▶ Ableton Live 9 – A great leap forward?

Music Radar interviewed quite a few A-list EDM producers on their desired features in Live 9. While many requested very specific, super-technical type things, I think Martin Delaney nails the elephant in the room:

“Ableton is going to get its ass severely kicked if I don’t see some acknowledgement of iOS. I want Live running on iPad, or at least some kind of ‘connected’ app, like Propellerhead’s Figure app. This should be priority number one for Ableton as it should have done this already.”

Let’s pretend we’re Ableton – laser-focused on our one product. Widely used, lauded as one of the best of its kind by professionals in the targeted field. But suddenly, a new platform emerges. Let’s say it takes 4-5 years for this platform to really take over, and people are really using it as their main platform for general purpose computing. Sound familiar?

November 2001: MOTU Digital Performer v3 released about the same time as OSX 10.1 “Cheetah”. At this point, Ableton was still being invented. The cool kids used MOTU to do recordings. Very shortly after this, Ableton Live version 1.1 was first announced, and was one of the first DAW’s to run natively on OSX.

Fast forward:

November 2009: Ableton releases Max for Live released a few months ahead of iOS 4 and of course, the iPad. While my thoughts on the iPad as a desktop replacement are well documented, I think future generations will look back to January 2010 in the same way we watch the 1984 introduction of the Mac today – an historic turning point in how we use technology.

Anyone still using Digital Performer? *cricket* *cricket* That’s what I thought.

Who is the Ableton of today? What spunky new company is going to win the hearts and minds of producers, engineers and DJ’s today? The iPad (3) is fully capable of doing what a 2001 Mac could do – audio, storage, and throughput-wise. Why haven’t we seen the giant leap forward in audio software that we saw in 2001?

Two scenarios are possible:

  1. The next big thing is out there, incubating, or maybe exists already in nascent form. Some tiny audio software company just might make the next big thing – a universal DAW type app that runs perfectly on iOS, eschews cheesy design language, and propels the platform into an era of true audio productivity. Ableton continues serving its desktop users until said users get bored and try out whatever this new hotness is.
  2. Ableton (or Propellerhead, or Steinberg…eh probably not Steinberg) foresees this scenario, and is working on it.
It’s been about three years since a major release of Live. In software-years, that’s a long time.
If the pitch for Ableton Live 9 is simply a laundry list of feature add-ons like most of what I read in the Music Radar article, it’s going to leave open a huge opportunity for a challenger to emerge – both in the desktop and mobile space. It’s clear that more and more young people are skipping the computer phase totally, and moving straight to iPads. I’m hoping for more than “some acknowledgement of iOS”. Ableton absolutely has to be seeing the potential out there – just about every DAW company has shown its cards as to its iOS strategy.
In summary:

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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