[LINK] Tablets, smartphones and PCs

grove at zeta.org.au grove at zeta.org.au
Mon Nov 26 12:00:40 AEDT 2012

On Mon, 26 Nov 2012, John Hilvert wrote:

> I've not seen the full report. But it seems to one obvious difference is
> that current generation mobile devices are better suited for consumption of
> net services and face to face communication rather than content creation.
> The trade off gives consumption priority over contributing with the social
> bias consequences.

I just have to say here, that I agree with most of the premise, but as a musician,
these portable devices, especially like the iPad, are brilliant content creation
platforms.   The iPad has given me access to a Virtual Fairlight CMI with all the 
sound libraries and practically the same user interface experience, which makes 
it very creative indeed.  Most of the music creation apps for these are of a high standard 
and I am seeing more musicians use them for both performance and as compositional aids.

> This may change with advances in ways of inputting data. Right now, a good
> keyboard is still essential for using a mobile device for creating content.
> The restricted ability to program the devices at user level is also
> relevant.

In the music world, the keyboard is now irrelevant - there are many different
ways of generating input, although obviously these are all now touch based,
but being able to use "gestures" or various ways of interfacing with the device,
via its motion sensors and so on has opened up many creative possibilities.

One of my favourites is "hexachrom" which is not something that Aurica 
unintentially expels periodically, but a touch based keyboard with an
unusual chord layout, using any 4 fingers on the touchscreen lets you 
play a root chord and then any of the variants, by moving a single finger, 
for example.

> The age difference is attributable to the fact that tablets and devices
> offer entertainment goodies such as videos, games and apps while on the go
> as well as being generally cheaper than netbooks.

And here is another bonus for the musician - these tablets are 
cost effective.  An iPad costs $759 (64gb) and is much more powerful
and practical than a PC based laptop in the same price bracket.

That Microsoft's MIDI implementation is rather bogus, on a lower 
powered commodity platform, it is not competing, especially when
most PC based "traditional" music sequencing or audio VST (virtual instruments)
require far more processing power than a small laptop can give.   However,
tablets such as the iPad are demonstrating they are quite up to the 
job and exhibit very low latency (time between hitting a note and being produced) 
for a commodity product.

> I can see tablets and smart devices evolving from screen-based to
> spectacle-based and even biological-based affairs.

In the music world. "haptics" are certainly a big deal.  Some of the biggest
haptic breakthroughs are coming via the electronic music industry.

I can also mention the magic word "skeuomorphic" here.  Apple have 
been big adopters of skeuomorphism - ie the design of a virtual 
interface that reflects something in the "real world". An example 
of this might be the calendar app looking like it is a leather bound
deskset from the 1950's, complete with gold trim, the game centre, 
with its baize background straight out of a cheesy roulette toy,
or the book store, with its virtual books on a virtual timber book shelf.

Now I find skeuomorphism extremely cheesy, retro-in-a-bad-way cheesy.
But, when it comes to music, it actually makes perfect sense.  When 
you deal with synthesizers, it is very satisfying to be able to 
tweak a "virtual knob" (not a project manager) or move a control 
on an interface that looks much like a physical instrument.  When dealing 
with physical hardware, that can be programmed from a portable device,
having a skeuomotphic representation of it makes it far more intutive 
and practical to use  - and fun.   As mentioned, I have a Virtual Fairlight,
with the same skeuomorphic interface as the original (finger instead of light pen!)
and the same practical physical limitations of the device (grainy 8-bit sound,
limited polyphony etc).  In many design cases, this would be abhorrent, 
but in the musical sense, it works, because the limitations stimulate 
creativity.    In the other way, a totally new input method, like the 
hexachrom, means new creative ways of "shaping" chords and sequences
can be found out.

There is something to me, completely incredible at being able to 
use a 21st century device like an iPad, to control a 1970's Modular Synthesizer.

So, while these portable devices are by and large used as commodity 
consumption platforms, do not make the mistake of diregarding them 
entirely as not having a place in content creation, especially 
if you are an electronic musician!


Rachel Polanskis                 Kingswood, Greater Western Sydney, Australia
grove at zeta.org.au                http://www.zeta.org.au/~grove/grove.html
 	The more an answer costs, the more respect it carries.

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