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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Music And The iPad

Apple's iPad is still relatively new, but already there are a number of great music related apps available as recently outlined in an article on

There were so many, in fact, that I would surely overlook a lot of worthy apps if I only posted some of them, so it's best to read the entire article yourself. Here's a summary of the iPad functions from the article.

Computing is enough a part of our culture and life that it’s bound to be wrapped up in political, ideological, artistic, and economic issues. But let me be clear: many of the dimensions on which one would judge the iPad are as much technical and practical as they are anything else, and that includes what it does right. It’s already apparent from the above round-up what some of those things are that Apple does so well:
  • Apple has exceptional UI tools. That includes the way the UI framework itself works, and how Apple has developers interface with it.
  • Apple gets multitouch. Lawsuits aside, Apple’s technology just seems better implemented. Multi-touch supports five or more touch points, accuracy is extremely good, latency is low, the APIs work well — the whole thing just works, and that makes touch more expressive as input. I’m disheartened by Apple’s legal attack on its competitors, but I’m also frustrated that – for reasons apparently not legal-related – so many would-be competitors have managed to botch multi-touch input so that it isn’t expressive or even (often) functional. That’s a topic for another day, but there are a lot of pieces Apple puts together, from hardware to firmware to software to developer tools.
  • Apple gets sound. I don’t actually think you need Core Audio or AU support or (often) even native code to make sound work. But the simple reality is that a lot of mobile devices can’t output the kind of audio performance that the iPhone platform can.
All platforms involve trade-offs, however, and it’s worth considering the limitations of the iPad, too. After all, $500 (or more) of your money, while not an enormous investment relatively speaking, is still an investment. And some of the restrictiveness of Apple’s platforms impacts music making on their device:
  • Limited expansion and the lack of, say, a real USB port is a big tradeoff. Readers have already complained about the low-level audio output from the iPhone, even in the dock; I expect the same to be true of the iPad. While we’ll no doubt see some hardware specially-designed for iPad, the lack of standard I/O means you can’t, for instance, assume an audio input or MIDI interface will work with your app. That may not matter to the mass market, but it could matter to you, and you’re who matters.
  • The iTunes app lockdown still limits appeal to open source developers, but that’s not the only problem. Even for proprietary apps, that can mean difficulty testing and delayed updates and bug fixes from developers.
  • The hidden file system and iTunes-restricted syncing can make it harder to integrate the iPad with your workflow. Other devices with standard storage make managing your work and sharing it with your computer much easier. iPad apps, like the iPhone apps before them, are likely to have a variety of non-standard ways of exchanging files with your desktop. I’ve already been tipped off by early-adopter developers for iPad that there’s been some confusion about this. We’ll see how the final product works and if this stuff is addressed — it’s an area to watch.
One of the things not covered in the article is the fact that the upcoming (any day now) new operating system upgrade (4.2) also brings built-in MIDI to the iPad, which can only enhance the creative experience. If it's not time to buy one now, it will be soon.

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