It’s been a year since the Apple iPad was announced.
When it was introduced last year, we had this to say about what the iPad means for music:
Steve Jobs today introduced the Apple iPad, a handheld multitouch computer, and it’s likely to be the biggest music technology introduction of the year.
The Apple iPad, conceptually, is a large iPod touch.
However, what Apple has really done is create a new device that builds on what it has learned with the iPhone and iPod touch. The operating system, and the applications that Apple includes, are optimized for both the size of the hardware and the types of things that you would want to do with a device this size.
The iPad won’t replace the power of a dedicated music computer – but it is creating a new platform that will support new types of mobile music making and new ways of controlling and playing music.
It was probably our most-hated post of last year.
A New Platform For Music Making
Apple has sold 5 times as many iPads as analysts predicted after the products’ launch.
90% of the tablet computers sold worldwide are now iPads. The iPad is a platform that developers can make money on. There’s already a healthy ecosystem for iPad peripherals.
And it has become a new platform for music making.
But, instead of looking back or wondering why colleagues didn’t predict this, we’re more interested in where tablet music-making is heading.
The iPad is now the iPod of Tablet Computing.
One year in, Apple has established the iPad as the iPod of tablet computing.
There will be cheaper tablet computers. There will be more powerful tablet computers. There will be tablet computers that are more open and ones that have more ports.
But competitors are going to be jockeying to be the Zune of tablet computing: knock-offs that try to beat Apple in a market that it defined.
The De Facto Platform For Multi-touch Music And For New Instruments
For musicians, the iPad has become the de facto platform for multi-touch music and for new musical instruments.
While we expected the iPad to be a hit with musicians, we’re surprised at how entrenched the platform already is.
Apple addressed many of the concerns that we raised last year, including multitasking, access to the iTunes library and third-party device support. It’s added MIDI support. And this has opened the floodgates for all types of iPad music software.
This is going to be very disruptive for music companies, but ultimately good for musicians.
Instead of buying a Roland keyboard or a Yamaha or a Korg, you’ll be able to buy a $400 tablet MIDI dock and stick a $500 tablet on it and run anybody’s synthesizer. Or drum machine. Or sampler.
Instead of buying a $3,000 multi-touch controller, you’ll buy a cheap tablet and use the control software of your choice.
It’s a very different paradigm for music companies and musicians, and it will probably take a few years for the dust to settle.
But ultimately, you should have companies competing to offer you the best MIDI controllers for the iPad and companies competing to offer you the best synths and music apps for the iPad. And that competition is going to mean you’ll have a lot more options, for a lot less money.
If This Is The Future, Where’s My Flying Car?
While the iPad has proven to be hugely influential, there are several challenges limiting the device’s development as a platform for music making:
- MIDI support is 25 years behind – we were excited to see CoreMIDI come to iOS, but support for it is spotty at best. While many apps have been updated to add MIDI support – try to sync two iPad apps together, or an iPad app to some music hardware, and you’ll find that MIDI support on the iPad is 25 years behind the rest of the world. Developers, if you’ve done it right, leave a comment below.
- Everything feels first generation – There have been a lot of interesting music apps released in the last year, but even the best ones have first generation problems and limitations.
- Most apps are too conservative – there are lots of companies making software synths and samplers for the iPad, but where are the developers taking creative leaps? See our 10 predictions for electronic music making in the next decade and start blowing some minds!
- We need more power – the iPad is surprisingly fast, but music apps are surprisingly demanding. Apple needs to juice up the iPad to handle those mind-blowing apps we’re interested in.
- The DAW manufacturers are missing in action – the platform is here and it’s useful. DAW makers need to get on board and drive forward the iPad as both a controller and DAW peripheral.
- We need workflows – the best iPad music apps, at this point, tend to be very specific and single-minded. Try to get them to talk to other apps or other instruments, or to share audio with other apps or platforms, and it’s a challenge. Developers need to start thinking about how the iPad can solve musicians’ “big picture” problems.
Bottom line: If you’re interested in iPad music making, it’s a fantastic new platform, but it’s also a work in progress.
What are your thoughts on the iPad and the potential of tablet music making?