Adventures In Audio
Will the iPad change the way you make music?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Friday January 29, 2010

There's nothing new about tablet computers. But there was nothing new about phones until Apple released the iPhone.

I don't have an iPhone myself, but I have a phone that is without doubt heavily influenced by the Apple product. And so does just about everyone else I know.

So although tablet computers have so far failed to set the world alight, suddenly the Apple iPad has the potential to change that, massively.

But the question for us is whether it will change the way we make music and record audio. Let's explore...

Does it add anything?

Computers have come a long way since they were slow, crashy and generally quite a nuisance to work with. In general the experience of recording on a computer-based DAW is now very smooth, pain-free and enabling of the imagination.

So why would we need a computer-like device that is merely a different shape?

The answer to this question is most definitely not to use the iPad in the same way as a conventional computer.

And there's one way to use the iPad that you just can't with a conventional desktop or laptop - you can relax with it in an easy chair, just as Steve Jobs did in his presentation last Wednesday (which was January 27, 2010 for those who are late in reading this article).

This might not seem like much, but there is a huge divide between the way we use a computer and the way we watch TV. When is the last time you watched TV from an office or dining chair, for example?

TV is naturally a 'lean-back' medium and now at last we have a truly lean-back computer.

Whether this will lead to the production of lean-back music I don't know. But it is a big difference in the way computers are used, and it could have a significant effect.

Will it run your favorite DAW?

I'm going to take a guess at this and say no, you will never run Pro Tools, Cubase, Sonar or any of the commonly-used pro DAWs on an iPad. I will eat my words in public at some future time if necessary.

But what about Logic? Apple owns Logic, so it might not be unreasonable to imagine it on the iPad.

But I still think no. Seeing Apple's other DAW, GarageBand, on the iPad, isn't so out of the question. But the iPad is different from a traditional computer, and I feel that a different approach to music making and recording will be required.

Will it run a good DAW?

Now that's a slightly different question. What if the DAW-meisters of the world brainstorm ways of adapting their products to the iPad in ways that truly suit its lean-back format?

Now that could be interesting. But it might not be...

If you own an iPhone you might have realized that the only place you can get applications, or apps as they have come to be called, for it is the Apple App Store.

If you don't own an iPhone, that might be the reason you don't own an iPhone.

It's the same for the iPad. The only place you can get apps is the Apple App Store. Any developer who wants to get their app onto the iPhone or iPad has to receive Apple's approval.

Suppose Apple invents a DAW app for the iPad. Will they allow anyone else's iPad DAW into the App Store? Hmm, that's debatable. Apple has certainly blocked apps on similar grounds before.

Will it be interesting?

Yes, even if we have to wait a while to see a really professional DAW app running on the iPad, if we ever do, you can bet the farm that legions of developers will be creating music apps of all kinds, including things we can't even imagine yet.

It might therefore be possible that the iPad could run alongside a standard DAW running on a traditional computer, as a creative device in its own right. The music and audio apps that are available right now for the iPhone are interesting enough, but I reckon it's only a fraction of what we will see on the iPad in the next year or so, in quantity, quality and professional usability.

Anything to watch out for?

Oh yes.

Just like the iPhone, Apple controls everything that runs on the iPad, and they can disable it remotely if necessary.

Apple's operating system has always been very closed and controlled compared to Windows and the former MS-DOS.

The iPad however is locked down 100%. Apple is now in complete control of your computer. Not just your phone - your computer!

If Apple were the only choice, I would find that very scary indeed.

Fortunately there will be other iPad-like tablet computers. But just as the iPhone is the king of smart phones, the iPad will probably be the king of tablets for some time to come.

Discussion time...

Let's hear what you have to say about the iPad, specifically about its potential for music and recording. Send us your thoughts below...

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