The Problems with Platforms

I’ve been checking out Android for a day or so, and there’s some really interesting looking software available like uLoop, and Synthulator. Sure, it is a platform at an early stage, and Android hasn’t taken off like the iPhone OS has, but then it shares some of the same problems as Windows Mobile. That is a disconnect between the device manufacturer(s) and the OS.

Palm used to operate in the same way as Apple do now with their iPhone until they decided to sell off their operating system, and look what happened there.

Anyway, whichever way you go you end up with problems. If you go down the iPhone route there are lots of problems for developers. If you go for Windows Mobile then there are lots of different devices with different screen sizes etc.

Android seems to have similar problems although Droid may change that., and I think that in time, but as I said above, they all have there problems.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a device that was build specifically for mobile music, a but like the way open pandora has been built for gaming. A platform where the standards were open and which had been designed with music in mind with an operating system that worked for developers.
A dedicated hardware and OS platform for mobile music would be fantastic but I doubt it will ever happen.

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  1. Android's biggest problem – by far – is that you really have to write for it in Java. Maybe, at some point, they'll have good C++ support, but don't hold your breath. Anyways, this means that any apps for the device in the near to medium term will have to be writen *from scratch*.

    Apps for iPhone/WinMo can share a lot of their code base, if carefully written…

  2. Android has decent C/C++ support through the NDK (

    So if the audio engine is well separated from the UI code, it should be fairly easy to port an audio rendering engine to Android… Obviously, the UI will have to be rewritten from scratch – but I personally prefer apps with a “native” look than cross-platform apps with a custom UI with exotic controls and things behaving in unexpected ways…

  3. Regarding my dream platform, it would be:
    – ARM + DSP. Even 200 MHz without FPU would be fine. like these super cheap TI things for digital cameras.
    – 8Gb flash + 128 Mb RAM, as a good start.
    – 1 SDHC card reader.
    – 320×240 touch screen (or less, to discourage cluttered, fancy UIs).
    – A dozens of buttons with a good feel, 5/6 (tiny) pots, a dozen of LEDs. No space wasted on screen drawing replica of things that can be done with hardware!!!
    – 6.35 ins/outs.
    – An expansion slot duplicating some of the in/outs of the ADC/DAC or the main chip's UART/GPIO/SPI, etc… for additional audio ins/outs, CV ins/outs, dedicated controllers, MIDI, etc.
    – USB connector (makes the device appear as MIDI device, allows file transfers, firmware updates…)
    – Just a bare-bone RTOS, and drivers/libraries for all the peripherals. No memory/CPU cycles lost in a thick software stack.
    – No “app”, no “home screen”. Boots with the pre-loaded firmware or something else from a SD card…
    – Boss mini BR or Nord micro modular form factor. I prefer something thicker but robust, that can be thrown on the floor among guitar pedals. Smaller than a MPC-500.
    – Sold either as a pre-built device, or as a raw board for DIY projects that would get creative with the expansion slots or the case (à la Arduino).

    Such a thing could probably be built and sold for a reasonable profit at $200. Would there be people ready to pay for this? I am not sure. What I'm sure is that there probably are already a half-dozen of failed projects trying exactly to do that.

  4. The problem with “platforms” is that you cannot use an application made for one platform on another platform (unless some hacking is involved, and most of the times it doesn't work as well). Applications are locked in to a specific platform, sometimes for technical reasons, but in these days its mostly for business reasons. Most platforms are more or less a company who wishes to create the new standard and profit from it, while other companies tries to do the same. This is true not only for mobile computing, but for videogames, movies, and even hardware.

    I bought a lot of apps on my ipod touch, and a lot on my palm, and a lot on Windows too, not counting the Nintendo, etc etc .. Those applications made me a slave to those platforms because I don't want to have to buy them again on another platform.

    In the meantime, a hammer works with every nails, and the battle for standards still rages on in every domains imaginable.

  5. For sure: there definitely market demand for a well-connected audio device that can run 3rd party applications.

    Presumably something like a Windows Mobile device or (presumably) iPod could be used like this with external hardware/adaptors; if only there were an appropriate device driver model in place (which, sadly, there isn't right now…)

    I live in hope. 🙂


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