Several Weeks With Apple Music

I’ve been an iTunes user for over 10 years. I’m probably one of the few people out there who really enjoys the app, specifically how powerful it can be for managing a large music collection like mine. I was also an early adopter of Beats Music, so I was naturally excited when Apple acquired Beats and as much as announced they’d be building their service into iTunes. Beats recommendations inside of iTunes, yes please. My music collection and Beats’ streaming catalog all in one app, sign me up.

In execution however, the marriage can be quite a goddamn kludge.

Apple Watch Pricing

It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I plan to get an Apple Watch. Hell, they're practically coming out on my birthday. I've been thinking about what model to get an I've decidedr  on the Sport. It's not like I'd ever consider dropping $10,000 on a gold watch, like the Apple Watch Edition, anyway. However, I do think there's a market for the model, albeit a very small one. 

If you're a VP at Apple working on a new product, you're expected to use that instead of what you currently use. Giving up a shitty Palm or Nokia for an iPhone makes sense, as does a PC for a Mac to most extent. But giving up a Rolex for an aluminum sports watch does not compute. I think Apple made the gold Edition models for themselves and since they had to ramp up production anyway, why not make a "limited" supply for the few others out there like themselves.

iTunes for Android?

Putting iTunes on Samsung and other Android-based smartphones is not about selling music, it's about selling wearables. Apple put iTunes on Windows to sell iPods to PC users. It created a halo effect with PC users switching to Macs, then the iPhone and iPad.

With their foray into multiple new product categories, as CEO Tim Cook puts it, Apple will need software for Android with which an iWatch, or iBand, or wrist-worn iPod Nano can communicate. In 2004, everyday consumers, not technology nerds or gadget heads, synced their iPods with their Dell laptops. Then they bought Macs after learning how much they liked Apple's products.

The same can happen in 2014: everyday people will buy an iPod Nano for their wrist and sync it with their Samsung smartphones. This is why iTunes needs a subscription-based catalog similar to Spotify, most Android users have never used iTunes, let alone ripped a CD.

Game over, Samsung? We'll have to wait and see. I'm getting my popcorn ready.

Google & Apple's Ecosystem Gravity

This is reply I posted to a thread on the Google Glass Explorers message board. Specifically, it outlines my experience using Google Glass with my iPhone. More broadly however, it describes the sometimes subpar experience of relying on an iPhone for Google services like Maps, Gmail, and Calendar.

I'm in the same boat: MacBook Pro at the office, Air at home, iPhone 5s, and iPad Air. I too tried an Android phone (Moto X) for a few weeks to see if my Glass experience would be any better. There were certainly some benefits (more later), but nothing so remarkable that I'd pick an Android phone over my iPhone 5s. For one thing, I think apps on iOS are far better than their Android counterparts. For another, the 5s is years ahead of the Moto X, which felt more like an iPhone 3GS in daily use, especially the camera.

Rant: Stop staying you don't need an iPhone

“I got a Samsung because I don’t need an iPhone.”

—Every single one of my friends, family, and acquaintances who own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone

With the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 expected at this week’s Mobile World Congress, I'd like to take a moment to unpack(1) this all-too-common argument. First however, I need to confess something: I’m an iPhone user and I love the Android operating system underpinning Samsung’s smartphones. I’ve happily used various Android devices for months at a time, including the Nexus 4 and 5, and the Moto X. There’s a lot I enjoy about Android as a platform: widgets on the home and lock screens, apps that configure settings and run actions based on my location, and sharing content easily between apps.

Finally, a new music app for the iPhone (not the iPad)!

I’ll admit it: I played with an iPad yesterday. A colleague of mine brought his to the office and, low and behold, had loaded it up with a few piano/synth/drum machine apps. I played for a good few minutes before I drove a few people nuts by making 808 beats.

So, here comes this news from Propellerhead Software that they have released a new iPhone app version of their ReBirth composition software.

From Propellerhead’s PR:

ReBirth faithfully emulates dance music’s three backbone devices: The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines. Combine these with FX units, fully featured pattern sequencers and a quick-acting, scalable iPhone interface and you’ll soon be making techno on the train, trance on the tram or beats on the bus. 

More info and pics at the link. Via FutureMusic.

"Apple, take note."

Tech giants Google and Apple have been in a bit of a spat lately as the two companies’ smartphone platforms (Android and iPhone respectively) vie for their peice of the martket. With their unofficial motto “Do No Evil,” Google is known for taking an open, transparent approach, exemplified by their recent decision to no longer cooperate with the Chinese government. While also a supporter of open source software, Apple is more so known for locking in customers by making exceptional products that use proprietary technologies.

For all its market-disrupting success with its iPhone App Store, Apple still encounters bad blood from time to time by banning content from the iPhone. As Wired.com points out, rather than banning a controversial music video by artist M.I.A., YouTube (which is owned and operated by Google) took another route.

From Wired:

Contrary to news reports that YouTube removed the violent video, the site simply put it behind an age-restricted click-through. That renders the video impossible to find unless you already know the URL.

Indeed, Google’s policy represents a more open and nuanced approach than what Apple is doing with its App Store. There, presumably overworked employees decide whether to censor content before it even shows up in the store.

This approach is a better way to handle problems than arbitrarily banning the content before it is ever available, as Apple does with the iPhone. As the article’s headline says, “Apple, take note.”

Apple is shutting down Lala.com -- And why it matters

Lala.com will be shutting down on May 31 this year. The move comes after Apple’s purchase of the music streaming web site a few months back. Apple’s instant benefit from the purchase of the site was top-ranked results when users search for songs on Google. However, what Apple truly benefited from is the acquisition of a team that knows how to do music over the internet, or “in the cloud.”

When tech insiders speak of music in the cloud, they’re usually referring to an extension of the purchasing a song through a digital music store like Apple’s iTunes. Such a cloud-based service would ideally include storage of the song on the user’s computer but also access to that song from any number of devices connection to the internet. Put simply, you could buy a song on iTunes, you can play it on your computer, your iPod, iPhone as you can today plus over the internet on your friend’s computer, your computer at work or even your car.

My thoughts on Apple's new programming language restriction for iPhone apps

With the announcement of some new features in Apple's iPhone OS 4 yesterday, I have to say, it will be nice to be able to leave the Pandora app but have its music still playing. The big thing for me though is Apple's new restriction on programming languages. They've essentially made it impossible for Adobe or Microsoft to make software that can compile applications as iPhone apps. I understand Apple's business motives (John Gruber has a good summary up on the topic), but it just doesn't sit right with me. Between the app store and this programming language restriction, Apple has the iPhone entirely locked into their proprietary development ecosystem, as I'm sure they want. However, I saw some speculation that Apple is actually trying to damage Adobe so they can acquire them down the road. I'm not saying it's plausible, but they certainly have ability to do it.

For the most part I'm mad simply because I was looking forward to making iPhone apps with Flash CS5. I have years of Flash and ActionScript experience, but haven't touched anything resembling Objective C since undergrad. With the looks of it, I will have to suck it up and learn how to build apps the Apple way after all if I ever want to make one of my own.

Music Production on the iPad. (Or why I might cave and buy one yet.)

Now that the iPad is (finally?) out in the wild, here are a few reasons that just may intice me to cave and buy one yet.

I’m pretty jazzed after reading through the great round-up at Create Digital Music of apps designed to use the iPad to make music. For me, I’m excited to try the iPad out for a few different purposes:

  1. Practically speaking, it would be a great MIDI controller for my software synths, by using it to drive Reason and Pro Tools. I have a MicroKorg, but the portability of the iPad, to easily sit it on my lap, would be unparalleled. I’m curious to see how the latency is though.
  2. As a control surface for Pro Tools. I’ve never had one, so I’ve always controlled Pro Tools with my keyboard and mouse.
  3. To use it as a live musical instrument. This will certainly require some imagination on my part, but mark my words, I will make this happen. After all, inspiration is out there.

Now I just need to actually pick one up, but I promised myself I wouldn’t get the first generation.