The jury’s still out about how many music producers will want to run desktop OSes on tablets. But here’s one thing that’s not in doubt: alongside dedicated mobile OSes like Android and iOS, you can expect to see tablets in 2011 that do the things your laptop does now. They’ll have standard ports (like USB), they’ll run full-blown desktop OSes (Linux and Windows), and you’ll be able to run traditional software on them. Don’t get me wrong: I think dedicated software design for tablets is a good thing, and the iPad isn’t going anywhere. But the imminent availability of Windows and Linux tablets – different animals from the iPad – ought to send a strong message to “desktop” developers to test their software and user interface design on these new devices.

And yes, all of this means you’ll have a slim, tablet-sized machine that can run Pro Tools. Thanks to the fact that Pro Tools now works with standard Windows audio interfaces and not just Avid and M-Audio gear, it’s possible to ship a tablet that runs Pro Tools. Trinity Audio Group tell CDM they’re doing just that.

Boom running on the Indamixx tablet, via Windows. Trinity Audio Group tells us running a selected set of tracks with plug-ins is well within the capabilities of the CULV processor. The architecture of this tablet does greatly exceed that available on tablets like the iPad, or Atom-powered solutions.

The machine is not powered by an Atom processor; instead, it uses a low-voltage CULV SU3500 processor, which in turn is based on Intel Core 2 architectures. (The 3500 is a 1.4G Core Solo processor.) Trinity is pre-installing Pro Tools 9 with an iLok key so you can run out of the box. Performance certainly won’t be stellar, but it’s good enough for some applications. Trinity tells CDM they got 8 stereo tracks (16 total) with 2-6 plugins on 2GB RAM; the finished system they say will be tuned for better performance, and will ship with twice the RAM. The price, unfortunately, puts the tablet alongside high-end laptops, at US$1799.

The Indamixx tablet is an interesting proof of concept, but it faces tough competition. There’s nothing stopping you from watching the marketplace in 2011 to find a tablet you like and installing it yourself, and I would hope some of those machines will ship with beefier processors. (Knowing readers of this site, that may hold more appeal, too, with options from Ableton Live to Reaper to SONAR, none requiring an iLok.) And while you don’t get a touchscreen, the MacBook Air is still fairly light and portable, significantly faster, and costs a fraction of the price – and it runs Mac OS in place of Windows, which will be a draw for at least some consumers.

Of course, the same sort of compromises existed when laptops first arrived on the scene, then blurred over time. I think there’s something to all of this. It’s not hard to imagine an artist taking a quick set of bounced tracks, still in a Pro Tools session, from a hefty studio machine onto a tablet and heading to a coffee shop or nearby sofa to listen and get a different perspective. I don’t know whether the Indamixx tablet will be that tablet, necessarily, but there’s a trend here, and its architecture really is fast enough that it’ll work for quick mixing sessions or even live performance. And if I were a developer, I’d be budgeting for a couple of tablets to test my software and see how well it holds up to touch input.

Main production machine? No way. But for those times when you need to walk away from the studio, some kind of tablet will soon have you doing this (as seen here on an Indamixx prototype):

I fully expect the mention in this story of Windows, Pro Tools, and iPads will evoke some sort of flame war in comments, but I’m completely uninterested, so I’m going to move onto other stories and make some music sketches and let y’all hash that out.

Promo video link

You can also see the Pro Tools-running tablet in person at the NAMM trade show in Anaheim, CA next month, booth 6799.

See our previous coverage of the Linux-powered, more inexpensive sibling, available now in beta.

  • This is a pretty good video too!

  • I've tried using Ableton with a touchscreen overlay ón desktop lcd, while it was very nice to sketch compositions. It was frustrating to do and deep or precise editing. Mouse, qwerty and a huge screen is still the best for that.

    Since i use Live to 'sketch' compositions a portable tablet form would be great. (processor speed isnt too important… Live has great freeze functions)

    Defininetly a tablet in 2011 for me

  • This is great.  I just got an Asus T101mt, and put a version of ableton live lite on it.  Haven't done a lot on it but plan to put PT9 on it soon just for kicks.  I usually program in PD, but it doesn't have any multitouch support for the GUI.  I'm looking for some live performance software geared towards accepting windows multitouch input.

  • 8 stereo tracks (16 total) with 2-6 plugins on 2GB RAM is not bad for a single core processor but for $1799 it would make more sense to buy a regular tablet laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad X201 with an i5 core) and run something like Reaper. what doesn't make any sense to me about buying a tablet or pre-configured box is what audio interface do you also add to this setup? i don't see any literature that explains it. For anything half way decent you're spending $300 to $500 (profire, mbox, or a Duet). For something lighter and in the single core Atom range there is the Ideapad S10 touchscreen for about $500 although I've heard less than steller reviews on it's features. I get what is going on here though. Some people are die-hard Pro-Tools users while some of us are hardcore Ableton users or love a particular tool like Kontakt or Mach 5 and we want our particular tool to be mobile. I have a feeling the iPad will knock our teeths out when you can hook up a pro quality audio interface and with specs like a dual-core i3 or i5.

  • midihendrix

    touchscreen is very desirable for alot ableton's features – but there still needs to be a mouse and keyboard (for shortcuts and other speedy things).

    even little things like multitouch gestures on the apple trackpad helps alot in DAWs. so obviously a touchscreen even in the form of a controller can help you save lots of time and energy and remain focused on the music.

  • Dave

    The new GUI on the Ubuntu Netbook Remix is already so obviously geared toward touch tablets it's practically ruined as a Netbook GUI.

    Personally, I think Apple has been the Pied Piper of the industry with the iPad. It's just so much fun and they presented it so smoothly and effortlessly, nobody ever questioned whether it was actually a *better* way to enter data – because it pretty obviously is not.

    What used to be just left-click and drag or ctrl-[something] is all 'double tap this', 'long press that' then select the data field and enter the value on the virtual keyboard that will pop up eventually. Finger smears and secret handshakes.
    The most basic functions like klicking on a link or button now require you to zoom in to perform them reliably (but, like, it's _pinch_zoom_!!).

    While I see the technical achievement of it all, I fail to see the actual usability improvement on the consumer end. Tablets are fun, but once laptops/netbooks get the same touchscreens they have, people will realize what an artificially hobbled product these tablets are. You should have both, but if you must choose, a traditional keyboard/mouse combo beats just about anything a tablet has to offer.

    I had to chuckle over a collegue that bought an expensive case for his iPad that allowed him to set it up on the table in front of him. – Like a laptop. And then he brought out his wireless iPad keyboard. It was like a modular netbook, only technically hobbled and four to six times as expensive. Is there an actual, significant advantage of Tablets over traditional PCs? I have yet to see one. – And I absoultely love playing around with tablets, mind you.

  • tad ghostal

    @Dave; you answered your own question, the advantage tablets have is fun.
    -"And I absoultely love playing around with tablets, mind you." Who loves playing around with a mouse?

  • Dioxide

    The question is not how fast the processor is and what can it run. The question is, are your fingers tiny enough to use a desktop DAW on a touchscreen tablet?

  • Jonah

    @Dave I agree to a point. A well done touch interface is a joy, but not many programs have one. If you like to play as you create the immediacy of the experience can be very inspiring. Bringing some physicality back to the process of creating digital music is not a bad thing at all. I mean I could write music as code – it would be much more accurate and more efficient to produce, but not as rewarding and I wouldn't do it often.
    Being able to touch Protools isn't a "killer app" for me. I don't enjoy making audio inside Protools itself. What Protools is good at is recording, mixing and arranging. It's optimized for mouse+keyboard use and really, dual monitors :p.
    Are there only 2 usb ports? So you can have an audio interface or an external drive connected, but not both?
    They should hire the likes of the FL studio, Renoise or Reason teams to develop a custom program. Even though I don't use it much I see Reason as the "killer app" for touchscreen music creation.

  • Alexas L.

    I have three concerns:
    1. Battery Life
    2. Battery Life
    3. Battery Life

    Why do I so often feel like the only one who sees battery life as one of the most important factors for mobile devices? I mean doesn't the term "mobile" totally allude to this notion? Oh well, far be it from me.

  • Mikkel

    As other people are saying, the GUIs of existing applications aren't really made for touch interfaces. What we're seeing now is a lot of controllers for existing audio applications, which both mean they don't have to replace every function of the existing applications and that they don't have to do all the cpu intensive work. At some point the tablets will be fast enough and have enough battery, but in the transition, we'll probably see plenty of "lite-touchfriendly" versions of the applications.

  • Guess it will be the future… for now I say, let's wait and see. And you're right. Discussing it now it a bit useless. Better make some music instead.

  • LeBlanc

    I agree with Alexas..

    Batterylife is the key for mobile devices such as laptops and tablets. To work without concerning about the battery state I need a battery that gives me at leat 7 hours working time…

    A lot of devices won't give you that.. Thats one of the things Apple understands..

  • Ben P

    Meh. As a touch controller, the Ipad looks better and cheaper As a portable DAW, a small laptop looks better and cheaper. As a an all in one touchscreen performance instrument that runs Windows, an HP Touchsmart looks better and cheaper. Pro Tools on an expensive tablet seem like a niche inside of a niche market.

    Also, the live sound guys have been using tablets for awhile now to tune their systems. The Dolby Lake processor, for instance, had ethernet. A Windows tablet and a wireless router and you could setup your PA from anywhere in the room.

  • 23fx

    all those slates have shitty cpus.
    personally i easy max out a quad core i7,
    what to espect from an atom or 1.4 mono?

    i so wish one manufacturer will have the step of allowing the slate to be used  also
    as a wireless touchscreen, controling a descent speced (ram/cpu/ FW muti/io interface) remote computer running any soft on any os. why is it so long to come…

  • ElmerJFudd

    The iPad and similar tablets are creating a major shift in UI development.  There are already a growing number of software developers, in many cases one man operations, who are having success because they understand next-gen applications will take full advantage of multi-touch gestures: tap, double tap, tap and hold, one two three or four finger flicks, pinch, drag, swipe, etc.  They are creating unique applications that work within the processing capabilities of the current hardware and interact with other applications through features like audio copy/paste.  

    Apple recently demonstrated that their next OS release (Lion) will begin to incorporate multi-touch gestures.  The demo was done using a touch pad, but I think we can surmise where this is going.  In the not-so-distant future touch screens will become the norm.   If AVID, Propellerheads, DP, Ableton, etc. are forward thinking… then they are already working on versions of their software that take real advantage of this shift in UI and actually improve workflow.  No doubt Apple has already made moves in this direction.  

    A good way to start would be to create lite versions of their software for devices like the iPad with limited feature sets so they can get real-world feed back on what does and doesn't work well on the touch screen.  If the big developers don't get on this quickly, I'm sure we will see an upstart make inroads into the DAW market.  

  • great idea, but pt is a resource hog, and the chipset in these tabs is still not up to the power needed to really run stuff you need. i love this idea, and have been using small format pc's for protools LE for years, but they have quad core chipsets, with 4 gigs ram, and there will be hiccups from time to time…. good luck, and get some of these OEM's to create a tab with real power and ram…. i have seen the next version of PT, that will run as a control surface for HD Omni, and this is going to be the future of controlling PT, as hardware surfaces are going to be extinct eventually….

  • at that price they'll probably sell 10 of these. who will buy this when a tablet pc with a core 2 duo cpu just costs a third?

  • Dave

    @ElmerJFudd: Yes, but is this shift for the better? I think not. If you ask me, Multitouch gestures and such are mostly just Apple's way of making up for the lack of a real keyboard on their tablets and the lack of buttons on their mice, but the public, and with them the market, just seems to blindly follow what they put out, this making it a 'trend'. Apple calls having just one leg 'minimalism' and not a disability and then sells us crutches as 'Walking 2.0.

  • @ElmerJFudd: as Dave noted, "then they are already working on versions of their software that take real advantage of this shift in UI and actually improve workflow." seems to assumes that multi-touch actually IS an improvement for this kind of workflow.

    It might be, but it also might not be. As the author of an existing DAW (Ardour), its pretty hard for me see how to use touch or multitouch effectively in windows that are densely packed with dozens of even hundreds of relatively small "action areas" that are primarily toggles or just buttons.

    Touch interfaces come into their own when imprecision and fluid motion can play useful roles in the user interaction. Its hard for me see how that applies to operating a "device" like a DAW, but perhaps that just means I'm old-school or even just old, and can't see past my own nose.