In defense of the iPad

John Walden, for Sound on Sound:

Of course, instead of an iPad, today’s aspiring music technology junkies could buy a computer-based system. Whatever route you take, there is still a bunch of other ‘stuff’ (mics, headphones, speakers, software) you have to acquire alongside the computing platform itself and I’d absolutely agree that the laptop (or desktop) system is likely to be more powerful than the iPad. That said, I love my mobile iPad-based music workstation and, despite its more modest grunt, it’s still a capable device for crunching zeros and ones.

However, price and power aside, lots of today’s aspiring musicians have bought into mobile devices for other reasons. For them, and for their overall IT needs, it is simply their computing platform of choice. The fact that it can do music technology is, for many, a bonus, but one they can happily exploit with relatively low additional costs for software.

The last part is tricky for schools.  For many aspiring musicians “the fact that it can do music technology” is simply not enough.  They want to “do music technology” the way the pros do, and that’s with “computer-based systems” (probably meaning laptop or desktop computers – technically stomp boxes are computer-based systems).

But yeah – when you sit back and think about it it’s pretty amazing that you can just plug a guitar into your phone and lay down tracks.  The world is crazy.

 

Apple legitimizes Audiobus, throws Jack under the bus

One day after Jack was announced, Audiobus was officially canonized with its inclusion in GarageBand.  No coincidence that Jack was to be released on iOS and Android, possibly leveling the playing field.  I’d wager this will persuade the team behind Jack to focus less on iOS than Android – a third party (especially a niche like Audiobus) supported in GarageBand is a strong statement of preference by Apple.

It seems that Apple is then going to use Audiobus as the Rewire for iOS.  Smart move, and a big leap from where things were a year ago.  Once it’s in GarageBand, you can be assured it will be supported for some time (Apple similarly adopted Audiocopy last year along this same logic).

The simple interface exponentially increases the iPad’s value as a music creation tool by letting you do all the recording and sequencing on a single device without complex file imports, as well as enabling apps to talk to each other. For example, you could now record a synth track in Korg’s iMS-20, filter it through the Amplitude amp modeler, and record the results as a track in GarageBand.

Via The Verge

 

Traktor for iPad

Native Instruments is getting serious about iOS.  Apps like this are why Android tablets are still very much behind iOS ones.

Some juicy details:

  • Traktor recognizes class-compliant USB audio interfaces, so a separate cue/mains mix is possible in stereo (lots of DJ apps hack this by making you pathetically use a headphone splitter).
  • It recognizes transients, and makes them playable sampler-style hits that can be played while the song is going on.  Very cool – and something that is much harder to do on a full computer.

Also this:

Traktor DJ also does something DJ apps haven’t done before: it builds a recommendation engine into the app itself. That seems to me to be inevitable in the Spotify and Last.fm age. While it may make some DJs cringe, the software itself now uses tempo, key, and even timbre metadata to work out what music will match well with what you’re playing.

Huh?  We’ll see if that one works out in real life.

Anyway, read the full post over at Create Digital Music.

Auria – 24 simultaneous track recording on iPad

Now we’re getting somewhere. Auria, a 48 track audio-only DAW, has been released on the App Store. This is the first audio recording app I’ve seen that really grabs ahold of the potential on iOS devices.

From the article, some great things are ahead too:

Since Auria supports a special iOS version of VST plug-ins, we’re in talks with several plug-in vendors at the moment. You’re likely to see more great plug-ins becoming available in the near future. MIDI support is also something on our list for a future version, along with virtual instrument plug-ins.

The old guard had better watch their back – these little companies are going to steal the spotlight before too long.

► Translation from PR-speak to English of Avid’s divestment press release

Note: the news reports and press release don’t really paint a truly accurate picture of what’s happening at Avid right now.  Here’s my attempt:

Today Avid® (NASDAQ: AVID) initiated a series of strategic actions to focus the company on its Media Enterprise and Post & Professional customers and to drive improved operating performance. As part of these actions, the company is divesting its consumer businesses. With these changes, Avid will concentrate on core markets where its deep domain expertise, track record of technical innovation, and strong brand offer the greatest opportunity for success.

 We have no idea how to address the coming explosion of consumer products like the iPad, so we’re giving up.

“The changes we are announcing today make Avid a more focused and agile company,” said Gary Greenfield, CEO of Avid. “By streamlining and simplifying operations, we expect to deliver improved financial performance and partner more closely with our enterprise and professional customers. Our objective remains to provide these customers with the innovative solutions that allow them to create the most listened to, most watched and most loved media in the world. I’m excited about our future prospects.”

Our consumer base isn’t growing fast enough to support our business, so we’re sticking to the old suckers who have bought our stuff for years, regardless of quality or price.

Avid has agreed to sell its consumer audio and video product lines. The company’s consumer audio products are being sold to inMusic, the parent company of Akai Professional, Alesis and Numark, among others. Headquartered in Cumberland, Rhode Island, inMusic’s brands are best known for producing innovative products for music production, performance and DJing. The products involved in this transaction include M-Audio brand keyboards, controllers, interfaces, speakers and digital DJ equipment and other product lines. Avid will continue to develop and sell its industry-leading Pro Tools® line of software and hardware, as well as associated I/O devices including Mbox and Fast Track.

 Again, we have no idea what to do with this cool-kid hipster stuff like “DJ scratch tables” and “keyboards” and “newer software”.

Separately, the company’s consumer video editing line is being sold to Corel Corporation, a consumer software company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. The products involved in this transaction include Avid Studio, Pinnacle Studio, and the Avid Studio App for the Apple iPad®, as well as other legacy video capture products.

 We’re not really well known for our video software or anything, so let’s sell that off too.  It’s not like pro software ever learns from what’s happening in consumer-land anyway.

The divested product lines contributed approximately $91 million of Avid’s 2011 revenue of $677 million. As part of the transactions, certain employees of Avid will transfer to each acquiring company. Avid estimates that the proceeds from these transactions will be approximately $17 million, subject to closing inventory adjustment, with a portion held in escrow.  Both transactions are expected to close today, July 2, 2012.

It’s not a “layoff”, it’s just a change of scenery!

Avid also plans to reduce the number of its employees as it streamlines operations, with approximately 20% of its permanent employee base impacted by the divestitures and headcount reduction plans.  The company currently expects to incur a restructuring charge of approximately $19 to $23 million related to these actions and other associated measures.

 We’re actually going to lose around 17% of our revenue by doing this, but don’t worry – the pro market will stay the same forever so it’s OK.

The company’s cash balance on March 31, 2012 was $49.7 million. The proceeds from the sale of these product lines should offset most of the restructuring charges paid in 2012.

We have around six months before we run out of money.
 Good luck to Avid, even those who don’t use your products don’t want you to die.  We need competition in the consumer markets more than ever.

Microsoft Surface tablet: betting the company

I’m kind of excited about the Surface tablet.

Assuming it catches on at all, it will force iOS to stay on top of the game audio-wise.  Android tablets are woefully behind with regard to media processing as a system service (especially compared with Windows and iOS), and Apple has basically been able to stay on top while ignoring important things like “inter-app audio” until now.

As far as Microsoft is concerned, this announcement is a big middle finger to their channel partners who have to date failed to make a popular tablet (also, it’s kind of a snub to Intel, who only gets half of the action).

It’s risky and bold; Frustrated in a post-PC economy with no options to support their old business model, Microsoft was forced to take the matter into their own hands.  If everything turns out like the Xbox, this could be a big new platform for them.  If not, this could be the beginning of the end.  Check out The Verge’s video – if Josh Topolsky likes it, I’m paying attention.

▶ 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: