In May of 2011, I had a rather direct conversation with a VP of MakeMusic about the iPad. At the time, the iPad was relatively new (the iPad 2 had just been released), and I was arguing for SmartMusic on the iPad. At several music conferences that year, MakeMusic representatives had discussed (with me) whether it made sense to have a web-based SmartMusic platform, or to go device specific. In the end, MakeMusic chose the iPad, and it didn’t choose wrong. The iPad is a wonderful platform for SmartMusic, and thousands of students are using SmartMusic on their iPads.
But none of us expected the impact of the Chromebook in education. As you can see from various posts on my blog, if you have a choice, the Chromebook is the wrong device for music education. Chromebooks are the result when a district chooses the device, or a music teacher can’t afford iPads (With all sincerity, a MacBook or Windows computer is a better option for music than a Chromebook). This doesn’t mean I am anti-Chromebook, but we have to be honest and admit that they are not the best device for music.
That hasn’t stopped thousands of schools from adopting Chromebook 1:1.
If every student has a Chromebook, what do you do about SmartMusic? Nothing. You either have to have students with access to Mac/Windows/iPad, or they can’t use it.
Meanwhile, a number of other players have entered the field of green note/red note programs. One of those programs, which won an award at NAMM this past January was Weezic. Weezic is a French company which has offered green note/red note feedback, provided a library that sold songs individually, gave users the ability to purchase a song to be put into Weezic’s format, and recently was moving towards letting users upload their own MusicXML files, as well as audio and video files that–using Weezic’s proprietary algorithms–would sync the visual music created by the MusicXML file to the uploaded audio and video. Furthermore, Weezic was promising to have a conservatory feature (school mode).
The crowning achievement (if this wasn’t already enough)? The latest version of Weezic, although already an iOS app, was running on ALL platforms with HTML 5. Had Weezic come out this fall, MakeMusic would have had a lot of competition for SmartMusic (along with new multi-platform solution, PracticeFirst).
Although I have been aware of Weezic for a long time, it was not a solution for me as it didn’t have the literature I needed, and I didn’t want to pay someone else to convert literature for me. However, as Weezic announced new features early this winter (allowing you to bring your own materials into Weezic), I made sure to visit their booth in February at TMEA, and saw most of these features in action. I felt, at the time, that Weezic had the best chance to be a SmartMusic competitor, particularly if it was priced right. However, after building up a lot of steam in February, the company had gone quiet, and today’s news explains why.
The news from SmartMusic today is that they have acquired Weezic, and it just makes sense. In doing so, they eliminate a competitor while incorporating their technology, meaning that we will see a platform-agnostic version of SmartMusic sooner than later. Earlier this year (before today’s news), an reliable source told me that MakeMusic would be (at least) several years away from releasing a web-based version of SmartMusic. I wouldn’t expect to see a web-based version of SmartMusic any time soon (think fall of 2016, perhaps), but MakeMusic now has the technology in hand to make this happen.
This is a great acquisition–the best I have seen from the company since it brought Michael Good on the staff; and in fact, it is the first “major” good public news in a long time. It shows that MakeMusic was able to assess the market (i.e. Chromebooks), realize they couldn’t react to the market while continuing to develop and support their existing products, so they acquired Weezic for their staff and technology. Unless the web version is a “knockout,” I would expect to see continued development of the Mac/Windows/iPad versions, although a web-only product could be an end goal for the company.
Do you remember how long it took for the iPad version to come out? Expect a similar length of time for a web-based SmartMusic, and perhaps a product that slowly adds functionality (just as the iPad version did).
MakeMusic is also opening an office in Europe, which is a good sign for the future of MakeMusic as it attempts to make a stronger effort in the European market (a place where Sibelius has reigned supreme).
The only negative part about this acquisition is that some Weezic users will lose access to the songs they have been using (and perhaps purchased). It would be nice if all of Weezic’s library could be rolled into the new SmartMusic (whenever that comes) for those users in particular. I would also like to see Weezic’s ability to connect audio and video to a MusicXML file brought to SmartMusic.
In closing, this is great news for MakeMusic, and it will be exciting to see the changes in SmartMusic as a result of this accession.