Why Microsoft Needs Musicians

Windows 8 has a chance to capture our imagination   01-Nov-12

Why Microsoft Needs Musicians

So the Big Launch went off this Tuesday at the Build conference at Redmond - the spiritual and physical home of Microsoft. Kicked off with a guest appearance from the omnipresent Jordan Rudess who was showing off a couple of his apps that have been moved to work on the new touch platform. Now many of you will not even bother to feign surprise at this news - Mr Rudess has many of his extremely dexterous fingers in many pies, but it's actually quite a Big Deal. It was actually pretty impressive, whether you are fan of the Rudess style or not. Jordan was able to play his instruments on a massive touchscreen surface - possibly heralding a new era - moving away from prodding tiny, hand-held interfaces and into a more Minority Report world with broad gestures and high resolution interfaces - maybe flying cars too?

Lets consider - who else is making a viable OS for  large , mass produced, multi-touch enabled devices? Not Apple - their largest offering is a mere 9.7 inches, and powered by  the A6X which for all it's brilliance is no i7

Of course this plenty enough for a whole load of apps, there are some which are pushing at the seams of what is possible (Auria?),  but given Apple’s drip feed iteration strategy that  aims to keep us buying new product every 9-12 months, we’re not going to getting anything like the fastest processor power available for quite some time.

These smaller screen sizes have been making a hard job harder for interface designers struggling to innovate with the screen real-estate available to them, but innovate they certainly have, we’ve seen some amazing new concepts and standard set over the last few years.

In fact, I would venture that Music Apps have been the driving force behind the speed of adoption of the iOS platform. These are constantly the top 10 best sellers on the iTunes App charts and drive sales hugely. iMS20, NanoStudio, Animoog and others too numerous to mention, really captured the imagination of App-hungry touchscreen users and contributed substantially towards the ludicrous 11 billion Apps downloaded figure.

In Microsoft’s case, I’m hoping that this one really works out for the company that has never really been as hip as Apple. The cooler, more desirable, lifestyle choice of Apple has long been ahead in the kudos stakes. But with the recent product launch around the new iPad Mini, new iMacs and such, there was a new, smug, corporate sheen that seems to sit uncomfortably amongst the die hard Mac users - mainly musicians that I know. I recall this was how Microsoft began to look when it was at the height of it's powers.

Perhaps the Microsoft sun is rising - it certainly wouldn’t do any harm to have some good, honest competition to iOS - Apple have had it easy for several years now. But I’m convinced that this is the key - Microsoft need to get the app creators who made iOS work so well and the musicians on board. 

Lets have some decent, developer resources to help port iOS apps to Windows 8  - show the them just how easy and worthwhile it is - create a simple way to buy apps and also get this hardware out in the hands of a wide range of musicians so they can wow the rest of us into seeing this as a viable music creation platform. Throw some money at it, get the community buzzing and make us want this stuff, like we used to want Apple.

I wonder if they will rise to the challenge, or are we destined to see more of the horror of the friendly paper clip.

Please don’t,  I beg you.

Watch Jordan's presentation here

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11 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

worldblee    Said...

Fair point. Having musicians using a hardware platform definitely adds to its cool factor and allure for other users. And of course, as a musician I appreciate having hardware choices rather than being locked into a single, expensive platform. I am looking forward to being able to take my PC-based Ableton setup onto a touchscreen laptop that could be used as a tablet for some studio/stage use.

01-Nov-12 12:03 PM

Synth_Fan    Said...

Some interesting points in the piece. However, I'd argue that music apps for the iPad are, so far, little more than gimmicks. Apart from a handful of excellent apps (some you mentioned), there has been little true innovation. For example, the linkage to real instruments and DAWS is a mess, with varying protocols, hardware interfaces leaving everybody underwhelmed and confused.

And very tellingly - none of the computer music big players have joined in. Where is there a Logic Pro iPad controller (from Apple), or a touch screen note entry app for Sibelius form AVID? Meanwhile Ableton have just released a physical controller! It is not clear that beyond a few years of gimmicks, that the iPad will revolutionizes music - rather - music may have helped revolutionize (the gimmicky side) of the iPad.

As for Jordan Rudess - I have purchased most of his apps and for two reasons they are worthless - 1) I can't play like him (nor can most) and two they are gimmicky - he makes them sound great but they are not deep instruments. In particular, they all sound the same and are all laced with digital delay. Jordan Rudess is the perfect 'Demo' man, but just like his (un)original music - it's all gloss and no depth. I'm sure he'll do an admirable demo job this time too.

Don't get me wrong - I love my iPad and use it as part of my work flow; but it has not revolutionised music; rather - music fluff helps sell iPads.

So its not clear that any glass surface is going to help the cause of music. Just what do you expect / propose from this 'Minority report' type world that will help musicians (which is what one ultimately hopes is the point of your thesis here)???

Microsoft will have the same job to do as Apple / iPad still have to do and have not to date - see the development of serious music apps and support the platform with serious protocols, interfaces and standards.

01-Nov-12 12:18 PM

Tim    Said...

After watching the Jordan demo I immediately got out my measuring tape to figure out how big a touchscreen video monitor I can fit over my keyboard and between my monitors. I've already started saving up!

A 27" Tablet does no one any good, just give me a nice video monitor and I'll plug it into my PC that already has a DAW and Audio Interface!

01-Nov-12 12:19 PM

Lagrange Audio    Said...

Couldn't disagree with @worldblee. I am ready to take my Ableton / PC setup into this space. I have toyed for many years about moving to Apple but there has always been a barrier of one sort or another. I am still not convinced about Windows 8 / Surface yet but it seems, if they get it right, to be a natural evolutionary step for many.

01-Nov-12 11:04 PM

Blinder than Batman    Said...

Touch screens for music are a bad idea. I've said it so many times that I'm beginning to think that nobody cares (which is likely, but sad):


Have you ever heard of Stevie Wonder? Have you ever heard of Ray Charles? Have you ever heard of Jeff Healey?

Two of those three guys are dead. Two of them happen to be keyboard players -- and one of THEM is still alive.

I don't want to see ANYONE getting left behind by technology. What *I* have proposed for years now is getting rid of touchscreens and mouse-input devices -- and use ONLY keys, wheels, sliders, and buttons to do EVERYTHING. And ONLY WITH HARDWARE -- PERIOD.

Think about your own needs -- even forgetting about the blind among us. Think about the incredible strain that you are putting on your ulna nerves by having to hold your arms up to play a stupid touchscreen! Are you KIDDING with me?!

Rant over. Do whatever you want. I promise you that whatever happens -- you deserve it. Because you are spending YOUR hard-earned cash on this touchscreen crap.

02-Nov-12 11:44 AM

And, also...    Said...

And also -- although I hate touch screens, I love Microsoft. So now -- I'm not MacBoiFanBoi. I hate Macs, I hate Apple, I feel that Apple is rotten to its core (pun intended). I just hate touchscreens.

02-Nov-12 11:46 AM

e.scarab    Said...

A few points, agree that most IPad apps in general tend to be gimmicks for the most part, although agreed there are some nice touch control apps for DAWS and such, but how many $5 soft synths does one really need???? But the reality is, as someone mentioned touch pads don't do shit for the blind so like everything, it comes down to what works for you. While I am very happy with my quad core Rack XT and am downloading 8 tonight as we speak, and I have become a devoted fan of Sonar X-1 and now X-2 because I get the best of both the Ableton and the Standard DAW worlds. (shameless plug there....). That being said though, I have become anti-Mac because they really have become one of the shameless giants of Corporate Amerika. For all the extra profits they make hiring almost a million Chinese to build their products cheap they then sell for about a 30% to 40% premium on average (30% of every app at the IStore....), not to mention their built in obsolescence and non-backwards compatibility, they could bring their manufacturing back home, pay decent wages, and still make a decent profit. So if you like em', use em! But keep in mind there is little "American" but lots of "Amerikan" in every thing you buy from them.

02-Nov-12 08:36 PM

e.scarab    Said...

PS: almost forgot, there is a reason MOTU and others are adding Windows compatability....

02-Nov-12 08:40 PM

Jim    Said...

If Hardware companies start making things like the idock by Alesis then maybe. I would love to use a powerful tablet that was android or windows based to drive my synthesizers because I'm not a fan of Apple. I would love to use something like Arturia's Analog Factory with a Tablet instead of a laptop. Hopefully its just a matter of time.

03-Nov-12 08:36 PM

squab    Said...

Foxconn makes almost all of the world's PC's, not just Mac's. You think buying a PC is a statement against using Chinese labor? Look who built your Dell - Foxconn.

04-Nov-12 11:26 AM

Politically Incorrect    Said...

Foxconn makes all the world's PCs. Really? Not really.

There are some American-made computers. One is MainGear. Another is Velocity Micro. Intel chips are fabbed here in the U.S. And yes, Taiwan does manufacture PCBs. So, it is entirely possible to buy a computer that was not made at all in China.

This is not true of Apple products. All Apple products ARE built in China by Foxconn.

06-Nov-12 01:27 AM

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