Apple and the idea of casual music making

This is an idea that has been knocking around in my head for a while trying to make sense, so if it doesn’t then please let me know. Since the launch of the Apple App Store the number of iPhone / iPod Touch music apps have risen exponentially, as has the type an complexity of music apps.

To an extent there are some traditional apps like iSyn, Jasuto, Technobox, and Randgrid representing the type of app that has existed on other mobile platforms for some time. But alongside these apps are a wholly different kind of mobile music application that lend themselves not only to the physical nature of the hardware, but also to the behaviour of the user, or the ‘casual’ nature of application use.

These are apps like Bloom, SynthPond, iShred, Nlog, and Megasynth (there are many more of course). These apps allow a user to casually make some music on the fly, maybe record it, and then move off to do something else. Some apps require a large amount of skill and experience (like Megasynth), and others require the user only to be familiar with the interface that the app presents (iShred). Either way these applications allow you to engage quickly in making music and then move to something else.

So, have Apple helped to define this ‘casual music making’, or simply created a platform where it is easier to engage?

So why didn’t this kind of explosion of applications occur on older more established platforms like Palm or Windows Mobile? I have no idea. Perhaps it was the whole buzz around the iPhone that generated enough momentum to get developers involved and making the kind of high quality applications that are coming out now.

Either way I think that there is now a real new category of software that I’d like to call ‘casual music making’ that has come to life with the iPhone and iPod Touch, and I think that’s a good thing.

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  1. maybe its like three things:
    1. apple the company and famous mac and all the buzz about iphone
    2. for sure its apple store and the idea that iphone is not phone at first place but appz heaven
    3. multitouch interface – much more easier than traditional small lcd screen ugly buttons devices


  2. I second the idea that it is the app store that made the difference. So easy to see what’s there and to make the purchase. Obviously we’ve been able to buy apps for WinMo for years, but never so tightly integrated. That, coupled with the runaway success of the original iPod, led to the success. The iPhone (and iPod Touch) were touted as “the best iPod ever”, so iPod fans bought them in their droves.

    It *could* be also down to target market – is it possible Apple’s typical customer is more oriented towards creativity? I have no evidence – I’m just assuming.

    So Apple has definitely done what Apple does very well – taken existing, low profile, ideas (e.g. music making on Windows Mobile) and made them shine.


  3. To be truthful, I didn’t even know that there was such as thing as Windows Mobile until 6 months ago. I never needed or used a PDA in my life and they were basically off my radar. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Create Digital Music and Palm Sounds did I realize that you could make music on anything other than a PC or Mac.

    Apple’s coup was that they opened up a piece of consumer electronics to all sorts of app development so that anyone with an interest in acquiring a phone or an ipod gets the value added benefit of a slew of cool gadgets as well.

    Additionally, the low cost of each app makes them easy impulse buys. I’m still on the fence about purchasing some Pocket PC apps because of their price but wouldn’t think twice about it if the cost were under $5.00!


  4. You are all right about app store, image and marketing, but I like to add one important thing:

    The hardware choice for iPhone / iPod Touch was quite good. They went for an ARM CPU with a vectorized floating point engine. It is the latter which enables the many realtime synthesis applications. With the decent clock rate it became possible to achieve CD quality audio synthesis. Even though, you need many programming tricks to do something with quality. Like most important part of NLog has been written in ARM assembler using the VFP engine. I read on the beatmeaker site that they did similar.


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