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.