Percussa micro super signal processor

Supposedly this computer and the idea of a QWERTY keyboard are dead, but you may have to pry them each out of someone’s cold, dead fingers in order to get them back. Photo (CC-BY) Tobias Carlsson.

The question of whether there will ever be any music apps for any non-iOS mobile platform is apparently bothering some people. (I don’t just mean one Synthtopia post, either – James is asking a perfectly reasonable question. But in the larger tech world, some people even wonder whether there’s any need for competition at all. And on the future of Android, without naming any names, I got one query from a print music tech mag – we’ll see how I’m quoted.)

Of course, there’s good reason to ask who which platform will “win” – once one platform is dominant, there are never any others ever again. Really. That’s what happened with the Commodore 64, once it hit two million units per year and became the most dominant single model of PC in history. (Look it up, kids, or ask your Mom and Dad. Or Goo… um, Commodore it. Or ask a chip music artist, as they might actually not find this ironic, which I find oddly comforting) But I don’t have to tell you that, as I’m sure you’re using a Commodore right now. Except for Chris Randall, who’s using an Apple II, but that’s just because he’s an Apple II fanboy. Come on, Chris. Get over yourself and get a Commodore like everyone else. The Apple doesn’t even have a decent synth chip.

It’s a relief that platforms win, in this way, because it means for developers, once you’ve found one platform, you’ll never wind up having to deal with the headaches of another. Not that any such headaches exist, of course – cross-platform development and testing is fun, like munching on cotton candy. Okay… irony filter off.

I made a plea, when the iPad came out, for certain ideas – like advocating open development, open source software, content creation and not just consumption, standard ports (USB, MIDI), and competition in how you get content like magazines, music, and media. I was far from alone in interest in these things, and a lot of people – some at Apple, some at Apple competitors, some developers, some users, some journalists – have built stuff that makes each one of those areas better, on Apple platforms and on non-Apple platforms.

I think that’s what we’re here to do – not carry the flag for one company or platform or another, but argue for ideas. We shouldn’t agree on all those ideas, or it’d be a really boring discussion. But one reason to focus on ideas and not just platforms is, I don’t think platforms last. (My first computer was a PCjr. My first gaming platform was a ColecoVision. I’m sorry I didn’t get a tattoo of one. The tattoo, at least, would have aged well.)

The iPad 2 and software for it looks very cool. I’m happy just to get to know some of the people who worked on elements of it, and I’m sure they’re rightfully really proud of what they’ve done. Apple is a unique company with unique talent that makes some unique products. I think 2011 will also be a good year for other technology, too, though, and from hardware synths to other tablets to computers, I’m talking about things actually hitting the market, not in some hypothetical future. Some of it will be crap, naturally, but some won’t. It’s what isn’t crap that matters.

The point is, great engineering and great ideas outlast platforms. That’s why you can still use the same basic synthesis concepts used on the first computer synth today with Csound, half a century later, or patch with Pd using skills you learned 15 years ago and run on just about anything with a processor – including all these devices people are arguing about. You could write a great app for the iPad 2 using programming skills from 20 years ago or math skills from grade school. So… enjoy. Technology moves fast, but music — and thought — don’t have to.

And if parts of this seem silly to me when I look back at my writing next week or in a year or in ten years? Well, that’s probably a good thing; that means I probably improved with time, too.

If you’d like to contribute to the marketplace of ideas, you may do so in the comment space below. Just, if you’re thinking of trolling or getting into platform fan speak, remember…

PS, if you think this is somehow a jab at Apple or anti-Apple or anti-iPad or pro-Android or pro-open-source, you really, really, really, really weren’t paying attention.