SmartMusic…Coming Soon to an iPad Near You!

MakeMusic announced that it is officially bringing SmartMusic to the iPad in 2013, with several previews in the coming months.

I’ve been swamped with school and our “fall” musical (the weather here in Minnesota just turned “winter”), so I don’t have a lot of time to write about this, but I wanted to share a few thoughts:

  • I’m very excited to have this on the iPad; it will be another bargaining chip for our department to purchase more iPads rather than desktop computers.
  • It will be so much easier to give a student an iPad and to send them to a practice room rather than to deal with computers in practice rooms.  It makes any empty room (even a closet!) into a potential SmartMusic practice room.
  • The general SmartMusic interface has always been an interface that would be touch-friendly.  I don’t think MakeMusic will have any issue making the controls look the same on the iPad as they do on a computer.
  • I’m not trying to be divisive on this matter, but a very wise decision has been made to put SmartMusic on iPad before Android or Windows 8 RT (there would be no reason to make a Windows 8 RT version, as the full version of Windows 8 would run SmartMusic on a non-RT tablet).  Although there are many fine Android tablets, the iPad is the break-away favorite in schools, combined with management features (e.g. Configurator) and resources like iBooks (and iBooks Author on the Mac).  I don’t know any all-Android schools, but I know a lot of all-iPad schools, and several of them are in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
  • I would expect that the app will not run on the iPad 1, but I would expect it to run on the iPad 2, 3rd Generation iPad, 4th Generation iPad, and the iPad Mini.
  • I’m curious as how the iPad model is going to work out in pricing.  Right now, any authorized computer results in any number of SmartMusic users (each account is free) to be able to use that computer.  I suppose MakeMusic could release a $36 iPad App, but in doing so, they would have to pay Apple 30% of that cost.  Perhaps SmartMusic will go to a per-user subscription plan.  I don’t know, but I trust them…they know what they’re doing.
  • There is no other program or app on the market that does what SmartMusic does, at a time when states are moving towards performance based teacher evaluations.    So not only is SmartMusic is good investment for student skill–it is a good investment for obtaining non-biased performance data (formative or summative) on students.
  • I continue to believe that SmartMusic will eventually become the biggest part of MakeMusic’s annual income (the fiscal reports were released last week, and although there were greater expenses than income, in general, the overall financial situation is much improved, even without Finale 2013 being released this year).   Right now, SmartMusic only represents about 1/2 of the business of music notation–and I’m sure it comes with more expenses, too (e.g. licenses to put published music on SmartMusic)
  • I don’t personally expect Finale to find its way to the iPad other than Finale Songbook.  I could be wrong about that, but Finale is a keyboard/mouse based app that would have to be completely re-thought (re-designed ) to work on an iPad (or any other tablet).  I just don’t see it at this point (I’d buy the app…but I don’t see it).  Finale still has a future, but part of that future will be as a gate-keeper to SmartMusic.  MuseScore is having an impact as it rapidly expands across the globe.  It’s really hard for non-professionals, students, and schools to not consider MuseScore simply because of the price point (free).  So Finale becomes something else than it currently is–but then again, will the competition of Sibelius exist any longer, either?
  • I’ve now had the opportunity to interact with at least two dozen of the staff members at MakeMusic, and every person I’ve met has been friendly, informed, concerned about the user’s experience, and is a listener.  At the same time, they aren’t willing to change course for every trend or fad that comes along–which is a good thing.  Although I would have loved to see SmartMusic for the iPad by this past fall, I can’t blame them for cautiously progressing into this area.  I appreciate that MakeMusic has been declaring their product plan well in advance–and in case you haven’t noticed–sticking to that plan.  Once again, I am wondering if I need to buy some MakeMusic stock.

So…congratulations to all the folks at MakeMusic…particularly to the sales people who now don’t have to hear, “When is SmartMusic coming to the iPad?” without being able to give an answer!  And congratulations to all of the music educators (including myself) that are going to benefit from this app!

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