A main use of my iPad is creating music. In my experience, iOS has provided a convenient and relatively low-cost way to explore and experiment with music synthesis, sampling, looping, audio processing, programming, sound design, production and dissemination of my semi-amateur home-studio recordings. The numerous developers involved in creating music-related apps have produced some of the most innovative products available.
At times, these developers have pushed the envelope when it comes to app design, functionality and interoperability. Even though many of these developers are involved with the design and production of hardware instruments and technology, and writing software for laptop and desktop computers, they also recognise that the iPad offered another way to interface with digital music tools. In some cases, iPad apps can connect to or interact with their hardware and software counterparts (e.g., touchAble).
Elsewhere, developer vision has pre-empted and even overtaken Apple’s own product design. A good example is IAA (Inter-App Audio), introduced by Apple in 2013. While some app developers were quick to adopt this feature into their own products, in the same year the team at Audiobus took this functionality to another level, with a fully integrated platform within iOS that allows multiple apps to be connected virtually. Eventually, in 2019, Apple countered by upgrading their own Audio Unit (AU) infrastructure that introduced another way to connect separate apps.
There remain some anomalies in Apple’s approach to competing music apps and their commercial models. Although Apple has enabled developers to offer in-app purchases and upgrades, it is noticeable that to this day, Bandcamp does not sell digital music via its mobile app (thought to be due to Apple’s hefty sales commission on digital content?); but Bandcamp customers can purchase physical goods via the app. While over on the SoundCloud app, users can purchase in-app subscriptions offering ad-free streaming and off-line content, but Spotify customers cannot purchase similar premium streaming services within the corresponding app.
The latest move from Apple has got some developers quite excited. As well as bringing its professional video editing suite, Final Cut Pro, to iPad, Apple has launched an iPad version of Logic Pro, its professional music DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Now, I don’t have a problem with this, and I can see the attraction for both app developers and Logic Pro users.
I myself use Ableton Live (and not Logic Pro or Apple’s consumer-level product, GarageBand), so I am not planning to add another desktop DAW. Besides, Ableton enables third party developers to integrate their AU and VST plug-ins on Mac. In addition, Ableton has launched a mobile app, Ableton Note, that can interact with the desktop program, which just confirms the co-existence of these platforms, and user preference for interoperability.
My concern is that with the introduction of Logic Pro on iOS, Apple may close off some inter-app functionality to third party apps if they do not support integration with Logic Pro. We’ve seen the way Apple can shut down external innovation: without getting too technical, until 2021, and with a little effort, users could run iOS music apps on their Macs, and within DAWs such as Ableton. Apple then closed off that option, but more recently has enabled iOS-derived AUv3 plugins to run on M1 chip-enabled Macs.
Hopefully, Apple recognises that an open ecosystem encourages innovation and keeps people interested in their own products, as well as those from third-party developers.
Next week: Crown Court TV