Long-time readers know that, for better or for worse, we’ve been talking about the way iPhones and iPads are going to be major new platforms for electronic music from day one.
Our coverage of mobile devices has focused primarily on iOS because Apple was the vendor making the right decisions, for the time, to create a viable mass-market mobile music platform. And until now, other platform vendors have been focusing too much effort on trying to imitate Apple’s success and not enough effort on leapfrogging Apple and doing something truly original.
But at this year’s Google I/O event at Moscone Center in San Francisco, Google made an announcement that has the potential to trigger a new explosion of mobile music making innovation. Google announced the Android Open Accessory Kit, a standard for connecting USB peripherals to Android mobile devices that is based on the open source Arduino hardware standard.
If that’s a lot of technical mumbo jumbo to you, here’s how it breaks down:
- There are about 100 million activated devices based on Google’s Android platform. These are mostly mobile phones.
- People are using 200,000 Arduino devices. Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on hardware and software. It’s designed for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
- The Arduino is already very popular with music hackers, who’ve created Arduino music sequencers, Arduino synths and Arduino MIDI controllers.
So – if you want to make a custom musical instrument or music controller and use a cheap Android device for the “brain”, Google’s trying to make it easy for you.
Bottom line – Google is betting that unrestricted development and natural selection are going to lead to a more dynamic platform than Apple’s walled garden approach.
Will Google, Android + Arduino Kill The iOS Music Juggernaut?
Open hardware advocate Phillip Torrone argues that Google’s decision to adopt an open platform for peripherals is going to force Apple to be more open with developers.
- Google will have a “Kinect-style” surge of creativity for the Android + Arduino;
- Apple will start to abandon their restrictive “Made for iPod” program and adopt the Arduino in some way for accessory development; and
- Microsoft/Nokia/Skype are likely paying attention to all this, and they should look at the Netduino for their accessory development for Windows Phone 7.
While I agree that the Android + Arduino combination is important, I’m less convinced that Google’s support for Arduino is going to make Apple shift gears anytime soon.
Torrone ignores that fact that Google’s Android + Arduino combination is a double-edge sword:
- On the positive side, it lets anyone develop for the platform.
- On the negative side, it lets anyone develop for the platform.
In other words, Android users are going to have a huge selection of options to choose from, but most of them will be craptacular. The last thing Apple is worried about is getting more crappy iPhone peripherals.
What do you think of Google’s decision to use Arduino as a platform for USB peripherals? Will it kickstart Android as an electronic music platform?
Android + Arduino Resources
If you’d like to check out the possibilities of Google’s Android + Arduino platform, here are some resources: