I can admit our possible breach-of-user-agreement without fear) to put a copy on every computer in our lab giving all the prospective sound geeks continuous access to Pro Tools.
Pro Tools | First seems to take a similar approach (back then it was by Digidesign, before Avid bought and since re-coded the entirety of the software) but can be confident of their improved cross-platform performance. Also, it should give them a good opportunity to load-test their new cloud-based project storage system, which is a new feature of the version 12 family. If that became widely used before they iron all the bugs out, they'd only have to lose a couple of big projects before the flaming bags of poo started to fly.
In talking with several other Sound Designers at our Vancouver Sound Designers meetup over the weekend however, the prospect of the new pay-per-month licencing system unsurprisingly has a lot of people turned off; and in some cases downright livid. Discussions immediately turn to what systems current users are thinking of switching to.
While a monthly licence fee has been gaining ground in the professional media development world (See: Adobe Creative Cloud) and the costs can even be less in some cases for staying up-to-date, it's a daunting prospect for the independent / small-time designers that perhaps only upgrade every-other version or stay behind because, say, they spent $5000 on a digital console that still works perfectly fine but for some reason the new version decides to not support any longer (what do you mean that one sounds personal?)
Contenders around the bar table were Nuendo, Cubase, Logic and REAPER, that last one being new to me but apparently a choice pick (and also there was a brief ironic mention of Audition CC). Different users all seemed to argue the strengths of their favourite over the others, but the prime concerns in switching from Pro Tools generally seemed to be: Keeping your plugins, not having to get an additional hardware licence, and most importantly being able to preserve your workflow. That last one is a challenge because of course because everybody uses their DAW differently, from Old Habits That Die Hard to codependence on other external softwares (I personally can't imagine removing Sony's Sound Forge from my toolkit, I know and love it so well).
A lot of the early emotional reaction to this seems to be that someone else will come and take the lead among the defiant who don't want to be held to a monthly contract - but how many will cave and just add "software" to their monthly operating costs?
Pro Tools 12 is expected to be released in summer of 2015.