My day in technology began with a note from Philip Rothman, the author of the Sibelius Blog (a wonderful blog that goes beyond Sibelius, and has the best connections with the music notation industry), who wrote about StaffPad, a new handwriting music notation app ONLY available for Windows, specifically the Surface Pro tablet. You can find that post here.
My immediate reaction was to question the business model. I have long stated that the Surface Pro is a wonderful machine, but that I would have a hard time justifying the purchase of one when I can buy a new MacBook for less than the cost of a Surface Pro plus the Surface keyboard. StaffPad will require the active pen that comes with the Surface Pro, so my Asus T-100 Transformer will not work with the program. I have no qualms with a company developing an app for a specific platform–even Neuratron prefers the Samsung Galaxy Note tablets (although they do offer NotateMe on iOS as well). But to this point, the Surface Pro has not been wildly successful (Although the latest version has done better).
This was followed by news of Microsoft, which introduced the Surface 3 (not the aforementioned Surface Pro 3). The older Surface tablets ran Windows RT, a “light” version of Windows 8. From this point forward, the Surface models will be smaller versions of the Surface Pro, running “real” Windows, and they will also work with the active pen (although you have to buy it with the lower price Surface). Had Microsoft simply taken this route with the first Surface, perhaps the Surface would be as popular today as the iPad, and perhaps the Chromebook would not have found its place in education. Anti-Apple IT departments went to the Chromebook as there was no valid solution from Microsoft. The new Surface 3 is a fatal mistake finally corrected..but is it corrected soon enough? I may buy one of these devices myself (and sell my T-100).
One thing to be aware of with any Windows device…you will need to run anti-virus (and other anti-spamware) programs, where such programs are not necessary with iPads or Chromebooks, and if you work in a school deployment model, schools usually run all kinds of background systems on school devices that ultimately use up valuable system resources. When it comes to Windows devices, always buy the device with this highest specs that you can afford (this is not unusual–I recommend not purchasing an iPad with less than 64GB of memory today).
Back to the original news…this means that StaffPad will work on the new Surface 3 (shipping in May), at a significantly lower price point, meaning that perhaps StaffPad is perfectly situated for the future.
Finally, several new Chromebooks hit the market today (or were announced) such as two $149 versions (guess what YOUR school will purchase?) and a “yoga-type” Chromebook called the Flip, which will allow you to flip the keyboard on the back of the screen and use the Chromebook like a tablet.
I am still waiting for a true tablet Chromebook or a Transformer-like Chromebook. And once those arrive, web apps have to be created that take advantage of the touch interface, and in music, we need to see Chromebooks that come with Core MIDI and other features that allow the devices to be better used in music education.
In recap, StaffPad is out as a recommended program for Windows Surface tablets, the Windows Surface tablets are finally fully featured and might offer a logical option versus an iPad, and new Chromebooks are breaking the price barrier and are starting to act more like tablets.
That is a pretty busy day in the tech world!